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Harry Turner History


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#1
zerohunger

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The Illini Racing Series is pleased to be competing in the Harry Turner Classic at Wilmot on Saturday 8/14. For some of the youngsters who don't recognize the name, Harry's long time assistant Gregg Kishline prepared the following:
PROFILE: HARRY TURNER

Harry Turner's racing career lasted 50 years. He began at State Fair Park in
1938, driving a midget built from Model T Ford parts. Harry lived in both
Kenosha and Chicago, where he devoted his life to midget racing.

Harry was a master craftsman who built and drove both midgets and sprint cars.
As an owner, a builder, or a driver, he raced every year until he died in 1988.
He constructed more than 30 race cars in his lifetime. Harry drove
competitively in the midwest well into the 1960's, and he notched more than 100
feature wins.

Harry also competed at the Indianapolis '500' in the 1950's and 60's as a
builder, as a car owner, and an advisor to his good friend Tony Bettenhausen.

He built champ cars and sprintcars, but his love was midgets - he always owned
one or more. Having built or modified cars for customers prior to WWII, Harry
built a midget for himself in 1947 powered by a brand new Offy engine - serial #
282 - purchased from Bob Wilke. 'Eighty-two' became the car number for all the
Turner-owned cars that followed.

For six decades throughout the midwest, Harry competed in USAC, Badger, UARA,
and AAA providing winning midget rides for a Who's-Who of open wheel racing:

> Billy Wood > Gene "Pedro" Roehl
> Billy Engelhart > Kevin Olson
> Dave Wunrow > Les Scott
> Dean Billings > Jimmy Davies
> Marty Davis > Allen Heath
> Mike Nazaruk > Jigger Sirois
> A.J Foyt > Tom Steiner
> Dick Rathman
> Jim Hurtubise
> Parnelli Jones
> all the Bettenhausens - Tony, Gary, and Merle
... and many others

Despite crippling injuries he suffered in 1973 at a track in Kankakee, Harry
continued working from his wheelchair, building several more cars for customers
and for himself, until his death in 1988. He won two NAMAR national
championships as an owner, and one in the New Zealand winter series. He was
inducted into the Midget Hall of Fame in Sun Prairie in 2005.

Harry Turner was a supporter of Badger and Dairyland Midgets and one of the
toughest competitors in open-wheel racing. Harry was a master craftsman,
strong-willed, and yet he was generous with his fellow competitors. He was a
bonafide bench racer, eager to swap jokes and racing stories, drawing on a
lifetime in racing. Harry was unique - always speaking his mind and always a
formidable competitor at the track.


Turner-built cars restored and currently owned by Harry's son, Lance Turner:

The polished and maroon monocoque #82 midget was designed by Harry Turner and
Gary Bettenhausen in 1967. Harry built 11 of these cars, in which there is no
frame. The chassis is a lightweight, wrapped aluminum "tub", upon which two
subframes and the running gear are bolted. Powerplants for the monocoque cars
included the Offy, Chev II, and VW engines. This tub was Harry's 'house' car in
the early 1980's. After Harry, it was owned and raced by John Callahan and later
Kim Marks. It was restored and is now owned by Harry's son, Lance Turner.

The white, caged # 82 is unique, with its low-profile nose hiding a Chev II
engine. This spaceframe car was the last midget built and raced by Harry Turner
and his wife, Beth. In 1988 it was sold to Randy Mortland. Lance Turner found
it crashed, in Alton, Illinois and brought it back to Harry's original shop in
Kenosha, Wisconsin where it was restored in 2001.

The first of several cars built after he was injured and returned to Kenosha was
another of the unique monocoque 'tubs'. The black #11 was a VW-powered midget
built for Chicagoan Gary Hempel, in 1975 and '76. This car campaigned in Badger
and UARA and was later bought by Ken Dull who sold the wrecked car to Lance
Turner in 2002. Following mechanical repairs, the decision was made to retain
the original paint on the car, which Lance applied 30 years earlier.

