RSS

Tag Archives: Quad-City Speedway

A large honor for an old racing announcer

The 2016 inductees. this appeared in a QCS program and on a banner that hangs at the speedway.

The 2016 inductees. This appeared in a QCS program and on a banner that hangs at the speedway.

Sherry took this photo of me at the podium. I love being a racing announcer but don't particularly care to be in the spotlight myself.

Sherry took this photo of me at the podium. I loved being a racing announcer but don’t particularly care to be in the spotlight myself.

I received a large honor Sunday night, Aug. 21, 2016, at Quad City Speedway in East Moline, Ill. I was one of seven people inducted into the track’s Racing Hall of Fame for contributions made to auto racing. Following is a paragraph from an article that later appeared in the Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus:

2016 Hall of Fame: Jesse “Tuffy” Morehouse (driver, track official), Bob Stogdell (driver), Rick and Randy Wages (drivers), Jake Willert (driver), Phil Roberts (announcer), Randy Swanson (current track promoter, car owner) and Mike Bardoel (driver) were celebrated and inducted into the Quad City Speedway Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 class on Sunday. Bardoel, who passed away in 2013, was represented by his daughter, Angie Bardoel.

Following is the acceptance speech I read:

I grew up near Davenport Speedway.
I don’t think a young man in the 1950s and early 1960s could grow up near a speedway and not be drawn by the sound of those racing engines.
My buddies and I didn’t have access to smart phones or computers or color television sets that picked up scores of channels.
For fun, we rode our bicycles, built AMT model cars and, when we were old enough, sat together at the speedway on race nights to cheer for our favorite drivers – our heroes.
Some of my buddies wanted to grow up to become race drivers. You may recognize the name of one of them who succeeded in doing so – Gary Webb.
I, on the other hand, wanted to be a racing announcer.
And thanks to determination and some lucky breaks, I was able to achieve that. I did it for 40 years before deciding to hang up the microphone.
I also was the host of an auto racing news program on radio, an auto racing publicist and a freelance writer of racing articles.
Being involved in racing has been a wonderful experience. I met some wonderful people – drivers, crew members, promoters, officials, sponsors and spectators. That included many of the racing heroes I had cheered for as a youngster.
What I miss most about not being actively involved in racing now is seeing these people on a regular basis.
I am honored and appreciative of being included in the Hall of Fame.
But I would like to dedicate this honor to my wife, Sherry, who has supported me in my racing-related endeavors.
For many years, when our family was young, she stayed home raising our four children while I announced races anywhere and everywhere two and three nights a week.
Thank you, Sherry. And thanks to all of you for supporting the best sport in the world, auto racing.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: ,

A racing legend remembers the early days of Stock Car racing in the Quad-Cities

Bud, left, and Gene Benner congratulate each other following a race. Photo courtesy of Georgia Hoggatt.

Bud, left, and Gene Benner stand next to their cars in front of the Benner Brothers’ Garage. Photo courtesy of Georgia Hoggatt.

Bud Benner, pictured in his Rock Island, Ill., home, holds a scrapbook with pictures of the brothers' race cars. Phil Roberts photo.

One of Benner's clippings detailing his racing exploits. Phil Roberts photo.

This photo and clipping deals with formation of the old Quad-City Speedway. Phil Roberts photo.

Bud Benner, who will be 92 in October, is in good shape, perhaps in part because he is an avid golfer. Phil Roberts photo.

He only raced eight years – one year in Midgets, then seven in Stock Cars. But he made a name for himself, and he has some great memories of his bullring battles.

George “Bud” Benner, who will turn 92 in October, lives in Rock Island.

A World War II veteran, Benner raced midgets in 1947 without a great deal of success. Then he switched to a growing new fad, Stock Car racing, in 1948. And he did well from that point on.
“I won 15 races one year,” he says. “I won the championship two years and ‘most popular driver’ four years.”

His brother Gene also raced.

Bud Benner’s stock car career began when he and a dozen other drivers formed the Devil Drivers Racing Association to compete at the newly opened Mahoney’s Variety Park track, which was located west of Davenport. Lake Canyada now sits above the old speedway.

Benner paid $90 for first Stock Car, made from a passenger car his brother-in-law had wrecked.

“It was a ’46 Chevy, I think,” he says. “The first few races, we just drove it to the race and taped the headlights up. I had an old hardhat from construction jobs; that was my helmet.”

The car didn’t have a rollbar, but it did have a seatbelt, which was an old aircraft belt Benner had purchased at an Army surplus store.

“The first race out, I made $90, so I paid for the car,” Benner recalls.

Benner and his brother co-owned a garage in Rock Island and found someone to paint their cars in a black-and-white checkerboard design. Bud Benner raced No. 2; Gene was No. 22.

The year 1950 was a big one for the Benner brothers’ racing program. Quad-City Speedway in Coal Valley, Ill., opened in June of that year. Bud Benner loved the track, which eventually fell victim to Interstate 280, and was its first champion.

“That was a fine track,” he says. “It was a full quarter. It was banked. They did a good job on it. They had good seating. The track sat down probably five feet from the bleachers.”

The brothers were actually full-time racers in 1950.

They raced at Mahoney’s on Sunday afternoons and CeMar Acres near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sunday nights. The duo competed Tuesday nights in Waterloo, Iowa; Wednesday nights back at CeMar Acres; Thursday nights in Columbus Junction, Iowa; and Friday nights at Quad-City Speedway.

They were off Saturdays, surprisingly, and Mondays. They worked on their cars those nights.

But Bud Benner also had a life outside of racing. In fact, despite being engaged in tight points battles, he took several weeks off from racing each year to take his wife Nelda and their three daughters to Minnesota for lakeside vacations.

“I like to fish,” he explains.

The cars were strictly stock in Stock Car racing’s early years.

“Back then you just raced the car the way it was,” Benner says. “You couldn’t add any racing gears or anything to it. If it was manufactured for that car, you could use it.

“After we got to breaking wheels pretty often, they let us reinforce our hubs,” he says. “It was just off-the-street racing, you know. Backyard racing, I call it.”

Benner raced against the same drivers regularly and got to know their driving styles.

One he could never beat, though, was Les Dykes.

“He’d follow me through traffic, then pass me. He had a little more speed.”

Benner says he often started main events at the back of the pack.
“In the feature, if you had timed first, second or third, you started in the back,” he says. “You had to come up through the traffic. It was good racing.”

But the rising cost of racing eventually caused Benner to hang up his helmet.

“Everything was out of your own pocket,” Benner says. “Fortunately, I was one of the top money winners. At that time, if you could place in the top three in both time trials and the feature, you won the big money. You didn’t get much for running heats.”

Benner has 12 grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren and “a couple of great great grandchildren.” But you’d never know this retired race driver is in his 90s by chatting with him.

Benner’s in good shape physically, perhaps because he loves to golf. And his memory is sharp, too. Like many of us who have been hanging around race tracks, Benner is a little hard of hearing. But he says not all the blame should go to racing. He says his 42 years of driving a truck for a living likely also contributed to that.

Copyright 2010 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This story appeared as an “On Track” column in Dirt Racer Magazine.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , ,