Keokuk, Iowa's Ernie Derr…ARCA’s first winner in Alabama
Keokuk, Iowa's Ernie Derr…ARCA’s first winner in Alabama
(TOLEDO, Ohio – February 26, 2015) – With the fourth annual ARCA Mobile 200 on the way, the state of Alabama is back in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards mix, upholding a long tradition of ARCA national tour racing events in Alabama. The ARCA/Alabama connection reaches all the way back to 1961 when Keokuk, Iowa’s Ernie Derr parked his Pontiac in Victory Lane, thus becoming the first ARCA winner in Alabama.
The 12-time IMCA national champion liked to spread his talents around from time to time, joining the ARCA ranks when it worked inside his fulltime racing schedule. It worked very well on November 5, 1961 when Derr held off the pack to win the grinding 250-lap ARCA race on the Birmingham Speedway half-mile dirt.
The event marked the beginning of a long ARCA run in Alabama that continues to this day with annual events at Talladega Superspeedway since 1969 and, since 2012, at the Mobile Int’l Speedway half-mile paved short track.
Derr, in his day, was considered one the very best stock car drivers in the country on dirt where he specialized north, south, east and west, no matter the track, no matter the tour. All the while mixing in ARCA races when he could, he won his first IMCA championship title in 1953. He followed that up with consecutive IMCA championships from 1959 through 1962. He repeated in the IMCA championship column with seven consecutive titles from 1965 through 1971, which remains a record today. His 12 IMCA titles are still the record for the most IMCA championship titles by a single racer. Derr finished up with more than 320 wins in IMCA alone, which remained a record up until 2005.
But it wasn’t just IMCA where Derr excelled; he also won 11 ARCA races over his career at a wide variety of tracks, including his first ARCA win on the Lakewood Speedway mile dirt in Atlanta, Georgia on March 27, 1955. Derr, in fact, won six ARCA races in ’55 adding two victories on the half-mile Ohio State Fairgrounds dirt, the Toledo Raceway Park half-mile dirt, the Heidelberg Speedway half-mile dirt and even one on the paved high-banks of Dayton Speedway, a 300-lapper on June 5.
(Image: ARCA winner Ernie Derr being interviewed by John Marcum's PR guy Howard Williams)
Derr repeated in the ARCA win column at Lakewood, winning two there in 1962. Derr also won two ARCA races at Meyers Speedway in Houston, Texas in March of ’62 and again in March of ’64, his final ARCA win.
Prior to his racing career, Derr served in World War II, joining the U.S. Army in 1942. As a key participant in the European Theater, he was in the 6th Armored Division and drove a weasel, venturing ahead of his company laying wire for communications. He earned the rank of corporal and received the bronze star and other commendations.
He was honorably discharged in 1945 and returned home to Keokuk where he set his sights on his racing career, which began in 1950. Derr eventually turned his racing endeavors into a full-time career that lasted nearly 30 years up through 1977. His racing pursuits carried him to 21 states and Canada.
Derr, born in 1921, was 92 when he passed away in his Keokuk home on January 8, 2014. He was, before his death, the oldest living ARCA winner.
Other ARCA winners in Alabama (prior to the Talladega launch in ’69) were Dick Freeman at Fairgrounds Speedway in Montgomery in 1962, Earl Balmer at Huntsville Speedway in 1963 and Jack Bowsher at Huntsville in 1965. Mobile, Alabama’s Cale Gale won the inaugural ARCA Mobile 200 in 2012 before Grant Enfinger went back-to-back with ARCA wins at Mobile in 2013 and 2014. Tom Hessert is the most recent ARCA winner in Alabama, winning at Talladega in May, 2014.
