KALWASINSKI: Chicago Chips


Paul Rademacher began his midget racing career with UARA and was shown in 38th place in the final points in 1964. A couple of heat races and semi features highlighted 1965. Driving for his friend Jim Anderson, Rademacher started becoming a frontrunner in UARA competition, finishing seventh in the standings in 1966, winning his first feature at Joliet on August 13, 1966. Rademacher won two UARA features in 1967 and was fifth in the standings. He tried his hand in USAC midgets in 1968 and grabbed seventh in the UARA standings with a couple of more feature victories.

Sadly, Rademacher died from injuries suffered at the Waukegan Speedway on July 4, 1969. His wife, Linda was on hand to accept the award.

Trying his hand at racing for a few years, Chuck Stebbins was a two-term president of the UARA midget association. In 1972, Stebbins was one of the driving forces in the founding of the National Alliance of Midget Auto Racing, which was made up of 10 independent midget racing clubs from throughout the country. The idea was to form a “Super Club” and name a true national champion.

Midget racing mechanic Bob Thorson grew up in the Mazon area and became a big fan of midget racing, attending numerous races in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. In 1974, he began working on the cars, turning wrenches for numerous drivers and car owners. He helped John Warren win three championships with the old United Midget Auto Racing Ass’n.

Dennis Tjelle was another youngster that got his first taste of racing at the Mazon Speed Bowl. From spectator to racer, Tjelle began racing at Mazon in 1969 and raced there in 1970 — the final year of action at the high-banked paved oval. A regular for many years in six-cylinder competition at the new Grundy County Speedway, which opened in May of 1971, Tjelle was among several drivers that raced a Chevrolet Corvair-bodied stock car at Grundy.

Burt Weitemeyer was the late model stock car champion at Grundy in 1984. Weitemeyer wheeled a 1984 Firebird to the title, winning two feature races along the way. Weitemeyer started his racing career at Blue Island’s Raceway Park in 1968. He won the track’s Hobby Stock division championship in 1975. He won a total of 12 main events at Raceway Park, including three late model features, which included his first career Late Model victory in 1978. Weitemeyer also raced at Illiana Motor Speedway. For a number of years, Weitemeyer competed on the ARTGO Challenge Series stock car circuit, as well as in several American Speed Ass’n events. Weitemeyer passed away on Aug. 16, 2012.

Prior to the awards being presented, it was learned that HoF member George Kladis, the 1971 UARA midget champion, passed away the day before. Kladis, 73, son of midget racing legend, Danny Kladis, began his own racing career in the early 1960s. One of Kladis’ first feature wins came at Joliet in UARA action in 1965. In 1971, Kladis and car owner Jack Schenk teamed up to win the UARA title. Schenk’s Falcon-powered mount carried Kladis to three feature wins during the season.

It was also announced that former UARA starter Zeke Zimmerman, drivers Bob Kammerer, Bob Randolph and Steve Savage, along with longtime midget enthusiast Colleen Corson, had passed away since last year’s HoF ceremonies.

HoF member Wayne Adams and his wife, Grace – better known as “Boots,” were in attendance. Adams, still spry at age 94, announced UARA midget races at Chicago’s Hanson Park during the organization’s inaugural season in 1947. Adams is best known for his years behind the microphone at Raceway Park. Mr. and Mrs. Adams reminisced about the old days with Boots telling the story of her holding young “Georgie” Kladis in her lap at the midget races many years ago.

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Stan Kalwasinski
Stan Kalwasinski has been involved in auto racing for nearly 50 years as both a writer and photographer. He has a particular interest in Chicagoland auto racing — primarily stock car racing. Look for him at tracks in the Chicagoland region of Illinois.