The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

August 10, 2012

Slice of history in Kansas

When it comes to big race events, fans will travel great distances to watch a race.

Whether it is Syracuse, N.Y., in October for Super DIRT Week for the Northeast-style dirt modifieds or Knoxville, Iowa, in August, for the Knoxville Nationals, no distance is too far for the hard-core race fan.

Located 1,276 miles from Selinsgrove lies the prairie town of Belleville, Kansas, population 1,991.

For the past 35 years, midget racing fans from as far away as Australia and New Zealand have come to watch the best midget drivers tackle the 23-degree Belleville High Banks for a chance to write their name in the track's 102-year-old record books.

Part of the lure which draws large numbers of fans to the annual event is the banking of the track, which came about in 1933. The 23 degrees of banking is the same amount of banking in Turns 3 and 4 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. The banking helps produce speeds for the midgets of up to 130 miles per hour.

The list of winners of the Belleville Midget Nationals reads like a who's-who of auto racing. Among them are NASCAR champion and 1990 winner Jeff Gordon, the late Stan Fox, Ron 'Sleepy' Trip, Jack Hewitt, Lealand McSpadden, Dave Darland, NASCAR drivers Kasey Kahne and Josh Wise and Indy 500 rookie drier Kyle Larson.

The race started as a challenge race in 1978 and drew a field of 45 drivers.

Former Bloomsburg resident Johnny Heydenreich finished runner-up to Billy Boat in 1995. It was one of his four top-five finishes in the event.

In 2004, just west of the speedway, the Highbanks Hall of Fame, National Midget Auto Racing Museum opened.

The town of Belleville, which is just two square miles, was incorporated on Sept. 25, 1869 and named in honor of founding father A.B. Tutton's wife, Arabelle.

Text Only
Sports
The Daily Marquee
Video
National Sports Video
Auto Racing 2014
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.