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Local History

Racing

For decades, Springfield racing fans watched Sprint Cars, Midgets, and Stock Cars compete at the Fairgrounds Speedway. On both dirt and asphalt, fans cheered for their favorite drivers in the cars that were raced on oval tracks all across the country. With sports cars known for racing on road courses, there seemed no chance that fans would ever see a Ferrari speeding around Springfield’s half-mile oval. Unlikely though it was, that very thing happened in 1958 when the Fairgrounds hosted one of the most unique races ever held at the historic speedway.

The event was sanctioned by the International Motor Contest Association (I.M.C.A.), which hosted many races at the Fairgrounds over the years. Most of their races were limited to recent, American made stock cars. Each year however, they designated a few events as “International” races and allowed foreign cars to be entered. A race at the Fairgrounds on May 25, 1958, was one of those. Three sports cars entered the race, led by Loyal Katsckee of Omaha, Nebraska, in a 1957 Ferrari. Johnnie Edwards of Kansas City, came with a 1957 Porsche, and Don Bowles of Avondale, Missouri raced a 1956 Jaguar.

The drivers competed in four, ten lap preliminary races before the main feature, which was 50 laps. Bob Burdick of Omaha, Nebraska dominated the feature. He was the fastest qualifier in his 1958 Ford and led all 50-laps to claim his first victory of the season. Sonny Gross from Quincy, Illinois was a close second. Perhaps as expected, the sports cars did not fare well on the dirt. Loyal Kaskee did the best in his Ferrari. After struggling in the first race, he led nine laps and finished second to Jerry Rodell’s 1957 Chevrolet in the third event. The finishing position of the remaining sports cars was not recorded, although none were in the top five.

Bob Burdick enjoyed limited success in NASCAR competition. He competed in 15 races over a four year period and won the 1961 Atlanta 500. Burdick remains the only Nebraska born driver to win a NASCAR race.

One of the greatest rivalries in sports car racing is now a major motion picture. Starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, “Ford vs. Ferrari,” tells the story of their epic battle at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.

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