RACIN' ROUND RAPID CITY, SD

FOR MORE BLACK HILLS SPEEDWAY IMAGES, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE DON BOIT AND JIM HOLLAND PAGES!!!
MANSFIELD FAMILY COLLECTION: VOL.1 VOL.2 VOL.3
"SHAKY" JACK VENABLE COLLECTION
KEN AND RUTH FRIEZ COLLECTION
MARK HIGGINS COLLECTION (NEW 8-29-10)
THE LARRY REUB COLLECTION (NEW 11-2-10)
THE DARRELL MULZ II COLLECTIION (NEW 2-20-11)
HORST FAMILY COLLECTION (NEW 7-26-11)
ED OVERTON COLLECTION (NEW 3-4-12)
LES STADEL COLLECTION VOLUME 1 (NEW 4-1-12)
LES STADEL COLLECTION VOLUME 2 (NEW 4-26-12)
LES STADEL COLLECTION VOLUME 3 (NEW 3-3-13)
MURNER COLLECTION (NEW 4-26-12)
BECKMAN FAMILY COLLECTION (THANKS BOBBY!) (NEW 7-17-13)
MARK HIGGINS COLLECTION VOL 2 (NEW 11-2-13)
CRAIG ROBBINS EARLY 1970'S WORK (NEW 1-15-14)
LOREE CRAWFORD'S 1980 BHS PHOTOS (NEW 1-30-14)
LOREE CRAWFORD 1980 BHS SPRINT SPECTACULAR PHOTOS (NEW 1-30-14)
DENNIS KINSLOW COLLECTIIONS (NEW 4-27-14)
BHS 1950-1969
The exact year that Black Hills Speedway roared to life is subject to a bit of hit and miss history. The Rapid City Journal's earliest records show a debut of mid 1952. As a scribe of sorts, I'm working on compiling a written record of those early years that will become part of this site. Like many other dreamers, it had been an intention to put this history into book form. With the advent of cyberspace, this dream will become a reality, though in a slightly different form of reality.

The Mike and John Gillian 1950's Collection

For some really amazing new 1950's photos, click HERE! for some images courtesy Mike Gillian. Mike's father, John, was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base for a good portion of the 1950's, and, fortunately for us all, saved a pile of photos and what-not from his years either at the wheel or behind the scenes. I'll be adding some newspaper clippings in the next update, so sit back, grab your mouse and prepare a trip to yesterday...A big thank you to Mike for supplying these images! By clicking HERE, you will find some rare Rapid City Journal articles from the year's John was a BHS force.

FOUND!!

Thanks to Mother Nature's continual winter pounding, I've been blessed with time on my hands to tend to long neglected household chores...such as cleaning the basement. A treasure trove of long sought negatives have been found, scanned and now are ready for your amusement. For reasons lost to my memory, I'm not sure why these images were never printed, but here are about 2 dozen images from the early 1950's from the late Cal Janssen. Click HERE for another visit back in time.

BHS 1970

George and Lois Davis' second year of ownership brought the first hints of the improvements to the facility he had in mind. Soon, the front stretch dirt barrier between race cars and race fans had a solid 4' concrete barrier in place, and dirt work commenced on providing a concrete grandstand surface for west side patrons. On the track, Dave Holter raced a Studebaker for the final time atop the Class "C" point standings, barely ahead of Bob Baumberger's powerhouse Ford.
BHS 1971
Within three weeks of each other, the racing community had to deal with the loss of two drivers stemming from two horrific incidents. Long time fan favorite Jerry May succumbed to injuries from a turn one flight two weeks after Ken Holden died from seat belt failure during a back stretch tumble. Instead of crippling racing in the Rapid City area, the new safety standards in their wake became the back bone of it's resilience.
BHS 1972
Within the confines of these twelve months rests the moment time stood still: June 9. Horrific flooding changed the layout of the city and burned a memory so deep into its conscience ness that recovery took many years. BHS suffered some damage, mainly to the newly built back stretch concrete structure, but after a forced three week layoff, those looking for an escape from the grim rebuilding tasks found new heroes in Nomex.
BHS 1973
The Class "A" division enjoyed a resurgence, thanks to several seasoned "C" stock pilots moving into faster machinery to satisfy quicker lap time needs. While Jerry Kreber and Leo Ray called it a career at the close of the 1972 season, former Ken Friez drivers Les Stadel and Butch Murner stepped up to put the class on the map. "C" Stock favorite Lynn Franz's "big Ed" Edsel gave hope to a more favorable memory of Ford's 1958 folly. One of the region's biggest race-the season concluding "Nationals"-kicked off the tradition the second weekend of September, bringing cars from more than nine states.
BHS 1974
Ah, the year a nickname became more present in a driver's identification. Who will ever forget Jim "Buckin' Horse" Olson, "Concrete" John Slagle, "The Ye Olde Fox" Jack Comer and Les "Half Throttle" Stadel. Olson and Slagle's hard earned monikers were culled from some scary rides, the latter of the two often involving a moving or removing attempt of certain concrete structures. Comer's sly maneuverability comparison to a dervish fox was a no brainer. A major kudo must be given to the wit that rhymed "Throttle" to an almost un-rhymable Stadel.
BHS 1975

