Flat Rock, Toledo Champs Reaching Back.....

Flat Rock, Toledo Champs Reaching Back.....
When you reach back to the beginning of time for ARCA, it’s impossible to reach back without digging in at Flat Rock Speedway. As ARCA was born in 1953, so too was Flat Rock's quarter mile paved oval where Dick Good captured the first-ever track championship in the “Hardtop” division, the precursor to the Late Model division. It's also where ARCA Figure-8 champions were first born, like 1963 Flat Rock Figure-8 champion Chuck Briggs (left).

Toledo Speedway didn’t come along until 1960. Regardless, there’s plenty of memories to sift through as we look back. Here’s a look at some of our earlier Flat Rock/Toledo track champions……

Dick Good (left)
Flat Rock Speedway 

Dick Good captured the first ever track championship in the “Hardtops” division during Flat Rock Speedway’s inaugural season of operation. The track, located alongside Telegraph Road just south of Flat Rock, Michigan, was constructed by Cadillac Asphalt Company owner Sheldon Hayes using 70 tons of rubber mixed with asphalt, becoming the country’s first “rubberized” asphalt racing surface.

cooperfrchamp.jpg1954-1957, 1964
George Cooper (right)
Flat Rock Speedway 

George Cooper earned consecutive Late Model division championships at Flat Rock Speedway in 1954, ’55, ’56 and ’57.  In addition to Cooper, who garnered 15 Late Model victories during his career, weekly Late Model division race winners during this era included “Wild” Bill Naida, Felix Brooks, Mickey Katlin, Jack Conley, Jack Goodwin and Willie Dumsick, to name a few. 

Cooper, who became the first multi-time champion in Flat Rock Speedway history with his four-year streak of consecutive titles, found his way back to the top of the point standings in 1964, earning a season record seven wins along the way in James “Hammer” Mason’s No. 87 Dearborn Steel and Tubing 1960 Ford. 

Bob Frederick
Flat Rock Speedway 

While the Late Model division and racing in general ran sparsely during the 1959 Flat Rock Speedway season, it didn’t stop Bob Frederick from earning the 1959 Late Model championship. During the speedway’s first decade of operation, the racecars looked nothing like today’s sleek, outlaw bodied Late Models. In fact, the vehicles were gutted streetcars with roll bars added, windows removed and chains holding the doors closed. 

After Frederick’s racing career as a driver ended, he continued to be very involved, serving for many years as a key crew member for Joy Fair. You can still find Bob Frederick in the Flat Rock and Toledo Speedway pit area today at late model races, representing Penske Racing Shocks. 

Walt Peterson
Flat Rock Speedway 

John Marcum took over track management of Flat Rock Speedway in 1962 and went to work to create a consistent weekly racing program that established Late Models as the headliner division. Walt Peterson, in his Buick, claimed the inaugural championship title, finishing ahead of Dick Simmons and Hugh Hans. The division, which featured 1954-1959 American passenger sedans, included attractive purses and a season ending point fund. 

Wayne Bennett
Flat Rock/Toledo Speedway 

Wayne Bennett, in the Dick Gold owned 1956 Ford, earned Late Model titles at both Flat Rock Speedway and Toledo Speedway in 1963. The double championships made him the first driver to earn Late Model titles at both tracks in a single season. Dick Mitchell would accomplish the same feat in 1966, as would Joy Fair in 1967, ’69, ’70, ’71 and ’72. Other drivers accomplishing the “two track sweep” include Danny Byrd in 1973 and Greg Studt in 2005. 

fairfrchamp.jpg1965, 1967, 1969-1972, 1975-1976, 1979, 1981 Toledo Speedway
1967-1972, 1974 Flat Rock Speedway
Joy Fair 

Joy Fair’s name was already well regarded in the racing community when he earned his career first Late Model championship at Flat Rock Speedway in 1965. Fair, along with Danny Byrd, would dominate the ‘65 season, with Fair earning 10 wins in a Brondes sponsored 1958 Ford and Byrd finding victory lane five times in a No. 08, 1961 Ford Starliner. 

Fair would go on to earn more than 700 feature wins in all types of cars during his career, which spanned six decades and included a total of 17 ARCA-sanctioned Late Model championships split between Flat Rock and Toledo Speedway. Much of his success came in his Bob Gillelan-inspired Dearborn Crankshaft school bus yellow No. 1. 

Fair, by virtue of his legendary victory and championship totals over 40+ consecutive seasons of ARCA competition, was honored with a ceremony at Toledo Speedway officially retiring his #1 from ARCA sanctioned late model competition. 

byrdtolchamp.jpg1965, 1973
Danny Byrd
Toledo Speedway

Danny Byrd earned the Toledo Speedway Late Model championship over Joy Fair in 1965. Byrd would go on to claim the 1973 Toledo Speedway Late Model title as well and acquired 27 victories over the course of his Toledo Speedway racing career, many at the wheel of cars fielded by Bill Hill. 

Dick Mitchell
Flat Rock and Toledo Speedway Champion 

Veteran racer Dick Mitchell, in his No. 27 “Heavy Hemi” captured both the Flat Rock and Toledo Speedway Late Model titles in 1966, joining Wayne Bennett on the list of drivers who have won both track’s championships in a single season. In addition to the ’66 titles, Mitchell captured several season-ending specials, including the second annual Hoosier 200 at Fort Wayne Indiana’s Baer Field Raceway and the prestigious Pittsburgher 200 at Heidelberg Speedway in Pennsylvania. 

Mitchell, now 80 years of age, still works and lives in the Daytona Beach, Florida area. 

Ron Grana
Flat Rock Speedway

Ron Grana captured the 1968 Flat Rock Speedway Late Model Championship in his father C.J. Grana’s O’Green Ford sponsored blue Fairlane No. 5. The youngster used the 1968 season as his breakout year, earning the championship over veterans Danny Byrd, Joy Fair, Ray Barnard and Fran Harden.

Special thanks to Brian Norton and Tom Davidson......

Thank-you for bringing back so many great memory's, The Danny Byrd Joy Fair battles were epic. Bob Senneka and Joe Ruttman would come in and make the night’s race very memorable