THE GLASS CITY 200—FROM A KID’S EYES
THE GLASS CITY 200—FROM A KID’S EYES
(This article was run back in 2007 and 2010; it has been edited and updated for the 2021 edition of the Glass City 200).
To an 11-year-old kid sitting in the grandstands at Toledo Speedway in 1969, I was in awe. It was the Glass City 200 weekend and man, the cars just kept pulling in! Sorry, I missed the first one, but I’ve been to the remaining 31.
Back then, the cars, all on open trailers, of course, pitted in the infield. So as the cars pulled in, you could see who was here to race. All the guys from Flat Rock and Toledo were here that I saw during the season, but the names I had heard and read about in the racing papers were at Toledo for this event!
The one and only Joy Fair won the inaugural event in 1968, but the second win eluded Joy for the next 9 seasons. Joy did win the 1973 classic, with Joe Ruttman subbing for an injured Fair in the Ford Maverick!
Some of them were new to me; others had raced a few times at either Flat Rock or Toledo. Over the years from 1969-1977, the Glass City 200 drew the best of the best, year in, year out. And that still holds true pretty much even today!
From the west side of the state, names such as the legendary Bob Senneker, Terry Senneker Sr., Johnny Benson Sr., Randy Sweet, Ed VanderLaan (I think this is Bruce’s dad), Bob Carnes, Bob Schippers, Tom Marks, Bob Sensiba, Jerry Spears and many more come to mind.
Up to the north, the man that really pushed Late Model short track racing to its heights as far as a car builder-Ed Howe. His one-time teammate, Tommy Maier, also competed at the Glass City. I’m not sure of the year, but they both drove Javelins that season—Going and Gone! Anyone remember Bill Bielby? Bill ran weekly at Toledo for a while. And the Roberts brothers—Jimmy and Donnie. Both would venture to Toledo on occasion and were Glass City participants. Cy Fairchild ran up front in one of the early Glass City races—I even remember that! In the early 1970’s, even ARCA’s legend, Iggy Katona, competed in his big Dodge Charger #30!
The Indiana gang was led by Conan “Moose” Myers. How about Cliff Setzer, Vern Schrock, Dave Sorg and Kenny Reiter? There’s more, but names escape me now. If I had only known then that record keeping would someday be worthwhile!
To the south, former ARCA champ Marvin Smith, his brother Carl, Lenny Waldo, Jerry Mitchell, the late, great Neal Sceva, Don Gregory, Larry Moore, Rodney Combs, Jim Bowsher and others made the trip to Toledo.
Then there’s the group from eastern Ohio and Pennsylvania. Ya gotta start with Augie Sandman-what a name! The bright red Ford Torino #47! Bud Middaugh, Norm Benning, 1975 winner Jim Bickerstaff, Tony DeLillo, Tony Diano, Tom Colella-the guy with the best-looking car—blue #40, and so many more.
I think it was 1973 or so when 2 of the best short-track drivers in the country made their way to Toledo—Dick Trickle and Jody Ridley. I’ve had seen Trickle’s name and photo of the A & W Mustang plastered across the speed papers for years. I think qualifying was pretty close to being wrapped up when he showed up, car on the back of a flat bed rig (the choice of many at that time), and a huge cheer went up from the grandstands. He made the race, got to the front and crashed! But he was here—the legendary Dick Trickle was at the Glass City 200!
Ridley showed up, I think, in 1974 with a Ford Falcon. He came up this way a few times and became an instant fan favorite. The easy-going driver from Chatsworth, GA would later go on to become NASCAR’s Rookie of the Year.
We can’t forget our Canadian racers—Jack Monaghan, Jr. Hanley, Don Biederman, Norm Lelliot, Brian Setterington and Earl Ross, along with Bob Merrifield.
So, this race has drawn, without a doubt, the nation’s finest short track drivers ever! Dick Trickle, Joy Fair, Bob Senneker, Neal Sceva, Joe Ruttman, John Anderson, Danny Byrd, Ed Cooper, Jr. Hanley. Everyone has their own list, but just look at these names and what they represent from the years gone by.