"C" Stockers were allowed to shed the three digit numeration that had tagged this brand of race car since the 1960's. The trend to place a "1" before a set of dual digits began with the introduction of an entry level brand of race car circa 1965. At that time, it would have been impossible to distinguish the physical differences of this class and the more "souped" late models of the age, hence the 100-199 came into being. Long a fan favorite, Jack Comer's career nearly ended with a horrific tumble at the Jackson, MN, facility mid year. His body was broken badly, but his racing elan would emerge unscathed. As soon as he was up to the task, the Ye Olde Fox served notice of his return.

BHS 1976
For the first time in the track's history, four divisions of racing machinery would be on the weekly Friday night card. Sprint car chassis had pretty much taken over the Modified design, relegating the cars of old technology to the scrapyard. Some of those disposed iron relics got a reprieve, now fitted with less horsepower but a look familiar to fans. Unceremoniously named "6 Cylinder Modfiieds", rookie Dennis Blosmo etched his name into the record books as its first champion. Also of note, the last ever coup era bodied modified began a two year hitch, piloted by Hal Dickey this year. Drivers in every division faced a nearly new race track: the size was reduced to a true half mile and a concrete barrier encircled the entire outer perimeter of the speedway.
BHS 1977
The hint of advancing technology that showed itself the year before gained greater foot hold on the 1977 late model division. Factory-based frames gave way to custom fabricated racing chassis, and the Camaro began its domination of the body design choice. Nineteen sixties sheet metal from all of the Big three auto makers graced many a "C" Stocker as the scarcity of older, usable body panels grew. This left the few remaining 1957 Chevy sheet metal for future car collectors. The 6-Cylinder Modifieds found some new members and their bigger counterparts, the former Modified division, was dubbed "Sprints" even though a few non-sprint appearing machines could be found mixed in any feature event.
BHS 1978

After ten years of ownership and reconstruction, George and Lois Davis sold the pride of the western speed scene to a group of investors/promoters. A stronger emphasis on sprint car racing drew some of the big names, but one driver of this elite group would be forced into retirement following a vicious crash. Jim Olson suffered extensive burns to his arms and neck after launching his machine over the catch fence and onto the thinly disguised fuel cell tail cone. Olson's machine burst into flames upon impact, adding his name to a roster of injured drivers during the summer months. Rookie Terry Henrikson earlier suffered injuries from a twisting flip that put him into a wheelchair for life.

BHS 1979
Wishing to close the costly gap between Hobby Stocks and Late Models, a new class emerged from a rulebook marriage dubbed the "Invaders". Plenty of eye catching machinery populated the membership of the new designation. Unfortunately, the momentum to allow its survival into the next decade failed in the end. Third year sprint car shoe Junior Ellis became yet another dark chapter in the speedway's annals, succumbing to a head injury a week after a brutal incident. Ellis' career took off in 1977, piloting a bright candy apple red sprint car owned and supported by his family.
BHS 1980

Little changed in preparation for the first race of the new decade: many of the familiar names associated with the track in the previous ten years would return. The ill fated Invader class dispersed themselves between the Hobby Stock and Late Model minions, paring the weekly night racing card to four full divisions. The other half of the racing field belonged to the open wheel 6-cylinder mods and sprint cars. This would mark the final year for Bill Liebig to be saddled with fenders; he would return to the sprint car fold the next season.

