This article originally appeared in DRM in 2009,Vol. #1 Issue #3
By Kyle Ealy
East Moline, Ill. – An annual late model event that started in 1976 and continued well into the late 90’s was known as many names but the results were always the same. A marquee event that featured the best late model drivers from throughout the Midwest.
The event started on June 13, 1976 and was known as the Quad City 100. A $7,000 guaranteed purse was advertised with $20 lap money in the feature event. In the non-stop main event, Ray Guss Sr. of Coal Valley, Ill., took the initial lead until Davenport’s Jim Gerber sped past him on lap five. Gerber would continue on, lapping the field up until second place when a flat tire sent him to the infield. Guss Sr. re-inherited the lead with Ronnie Weedon of Pleasant Valley close on his heels. Weedon snuck by Guss on lap 79 and went on to win the inaugural event.
1976 winner ~ Ronnie Weedon
This was just the beginning…
I want to focus on the event from 1980 to 1985. This time span featured some great names, even greater racing, a little controversy and throw in a stunning upset for good measure.
The June 22, 1980 event saw Tom Hearst of Muscatine win the 100 lapper in thrilling fashion. Duane Steffe of Colona, Ill., grabbed the point on the green flag and led the first four laps until Steve Fraise took over on lap six. Fraise was running smoothly until a lapped car spun out directly in front of him causing the Montrose, Iowa, pilot to plow into the car and retiring earlier than expected. Waterloo’s Ed Sanger took over and seemingly had the race well under control when Hearst started challenging. Hearst managed to get around Sanger on the 96th circuit and grabbed the checkers with an appreciative crowd on their feet cheering. A disappointed Sanger finished second, Don Bohlander of Glasford, Ill., was third and Steve Fraise managed to come from the rear of the field to take fourth. Rollie Frink of Davenport rounded out the top-five.
The June 14, 1981 race was marked with controversy. The 22-car 100-lap feature started with no issues as fast timer (15:41) Jerry Wolland of Peoria shot out to the early lead. Wolland led until he spun in turn one causing a restart on lap three. Mike Chasteen, also of Peoria, inherited the point and led until a red flag incident happened on lap 10. This is where the controversy begins. During the red flag, the crew of Chasteen comes out, takes the hood off the car and makes some minor adjustments. It was then that Chasteen was sent to the rear for the infraction. It was said that a misunderstanding at the driver’s meeting cost him the lead. A bad scene, hot tempers and an ejection put Chasteen’s car in the infield for the rest of the evening.
Roger Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa, took over the top spot and kept it there until the Chevron Special piloted by none other than Gary Webb of Davenport blew by Dolan on lap 26 and dominated from there, winning the race easily. Ed Sanger settled for the bridesmaid role once again with Dolan finishing third, defending champion Hearst in fourth and Rollie Frink fifth.
In the June 13, 1982 race, Mike Chasteen decided not to stay angry for long. He did decide however, to get even. The “Flying Farmer” Roger Long of Fithian, Ill., set a new track record (14.36) and starting from the pole position set a fast pace early in leading the 22-car field. Chasteen, having started ninth, used the high side to his advantage and slowly started to pick off cars lap by lap. Chasteen eventually got the bumper of Long and on lap 40 sped by him on the backstretch for the lead and eventually the win. After all of the controversy in the ’81 race, the win was especially sweet for Chasteen.
1980 winner ~ Tom Hearst
A familiar name to Quad City race fans took top honors in the June 12, 1983 race. Gary Webb of Davenport, Iowa, followed Rollie Frink, also of Davenport, for 41 laps until Frink suffered a flat tire. Webb would take over from there and led until the checkers waved. Webb did however get some late pressure from Ron Gustaf of East Moline who would settle for second. Roger Long grabbed third, rink came back to finish fourth and Ed Sanger ran fifth.
The upset occurred on June 10, 1984. Not only were the top drivers from the East Moline area on hand but the top drivers from the Midwest were also in attendance. Five track champion started the feature including defending champion Gary Webb, Roger Dolan of Lisbon, Dick Taylor of Springfield, Ill., John Provenzano of Aurora, Ill., and Ed Sanger of Waterloo. These late model hotshoes were all capable of winning the event.
But it wasn’t…
It was a driver who didn’t garner a lot of the headlines that captured the victory, the $2,000 payday and the hearts of the fans in attendance that evening. Bob Helm of Milan, Ill., certainly didn’t have the look of a winner after the preliminary races. He finished second in the trophy dash and third in his heat. Let’s just say he was saving it for the feature.
Gary Webb took the lead from the start and for most of the race it appeared that Webb would defend his crown with no problem. Helm, however, stayed a short distance behind Webb for most of the race and when lap 69 rolled around, Helm suddenly shot past Webb for the lead. From there on, it was bumper to bumper racing with Webb and then eventually Roger Dolan but Helm held them both off to score the biggest win of his career. Dolan would take runner-up honors, while Webb, Sanger and Rick Wages of Moline, Ill., rounded out the top-five.
In 1985 the name of the race changed, with Pabst no longer the sponsor. The newly sponsored Coors 100 took place on June 23, 1985. After setting a new one-lap record in the first heat, it was pretty evident that 25-year-old Ray Guss Jr. of Milan, Ill., was going to be the man to beat on this night. Already a seven year veteran of the stock car wars, Guss had spent the previous week transferring parts from his old car to his new ride specifically for this event. The combination of old and new paid off as he led all 100 laps and collected the record winner’s share of $2,500. The battle to watch for most of the night was for the second spot. With his son easily out front, Ray Guss Sr. and Gary Webb put on a show for the crowd of 3,000, going back and forth, swapping positions until Webb finally secured the runner-up spot for good on lap 98.
Whether it was the Quad City 100, the Pabst Blue Ribbon 100 or the Coors 100, this annual event provided plenty of thrills for the fans in the Quad Cities area for many years. The racing action, the legendary drivers and the story lines is what made this an event that will be remembered for many years.