And in the events after the revival of the 200 in 1999, things have been pretty interesting! Tim Felver grabs the revival of the 200 in 1999; in 2000, Tim Ice takes the win when teammates Felver and Hanley tangle with 9 laps to go! Hanley comes back on a new paved surface, sets the track record and takes the victory in 2001. And then, something happened that no one would probably bet on—a driver winning 3 consecutive Glass City 200’s-and that guy is Steve Sauve, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Rain entered the picture in the 2005 edition of the race as John Doering Jr. brought home Dean Hudson’s #5 to the win in a 101 lap event, with Harold Fair Jr. all over his bumper! The first and only segment was run in just over 40 minutes with incredible racing for 101 laps. Jack Landis scored a big upset win in 2006, with Brian Campbell adding his name to the impressive list of winners in 2007. Fair Jr., after leading this race in several years, captured the 2008 event. And, like Fair Jr., after leading this event on several attempts, Dave Kuhlman finally captured that elusive Glass City 200 win in 2009.
2006 Glass City 200 winner Jack Landis’ victory was overshadowed by the on-track flying drop-kick of Michael Simko into Don St. Denis’ windshield! The incident drew unbelievable attention not only in the states, but internationally as well.
In 2010, Fair Jr. captured his second 200 victory. And true to the Glass City 200 history and notoriety, Alabama driver Augie Grill made the trip north and wheeled to the win in a dominating performance in 2011.
While his father, Terry Senneker, was a competitor in the early 200 races, Terry Senneker Jr. was able to add his name to the record books in 2012. Steve Needles was 4 laps from the win, but his engine soured and Terry, who made an incredible save on lap 173, grabbed the win.
The 25th Anniversary of the Glass City 200 hit the track in 2013 and local favorite Dennis Strickland thrilled the crowd with the biggest win of his career. Rain played havoc with the race in 2014, that was called at lap 101, with JR Roahrig taking the title.
The 2014 version saw JR Roahrig take the Glass City win over Jeff Ganus, Fair Jr., Dakota Carlson and Brad Riethmeyer. Brian Ross set fast time at 14:899, with Nick Grodi taking the last-chance race. 37 cars were at the track.
Riethmeyer, at the wheel of Bob Fox’s #56, pulled off the upset win in 2015, topping Carlson, Johnny Belott, local driver Nick Bailey and Billy Roberts. 32 cars were on hand, with Carlson leading qualifying with a lap of 15:019.
The incredible speed and downforce of the Outlaw Late Models began to take its toll on cars and drivers in the 200-lap race the past 2 seasons. 2016 was to be the last 200 lap contest, with a new format in 2017 for the 200. Tyler Roahrig, JR’s son, battled his Dad back and forth with the lead. The final 99 laps went all green flag, as the upcoming youngster edged out JR for the win. Fair Jr., Scott Hantz and Chad Finley completed the top 5. A day-long rain pushed the start time back 3 hours. Hantz posted fast time at 15:102 for the 33 cars on hand.
In 2017, The ARCA/CRA Super Series stock-bodied Late Models became part of the 200 event, and paired with the Outlaw Late Models, with each group running 100 lap feature events. Johnny VanDoorn took the ARCA/CRA portion, with Fair Jr., Tyler Ankrum, Hunter Jack and Brett Robinson trailing the fleet #71 in the 22 car field. JR Roahrig captured his 2nd Glass City win over Terry Senneker Jr., Tyler Roahrig, Frank Jiovani and Andy Bozell. Jack Varney Jr. took the last-chance race, with 35 cars on hand. VanDoorn was quickest at 15:430 for the ARCA/CRA cars, while Senneker topped the Outlaw Cars at 14:894.