BHS 1981
Ownership of the track reverted back to George and Lois Davis during the winter months, and with that announcement a flurry of car building activity commenced. Hobby Stocks were again mandated to carry the three digit numbering, as some new fans to the sport had difficulty distinguishing the two full bodied entrants. For the sprint car purists, this would be the last season that wings would be tabu.
BHS 1982
For a while, it seemed as though the season would never start. Heavy rains and late winter snows pushed the opener to the Memorial Day weekend. Third season racer Les Larvie went on to race the last '55 Chevy to race regularly at the track. The evolutionary track of the Late Model revealed a new look to the division, setting the stage for wilder body shapes to come. The Modified division was boosted to V8 power, and some took on the look of an unwinged, underpowered sprint car.
BHS 1983
Local entrepreneur S. William Davies purchased the facility in late 1982, and immediately set forth a complete makeover. The backstretch was now reserved for car/truck spectator parking only. The "Crow's Nest" restaurant was built where the old announcers both and concession stand stood for years. Wings and wedges were everywhere pitside, and body year restrictions for the Hobby Stocks, now dubbed "Sportsman", were removed.
BHS 1984
In an attempt to lure more of the wanna be racers out of the stands and into a racing car, the Street Stock class made its debut. A mere four cars-including a very cool 1962 four door Chevy-were ready for the first green flag of the season. Many more would join rank as the season went along. A touch of Hollywood came to the Black Hills, thanks to track owner and his friend Bobby Unser. Yep, that Bobby Unser. Together, they created a ride for Bobby's teenaged son Robby to score some seat time in a Late Model. Before moving onto sprint cars and more asphalt churning rides, Robby won the late model portion of the annual Nationals event.
BHS 1985

For the third time within the decade, another change of ownership grabbed the off season headlines. One time Brown County Speedway promoter Floyd Weisz brought his entire family into the rebirth of the a new BHS, beginning with a soggy mid May debut. Inclimate weather be damned, it marked the beginning of a very successful run for drivers and fans alike. Sprint cars were reduced to a handful of shows, as a new rule book was being drafted to breath new life to the fading fan favorite. All other classes returned with few changes to their appearance or performance.

1985 ENDURO!!!! (Added 3-29-09)

BHS 1986
As promised, a revitalized sprint car division had impressive numbers throughout the season. Street Stocks began a growth spurt that made them the largest class number-wise. This was a time when one could find a variety of Detroit iron in all its many shapes and forms-though the "Chevelle" was the prime choice. The Camaro template worked on most of the late model and sportsman cars, though finding a common form could prove challenging. This is also the year that I returned to the Black Hills as a Rapid City resident, and promptly picked up my camera to take my first stabs as a "photographer".

BHS 1987

This was the year I answered the call for someone to take pictures for the new season program. I can still remember the butterflies in my stomach as I offered up my services. Little did they know that I had no idea what I was doing! Thus began my association with the racing press...

BHS 1988

Most of the photos here are of the portrait variety, just the driver posed with his/her car. It's kind of interesting to look back nearly twenty years and see the differences in the people in the picture, much less the cars that race today. For some reason, it just doesn't seem that long ago...
BHS 1989
This was the year that another second generation driver would emerge: Curt Dahlenburg. Fred Dahlenburg had raced all kinds of race cars in the years preceding, including modifieds, late models and sprints. Barely of street legal driving age, Curt chose the number 23 for his Sportsman debut.
BHS 1990

Following a short stint piloting the Roger Featherstone car in late 1989, Hughes Racing came into its own in 1990. Using the numbers of their favorite Winston Cup drivers, the brothers elected to don their Dean Fairbanks built 1970 Chevelle with "93". I, as a fan of Bill Elliott, and being the owner of the car, "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville"s #9 overruled my brother's #3 designation of the late Dale Earnhardt.

BHS 1991

The 1993 season started on a raw, almost bitterly cold April afternoon. To use that old cliche "but the racing was hot" seems to fit nicely, though. A wild multi car crack up during the Gran National feature had rookie Ken Wangen upside down in front of the main grandstand. This was merely a teaser of the "hot" racing that would highlight one of the most successful years the speedway ever produced.

