Editor’s Note: In this monthly photo essay feature, National Sprint Car Hall of Fame photographer John Mahoney shares his memories and images from some of the most amazing and historic sprint car and midget races.
Hut Hundred, Terre Haute Action Track, Sept. 28, 1969
For many years, one of USAC racing’s greatest weekends included the Hoosier Hundred Silver Crown race at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on Saturday backed by the Hut Hundred midget classic at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track on Sunday.
The two-day spectacular last occurred in 1983. This month, we’ll look back at the 1969 Hut Hundred won by Midget Hall of Famer Bob Tattersall.
Incidentally, the 1969 event’s original date was rained out following A.J. Foyt’s Hoosier Hundred victory on Sept. 6, and the race was run on Sept. 28.
In a rare midget appearance, sprint car regular Chuck Amati paced the 51-car field in qualifications, missing the track record by 11 hundredths of a second. Rounding out the top 10 qualifiers were George Kladis, Dick Pole, Tattersall, Bobby Grim, Don Vogler, Mel Kenyon, Dave Strickland, Roger Branson and Arnie Knepper.
The late midget historian Ed Watson described the track conditions as the best he’d ever seen and the fans were treated to great racing and a record pace until a fiery late-race crash involving Strickland.
At the green flag, Tattersall gave a preview of what would be a dominant run by taking the lead after starting fourth. With “Tat” long gone, the focus was on the furious battles behind the leader.
First, it was spectacular charges to the front by Knepper, Larry Rice and Bob Hauck. Pole and Kladis settled in second and third spots, respectively. Then came an almost race-long battle for fourth among Knepper, Kenyon,
Amati, Chuck Arnold, Sonny Ates and Vogler. Amati’s race ended with a sticking throttle.
The torrid pace came to a stop on lap 88 when Strickland slammed into the outer wall. Spinning into traffic, he was hit by Ates, rupturing Strickland’s fuel tank. Strickland bailed and neither driver was injured as the track crew doused the fire.
After nine laps under the yellow flag, Tattersall resumed his lead on lap 97. Kladis exited with an empty fuel tank on the restart. Behind Tattersall at the finish were Pole, Vogler, Kenyon, Knepper, Grim, Rice, Arnold, Branson and Bill Renshaw.
Tattersall went on to win the 1969 midget championship. Sadly, cancer took his life two years later at age 47.
This story appeared in the Sept 20, 2023 edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.