Ankrum, a California teenager (who now competes full time in the NASCAR Truck Series) took the lead on lap 74 when then-leader Brian Campbell dropped out. Tyler went on to claim the 2018 Glass City win over Kyle Crump, Michael Simko, Jordan Pruitt and Josh Brock. Brian Campbell was fast qualifier for the 18 ARCA/CRA cars at 15:270. Steve Needles, who has led the Glass City Outlaw Late Model event numerous times over the years, suffered more heartbreak while leading at lap 70, only to go pit side to end his bid for a Glass City win. Tyler Roahrig took control to win his 2nd Glass City race over Brian Bergakker, Canadian Cayden Lapcevich, JR Roahrig and Mike Root. Tyler set quick time for the 23 cars at 14:808.
VanDoorn returned to winning form in the 2019 classic, besting Crump, Brock, Campbell and Dalton Zehr for the ARCA/CRA 100 lap win. The race ran 70 laps straight green flag. Travis Braden had fast time for the 20 car field at 15:266. A re-start with 3 to go gave Lapcevich his shot at victory, and he took control, getting by JR Roahrig on the way to his big win in the Outlaw 100 lap feature. Crump capped off a great night by grabbing second in both events, third was JR Roahrig, fourth was Bergakker and fifth went to Root. Again, Needles was in the lead at the lap 87 mark, only to retire while leading the race. The 26 car field saw JR Roahrig set fast time at 14:977. Chase Burda captured the CRA Jr. Late Model feature.
Then-17-year old Carson Hocevar, who has moved on to the NASCAR Truck Series, took the 2020 version of the ARCA/CRA 100 lap feature. The race was run under several restrictions due to the COVID-19 virus, with fan capacity limited for the event. Sammy Smith, another young and rising star, took second after leading early, pitting and then making his way back to the runner-up spot. Lapcevich, Hunter Jack and Cody Coughlin were the top 5. Just 1 yellow flag slowed the race for the 19 car field. Lapcevich set quick time at 15:396. Finally, Steve Needles could breath a sigh of relief, ending years of frustration at the Glass City oval as he took the victory in the 100 lap Outlaw Late Model portion, leading the final 28 laps. Frank Jiovani, Lapcevich, Scott Hantz and Dennis Strickland rounded out the top 5. Lapcevich, doing double duty, also set quick time for the 22 Outlaws at 14:744. Katie Hettinger won the CRA Jr. Late Model feature.
The formats have changed through the course of the 32 events—200 laps straight, separate 100 lap legs and today’s format, 200 lap race with a break at lap 101 and today’s format of 100 lap events for two different types of Late Models. It hasn’t mattered. What does matter is the type of competition the Glass City 200 generates, the excitement it brings, and the drive it has instilled in so many drivers to be a part of this event.
Heck, I even met Gary Lindahl for the first time in 1974 at the Glass City 200. I think he was 40 years old then—grey hair! Frank Bockstanz Sr. can remember his dad reading Gary’s column to him while he sat on his lap in 1964 at age 6! Ok, that part is not true…
I’m sure some of my years may not be correct, but it doesn’t matter. The Glass City 200 brought excitement, great competition and great crowds—the history of the event speaks for itself. And to a kid, from age 11 to now 63, it still is one of the top pavement Late Model short track events in the Midwest. Yeah, I’m biased. But I hope all of the fans out there, and those of you that haven’t been to Toledo this year or for many years, make it a point to come on out and join us for this year’s classic!
We may sit through some weather, but everyone is here to race-to race the Glass City 200. The years have flown by, the names have changed, but the excitement and thrill of this race has NEVER worn off. Ask the drivers that are here—they want one thing—to add their name to that prestigious list of winners of the Glass City 200. Ask the General Manager—heck, it’s still one of my all-time favorite events.
And who knows what’s in store for this year? Who will it be? Who can add this win to their list? Will it be a darkhorse coming from nowhere???…we’ll know Saturday night!
Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing these memories—the 33rd running of the Glass City 200 is this weekend, you can almost be guaranteed that the excitement and the uncertainty of what will happen at this year’s Glass City 200 will be worth the trip!
General Manager--Toledo Speedway