 

BHS 1992
That's my dad, Jerry, taking a peak at one big monster of a storm descending from the northwest. It wasn't too much later everyone was scrambling for cover, as a monsoonal rain and hailstones washed away the night of racing. Of course, there were several Montana late model stars in the field to watch a thunderstorm South Dakota style.
BHS 1993
This year began without one of the area's hardest chargers, Fred Lundock. "Fast Fred" was taken from us during the off season, joining Nascar luminaries Alan Kulwicki and Davey Allison. The season began with a heavy heart, but guys like Dean Fairbanks made it a summer to remember. Yep, that's Deano and his Caddy, complete with the rare aluminum roof cover. They just don't build 'em like that any more.
BHS 1994
One of the hardest aspects of the sport is when you lose someone to it. Curt Dahlenburg was just 20 years of age when an accident during a feature event changed the racing skyline forever. I had gotten to know the young shoe over the years, and it was sheer pleasure watching him mature behind the wheel. In life he was a personality you could easily latch onto, which made the letting go that much more difficult.
BHS 1995
The image to the left demonstrates the entertainment moxy Black Hills Speedway posssessed in 1995. Little did anyone realize at that time this would be the swansong for the Weisz family's involvement with the facility. The scores of changes that were to come would never fill the arena to this capacity again, despite whole hearted efforts of the owners/promoters to come. We mortal humans may never know the reasons for the decline. All we know is that a golden age had passed.

BHS 1996

Change was in full bloom when the gates opened for the 1996 season. Stan Torgerson assumed ownership of the speedway, adding a new Truck class and changing the sanctioning weeks prior to the first green flag. Announced in late April, NASCAR would replace Wissota as the governing body for this new era. Perhaps it was the timing of the announcement and the lack of a nearby NASCAR ruled track that set off the slow yet steady decline of racing in the Rapid City area. Maybe it was a coincidence. The competitive spirit, however, remained fiercely alive and kicking, with the likes of Darwin Shoop (at left) showing the way.

BHS 1997

Wissota sanctioning returned for the 1997 season, as did a new breed of race car: the two-man Cruisers. Aside from the low cost factor, it also served as the ultimate entry level introduction to inaugurate the would be driver into the driver's seat. Of course, the one in the driver's seat got to set the speed and turn the wheel, and it was up to his/her partner to the immediate right to hit the brakes should it be necessary. The 1997 season saw some growth in the Truck standings, nothing of what was hoped for in the rule writing stages. One of the best appearing cars of the year-maybe the decade-belonged to Dave McCoy, shown at the left.

BHS 1998

My good friend Lenny Lowell was the wheel man of this "Titanic" of all race cars shown at left, along with Danny Wendleboe as the Cruiser co-pilot. Like the ocean liner of history, this "unsinkable" craft had its demise after colliding with an iceberg of concrete. The Western Wissota 100 returned for the final time at the most "western" speedway the event would be held as of 2007. Two drivers got to experience the ultimate up and down experience: Montana Street Stock pilot Marty Larson and local vet Doug Amick towed home some crinkled mementoes of their 100 experience. Along the way, the ASCS gang stopped by for a one night stand as well.

BHS 1999

Yep, that's none other than Vic Wood saying hello to my camera in his own unique way. Doug and Tammy Roth took the managerial reins for the final season of the decade. Doug was somewhat of a newcomer to the racing scene, while Tammy had an inside track (pun intended), being a relation to the storied May family. Her dad Del was a one time track official, though better known for his behind the scenes input on nephew Jerry's powerful Mopars. Their affiliation would be for just one season, leaving their mark with a host of improvements that the aging speedplant desperately needed. The Truck division didn't return, scattering its minnions to the other standing classes. This will be the final entry on this page. Future images from BHS will be under the individual year heading found on the home page.

All photos © JR Hughes, Gary Wolfe, Black Mountain Photography, Jim Holland, Rex Nelson, Bill Roos, Ray Litman, Cathy Kjar, Darla Crown and other fellow shutterbugs
Do not copy or reproduce without prior consent

Last updated April 27, 2014