1966: A Perfect Season for Chrysler in the IMCA


By the early to mid-sixties Chrysler Corporation was becoming a major force in auto racing led in NASCAR by Petty Enterprises. But a shift of power was happening in the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) fair circuit as well.

In 1963 Keokuk, Iowa driver Ramo Stott switched to a Plymouth. The following year fellow Keokuk driver Ernie Derr switched to a Plymouth and between the two they won roughly half the IMCA Stock Car Circuit features.

In 1965, Ford driver Dick Hutcherson (also of Keokuk) had moved to NASCAR and Ernie Derr was driving a Dodge with Stott still in his Plymouth. The two Chrysler product drivers simply dominated the series winning 37 of 38 feature races in a season that would be hard to top. Or could the Chrysler cars score a clean sweep in 1966! 

Early April 1966 was a pretty good time for Ramo Stott. First, Ramo drove his new 1966 Plymouth #0 to victory lane in the Pelican 200 at the season opener in Shreveport. A new 30 second mandatory pit stop rule made things interesting. Stott took his all at one time, Ernie Derr spread his into three segments. Ernie led from laps 67 to 87 when overtaken by Ramo, and it looked like Derr was assured of at least second when he ran out of gas on the final lap allowing Lenny Funk to finish second with Ernie finishing third. Stott set a new 100-mile IMCA standard of 1 hour 33 minutes 0.87 seconds in winning the event.

Bigger things were come for Ramo, as shortly after returning from Shreveport, his wife blessed him with a 11-pound 9-ounce son who the Stott’s named Lance Eric.

On May 14, Stott continued his winning ways in winning the Hawkeye 200 at Knoxville, Iowa. Ernie Derr grabbed fast time in his Dodge at 25.74 seconds, but at the end of the go it was Ramo Stott, Ernie Derr, and Monett, Missouri’s Ed Negre. Finally, on Memorial Day at Topeka, Ernie Derr stopped Ramo’s winning streak.

The series returned to Southeast Iowa for two races in early June and Ramo and Ernie again swapped wins. On July 3, the series visited the new shortened track at the Nebraska State Fairgrounds in Lincoln. The track had been shortened from 5/8ths to ½ mile. Lenny Funk set quick time of 28.44 seconds on a 100 degree day. At the end of the 200-lap event, however, it was a familiar face in victory lane as Ernie Derr captured the event with Funk second and Ed Negre third.

The next day at the annual July 4 event in Topeka, it was another 200-lap event and Ernie Derr set fast time and a new track record for 200 laps of 1 hour 32 minutes 17.78 seconds in picking up the win. Familiar challengers Ramo Stott and Lenny Funk ran second and third.

The dog days of summer continued July 10 in Des Moines with the running of the Iowa International 300. Heat exhaustion sent George Barton, Ed Negre and Dale Keeling to the hospital, but it did not slow down the pair of speedsters from Keokuk. Ramo Stott set a new track record in qualifying of 26 seconds flat, but at the end of the 300 lap affair which lasted 2 hours 47 minutes 37.30 seconds, it was a very familiar finishing order, Derr, Stott and Funk, once again in that order.

Things didn’t change much when the series headed north to Fargo and the Red River Valley Fair on the 14th and 15th, it may have been cooler but Ernie and Ramo didn’t cool down one bit. Ernie Derr set a new track record of 25.86 seconds in qualifying on the 14th and then went on to set another track record of 11 minutes 13.52 seconds in winning the 25 lap main event over Stott and Ed Negre.

On the 15th it was a doubleheader, and this time Ramo grabbed fast time at 25.98 seconds but once again it was Ernie Derr winning another 25-lap feature and once again it was Stott second and Negre third. Finally, in the evenings 100 lap finale, it was Stott’s turn in victory lane as he bested Derr and Ed Negre (who had seemed to pick up Lenny Funk’s habit of finishing third to the pair from Keokuk).

Two days at the North Dakota State Fair in Minot, saw only one slight change to the outcome of the races, Lenny Funk got back his title of Mister Third Place finishing third on both days. The main event on the 20th was over 25 laps with Stott besting Derr. On the 21st the pair switched places again as Ernie Derr set a new 100 lap record for the track of 45 minutes 40.27 seconds and defeating Stott.

A capacity crowd was on hand at the Lee County Fair in Donnellson on July 23, where Ramo Stott took the win, and then on the 24th at Cresco it was Stott in the afternoon and Derr winning the evening feature. On August 5 at Burlington, it was once again Stott over Derr. At the doubleheader in La Crosse on the 7th, it was Stott winning in the afternoon and Derr in the evening.

