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Wing Side Up Archive: Supermodified Racers to Hoosier Dome, Jim Cheney Gone

Notes from Bobby G.:

This is shorter Wing Side Up column and even though MARC Times Racing News published once a month during the winter, it seems that there wasn’t much in the way of supermodified news coming to the mailbox or phone line in January of 1997.

The main focus of this Wing Side Up column is the Thunder in the  Dome Invitational midget race. It had been called the Hoosier Dome Invitational. The Hoosier Dome will always be the Hoosier Dome to those of us that are Indiana Natives, but in 1994 RCA purchased the Dome and it was renamed to the RCA Dome. You’ll see my thoughts on that in the column. The building was imploded in 2004 and then replaced by Lucas Oil Stadium. Anyway, the midgets ran indoors at the Dome starting in 1985 and the race pitted Team Indiana against Team USA. Detailed in this column is that there were several supermodified pilots that were going to be racing for Team USA.

Of note in this column is the passing of Jim Cheney and Doug Duncan. Two guys that added a lot of character to the supermodified scene. Looking back, it’s kind of hard to believe that I didn’t put more in there about them.

This Wing Side Up Archive Column  was written for the January, 1997 edition of MARC Times Racing News. We have crossed through the old address, website and phone number. BG

Wing Side Up

By Bob Gangwer


January 13, 1997 – Goshen, IN...We’re back with bravado, so put down the remote, slap on the easy chair five point harness and get ready for a ride.

We had every intention of attending the Sandusky Speedway banquet on the 11th, but after closer inspection of the weather predictions for the weekend, decided that it would be more prudent to stay in northern Indiana. Not that Sandusky wouldn’t be a good place to get snowed in, but we’re not too sure if the boss-man would approve of this unscheduled furlough.

We are certain that we missed an excellent evening of dining, camaraderie, and dancing, not to mention the fine hospitality of the Buchanan family, and are sorry we couldn’t attend.

SuperShorts: Can’t stand waiting to see your favorite supermod stars mash the gas during these nearly race less winter months? Hold on there, no need to through “d.t.”. You can catch Joe Gosek, Davey Hamilton, Bentley Warren, Joey Payne and Lou Cicconi, Jr., (who will be in the Mucci Motorsports super in 1997), in action at Ted Hollingsworth’s “Thunder in the Dome Midget Invitational.” OK, so they won’t be in big blocks with lots of offset and huge right rears, but seeing these guys scream around the dinky track laid out on the Hoosier…oops, let us restate that to be corporate correct; the RCA Dome, (ugh), floor while fighting to gain control of their mighty midget is well worth the steep admission price. So, unless you want to go to Niagara Falls for the TQs, just like they say at the Slippery Noodle Inn, (which is Indiana’s oldest bar, best blues venue and is just down the road), “dis is it.” Bentley Warren will be starting outside pole for the first Team USA heat so you know that will be exciting.

The Other Gibson-

As good as the show will surely be, we think it could have been better if Larry Gibson’s name had been added to the Team USA roster. This hard charger pulled off a second place finish in NAMARS points without ever winning a feature all season. He was just shy of champion Mel Kenyon’s mark and helped his dad win the NAMARS Car Owner’s Championship. This season L.G. will again be aiming for the NAMARS number one, albeit with a different car owner. Larry will take over the driving chores for a departing Ryan Newman in the EGR Motorsports entry out of Columbus. Ernie and Dave Gorman have purchased a 1997 coil-over Beast with Brayton power. This potent combination will also see as much USA action as possible including all televised dates. Larry will be teamed with Brice Kenyon, who will be running for NAMARS Rookie of the Year.

We understand that Mike Muldoon has passed his IRL rookie test out at Phoenix. We wonder if he will be back at the end of the month for the running of the Copper World Classic. WSMRA will again kick off their season with this desert delight. They then move to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Silver State Shootout.

We assume ISMA will again open their season in Florida, presumably at Volusia County. Beyond that we haven’t heard a peep.

Willie Throws a Party-

We sure are bummed that we missed “Wild Willie” Stutzman’s party. We don’t’ doubt that it was a Deusy. Speaking of the “wild one”,if you are ever in the Goshen/Dunlap area, you’ve got to stop at a place called Time Out Pub and Grill. It has a Willie “Shrine” and a couple of pictures of Dave McKnight and Joey Payne. We wonder if the regular patrons of this sports bar, who gaze intently upon these prominently displayed photos, realize exactly what these cars are, or who the legend is in the bright yellow #88? Stutzman, who finished 10th in ISMA points, is no doubt behind this motorsports marketing coup and we salute him for spreading the gospel.

Legends Lost-

We were sorry to hear of the passing of one of the Northeast’s best super pilots, Jim Cheney. We got to see him race a few times. We seem to remember him going upside down in the Clyde Booth car, (possibly the one that Mike Ordway nearly won the Classic in), at Oswego one year.

December also brought the end of a brilliant mechanical career for Doug Duncan. Duncan, who was the ace wrench that helped Warren “The Snake” Coniam to many a win, died of a heart attack while working in his shop on what was to be a street legal super.

There it is. We hope we didn’t keep anyone from missing too much of those secondary sports on the tube as we presented our first 1997 edition. We can hear Bill Cameron already. Save your dime Billy boy, we missed you too, as well as all the other “super psychos” who are crazy enough to hang in there waiting to hear from the “Land-O’-Goshen.”

Send your mail to 1111 W. Wilkinson, Goshen, IN 46526, and it will come to the only house on the block with a snowman in the likeness of Bentley Warren.

We’re slightly off-balance, but we still hope to do the Dome, “Wing Side Up and Wheels to the Ground.”

Did you ever go to the Hoosier Dome or see Jim Cheney race a supermodified? Leave a comment below to share those memories with everyone!



2 thoughts on “Wing Side Up Archive: Supermodified Racers to Hoosier Dome, Jim Cheney Gone”

  1. Some great names from the past. I’m fairly sure that I was at the race that year. I always thought that it would be a great idea for IndyCar to sponsor a winter indoor midget series and have a couple Indy drivers compete in each event. It would keep IndyCar in the news during the bleak winters in the northeast and midwest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. There were some real shining moments at those races, and frankly they were the per-cursor of what the Chili Bowl has become. Heavy hitters from across all forms of racing. It got to be a bit of a pain in the end having to stand out and wait to get in if you didn’t pay the extra money for advance or vip tix but it was still a good way to catch up with friends and see some good indoor racing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ll be looking for another post on your site!


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