[ A fourth Turner-built car also resides in the area. Tom Steiner and Rich
Volger both won NAMAR driving championships in Harry's straight-tube-frame white
#82 midget, currently owned by Jim and Sue Lothe of Sun Prairie, WI. This Chev
II-engined car has a classic post-war midget profile and appears without its
cage. Jim and Sue found the car in Kingman, Arizona and restored it in 1996.
(As the original owners, Jim and Sue also own a second Turner car - a
spaceframe Chev II - which they commissioned Harry to build in 1983.) ]

We're hoping to have some of the vintage cars at Wilmot. See you at the track!

Chuck Schultz
Winfield, Illinois

#2
Jack stavonavich

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Chuck do you have any photos of those cars?

#3
zerohunger

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I'm unable to post photos today for some reason but Lance Turner's pair of #82s are shown in the photos I posted earlier on this thread from the Iowa Vintage weekend [6/24-25/10].

#4
ironhorse356

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What about a Harry Turner Midget with a number 83?

#5
zerohunger

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I'll ask Lance tomorrow about the use of #83. They frequently ran two cars, always a #82 and sometimes #81.

BTW, a champ car Harry built in 1951 has returned to the shop where it was built for some restoration work. Very neat to see it in the exact same spot it was built again.

Also, this year's Illini Racing Series Hary Turner Classic will be contested on the 1/2 mile at Sycamore Illinois. Details early next week.

Chuck Schultz
PR Hack for Turner Auto Body among other things

#6
zerohunger

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The 4th Annual Harry Turner Classic will be held Saturday August 10th at Sycamore speedway. Each of the previous races has been hard fought so there is every reason to expect a competitive show this time too.

Come on out to Sycamore for a great evening of midget racing at family friendly prices.

#7
GeneS

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I notice this thread is dated for last year. Are plans in place for this event in 2014? Back in '72-'74 I met Harry in Florida. Vogler was driving for him, Rich's dad Don had a car there and we all were having car problems, and luckily managed to find a symphatic local that let us work on our cars in his shop. Somewhere I have some snap shots of the work being done on the cars. Would anyone care to see them?



#8
zerohunger

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I notice this thread is dated for last year. Are plans in place for this event in 2014? Back in '72-'74 I met Harry in Florida. Vogler was driving for him, Rich's dad Don had a car there and we all were having car problems, and luckily managed to find a symphatic local that let us work on our cars in his shop. Somewhere I have some snap shots of the work being done on the cars. Would anyone care to see them?

 

The 2014 Harry Turner Classic date will be set once the Illini Racing Series schedule is released on January 26, 2014. It will be held at Sycamore Speedway again. I already have the 1/18th scale die cast #82 midget ready for the winner.

Gregg Kishline, an old friend of the Turner family, was on that 1970s Daytona trip and has many photos of it in his scrapbook. I'm sure he would enjoy seeing more, especially if they include him. He was the photographer on most of the photos he has.

 

Chuck Schultz

Winfield, Illinois



#9
GeneS

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Okay I'll dig them out when I get back from Fl. Wonder how to transfer an old photo to a computer???? being old sucks......  oh, duck tape



#10
zerohunger

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The 5th Annual Harry Turner Classic will be the feature race of the July 12, 2014 Illini Racing Series event at Sycamore Speedway. Beyta Gear Service, sponsor of the #43 Buddy Luebke entry, will once again present the feature winner with a 1/18th scale die cast replica of the famous Harry Turner Offy. Prize money will be added to the first and second place finishers to make this one of the top paying IRS events.

Every Turner Classic race so far has been memorable so we have every reason to expect another barn burner.

 

2010 Allen Gillis held off charging Charlie Holt despite a dangling right rear shock absorber. [Wilmot Speedway]

2011 Eddie Sauer had to wait until the wee hours of the morning to collect the win despite leading every lap and withstanding several red flags. [Wilmot Speedway]

2012 Doug Orseske held off Patrick Bruns on a dry slick track in the second consecutive win by a Buzzard chassis built by Turner protege John Callahan Jr. [Sycamore Speedway]

2013 Mike Anderson drove Roger Engstrom's beautiful #7 to a hard fought win. [Sycamore Speedway

 

Who will take home the die cast this year?






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