The races at the Wisconsin Valley Fair in Wausau on the 14th were sold, the results, business as usual. Stott set fast time of 27.36 seconds, but Ernie Derr won the 25-lap afternoon event over Ed Negre and Larry Phillips of Springfield, Missouri (later to become a dirt track legend himself). In the evening event it was Ramo’s turn as he bested Ernie and Paul Feldner of Colgate, Wisconsin in the 100- lap event. The point race at this point saw, Ernie Derr leading with 2,725, Ramo Stott in second with 2,524 and Lenny Funk a distant third at 1,715.

The annual visit to the Iowa State Fair on the 20th brought the series something usual. Ernie Derr after qualifying second to Ramo hit the first turn wall during the race and was forced to retire, allowing Ramo Stott to post the victory over Lenny Funk and Bob Jusola.

The scheduled races for the ½ mile at the Missouri State Fair the next day were rained out.

Finally, on the 27th of August, it was the annual 100 mile- on the mile at Sedalia were Ramo Stott set fast time and won the hundred over Lenny Funk and Bob Jusola. That evening they ran a 25- lap feature on the ½ mile and Derr defeated Stott and Jusola.

On August 28 at the Iowa State Fair, Ramo Stott won the 250-lap marathon over Ernie Derr and in so doing took over the points lead. Ramo completed the event in a new track record time of 1 hour 55 minutes 49.97 seconds in holding off Derr and Jusola.

Ramo Stott’s IMCA points lead was short lived as he put his 1966 Plymouth in the wall and missed the show at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul. The Northland 300 held on September 3 went to Ernie Derr, who also set a new course qualifying mark of 22.90. Dave Marcis (later of NASCAR fame) was second and Harold Mueller of Eau Claire, Wisconsin was third.

On September 4 at Marshfield, Wisconsin, it happened for the second year in a row at the Central Wisconsin State Fair, a driver from Keokuk did not win. A capacity crowd watched the 100-lap feature as Chuck Nutzman of New Richmond, Wisconsin, held off Paul Feldner and Russell, Minnesota’s Butch Hall for the win. It should also be pointed out that Ernie Derr and Ramo Stott were not in attendance.

On September 5, on the paved ½ mile of the Minnesota State Fair they ran the North Star 500 paying a record purse of $12,350. Ernie Derr started the day off by breaking his own track record in qualifying, lowering the mark to 22.74. Derr went on to win the 500-lap marathon in 3 hours 31 minutes 54.68 seconds and pocket an amazing $2,300. Lenny Funk was able to finish second, Dave Marcis third, Bob Jusola fourth and Ramo Stott fifth.

A record crowd showed up for the South Dakota State Fair on September 10 and once again after setting fast time, Ernie Derr put his name on the State Fair’s wall of honor once again, in winning the 100-lap event. Ramo Stott was second and Shawnee, Kansas’ Lewis Taylor ran third.

David Pearson of Spartanburg, S.C. sits on the back of the Dodge Charger he plans to drive in the 500-mile stock car race at the Atlanta International Raceway, March 26, 1966. Four Atlanta night club hostesses pose with him, from left to right: Janice Henry, Terry Thompson, Gloria Spines and Becky Motley. (AP Photo)

Frank Winkley and his ARI group managed a doubleheader at the Lac Qui Parle Fair in Madison, Minnesota on September 11. Ernie Derr managed to keep his streak going as he bested Ramo Stott in both, the 20-lap afternoon show and the 100-lap evening event as well as setting fast time. Lenny Funk was also back in a familiar role, he ran third in both events.

Ernie Derr continued his torrid pace in winning his fifth straight event by taking setting fast time and winning the 100-lap event at the Muskogee State Fair in Muskogee, Oklahoma taking the flag from starter Gene Van Winkle after 45 minutes 57.21 seconds. Ramo Stott ran second and Larry Phillips third. Four races remained in the season and at this point Derr held a lead of 233 markers over Stott.

The Louisiana State Fair races kicked off on October 22, with Lenny Funk setting fast time, but at the end of 25 laps it was Ernie Derr, Ramo Stott and Lenny Funk. The next day, in the 100-lap feature it was Stott followed by Derr and Funk.

The 29th saw Derr once again set fast time and once again go to victory lane and in the process nail down his Seventh IMCA Stock Car Title. Following Ernie in the 25-lap event were Larry Phillips and Ramo Stott.

Ramo Stott closed out the 1966 IMCA racing season, the same way he opened it, with a win at Shreveport. Ramo won the season ending 150 lap-feature over George England of Dallas, Texas and Butch Hall, but it was to late in the title chase. State Fair Manager Joe Monsour announced that the races had drawn a record attendance.

Once again, the IMCA Late Model Stock Car series had been dominated by drivers from Keokuk. Although they did not win every race, they did win every race they were entered in. It had been a great point battle with Ernie Derr besting Ramo Stott by only 173 points. It was also a season that saw Chrysler products win EVERY single feature. Truly an incredible accomplishment.

The question for 1967 had to be, when will it end?

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