|ARCA Racing Series History in Alabama|
|11-5-61||Birmingham Speedway||Ernie Derr||250L|
|3-23-62||Fairgrounds Speedway (Montgomery)||Dick Freeman|
|6-6-63||Huntsville Speedway||Earl Balmer||100L|
|5-13-65||Huntsville Speedway||Jack Bowsher||200L|
|10-29-69||Talladega Superspeedway||Jim Vandiver||500M|
|4-11-70||Talladega Superspeedway||Ramo Stott||133M|
|6-14-70||Talladega Superspeedway||Ramo Stott||300M|
|5-3-75||Talladega Superspeedway||Jim Vandiver||200M|
|5-1-76||Talladega Superspeedway||Johnny Halford||200M|
|8-6-77||Talladega Superspeedway||Ron Hutcherson||200M|
|8-5-78||Talladega Superspeedway||Bruce Hill||200M|
|8-4-79||Talladega Superspeedway||Sandy Satullo||200M|
|8-2-80||Talladega Superspeedway||Billie Harvey||200M|
|8-1-81||Talladega Superspeedway||Mark Martin||200M|
|5-1-82||Talladega Superspeedway||Jim Vaughan||200M|
|7-31-82||Talladega Superspeedway||Rick Roland||200M|
|4-30-83||Talladega Superspeedway||Davey Allison||500K|
|7-30-83||Talladega Superspeedway||Davey Allison||200M|
|5-5-84||Talladega Superspeedway||Davey Allison||500K|
|7-28-84||Talladega Superspeedway||Red Farmer||200M|
|5-4-85||Talladega Superspeedway||Davey Allison||500K|
|7-27-85||Talladega Superspeedway||Rain Out||NA|
|5-3-86||Talladega Superspeedway||Grant Adcox||500K|
|7-26-86||Talladega Superspeedway||Grant Adcox||500K|
|5-2-87||Talladega Superspeedway||Grant Adcox||500K|
|7-25-87||Talladega Superspeedway||Grant Adcox||500K|
|4-30-88||Talladega Superspeedway||Red Farmer||500K|
|7-30-88||Talladega Superspeedway||Grant Adcox||500K|
|5-6-89||Talladega Superspeedway||Tracy Leslie||500K|
|7-29-89||Talladega Superspeedway||Tracy Leslie||500K|
|5-5-90||Talladega Superspeedway||Jimmy Horton||500K|
|7-28-90||Talladega Superspeedway||Charlie Glotzbach||500K|
|5-4-91||Talladega Superspeedway||Jimmy Horton||500K|
|7-27-91||Talladega Superspeedway||Charlie Glotzbach||500K|
|5-2-92||Talladega Superspeedway||Charlie Glotzbach||500K|
|5-1-93||Talladega Superspeedway||Tim Steele||500K|
|4-30-94||Talladega Superspeedway||Jeff Purvis||500K|
|4-29-95||Talladega Superspeedway||Mike Wallace||500K|
|4-27-96||Talladega Superspeedway||Tim Steele||500K|
|10-11-97||Talladega Superspeedway||Tim Steele||500K|
|10-10-98||Talladega Superspeedway||Tim Steele||300M|
|10-16-99||Talladega Superspeedway||Bob Strait||300M|
|10-14-00||Talladega Superspeedway||David Keith||300M|
|10-20-01||Talladega Superspeedway||Bobby Gerhart||300M|
|10-5-02||Talladega Superspeedway||Keith Segars||300M|
|9-27-03||Talladega Superspeedway||Paul Menard||300M|
|10-2-04||Talladega Superspeedway||Blake Feese||300M|
|10-1-05||Talladega Superspeedway||Kraig Kinser||300M|
|10-6-06||Talladega Superspeedway||Frank Kimmel||250M|
|10-5-07||Talladega Superspeedway||Michael Annett||250M|
|10-3-08||Talladega Superspeedway||Justin Allgaier||250M|
|4-24-09||Talladega Superspeedway||Justin Lofton||250M|
|4-23-10||Talladega Superspeedway||Dakoda Armstrong||250M|
|4-15-11||Talladega Superspeedway||Ty Dillon||250M|
|3-10-12||Mobile Int'l Speedway||Cale Gale||200L|
|5-4-12||Talladega Superspeedway||Brandon McReynolds||250M|
|3-9-13||Mobile Int'l Speedway||Grant Enfinger||200L|
|5-3-13||Talladega Superspeedway||Frank Kimmel||250M|
|3-22-14||Mobile Int'l Speedway||Grant Enfinger||200L|
|5-3-14||Talladega Superspeedway||Tom Hessert||200M|