Born: March 8, 1913 Died:
March 13, 1997
Home: Warren, OH
Klapak was a NASCAR driver from Warren, OH. He competed in twelve
Grand National events in his career, earning three top-tens.
Klapak's debut came in 1950,
when he competed at Canfield. It was a respectable start for the driver,
who wound up with a mid-pack 14th place finish. He also ran well in his
next start, finishing 15th at Dayton. But those runs were offset later
in the year when Klapak ran poorly to 25th at a later Dayton race and to
a 40th place showing at Langhorne.
Klapak stepped it up to a
five-race schedule for the 1951 season, starting the year off by
competing at the famed Daytona Beach Road Course. Despite a poor 42nd
place finish, Klapak returned to Canfield looking for success. He did
find quite a bit of it, running his way to a solid 8th place finish.
Even then, though, Klapak couldn't keep the momentum on his side. He
struggled to finishes of 26th at Dayton and Bainbridge and then closed
out the year with a last (42nd) place run at Pittsburgh.
Klapak then only made one start
during the 1952 season, dragging his equipment back down to Daytona
Beach. It was another rough day at the Beach for the driver, finishing
47th with rear end gear issues.
Klapak, though, seemed to save
the best for last. During the 1953 season, he competed in his final two
events, driving his way to a career-best 6th place run at Spring Lake,
just one day after qualifying on the outside pole for the race. He
quickly followed that up with a solid 8th place finish at Charlotte,
that effort coming in his final career race.
Marshall Teague (6) takes the high
line as he passes Mike
Klapak's Nash Ambassador and
Ray Duhigg's Plymouth in the June 24 NASCAR Grand National event at
Dayton (Ohio) Speedway.
Informative Story Written by Diz Dean
thanks to Diz Dean who inspired Mike Klapak's entry. Most
pictures cam from his private collection including the
Bambi Special - Before
Bambi Special - After!
Whi killed Bambi?
Mike Klapak with Felix
Mesconis, Klapak, Spears
Caddy in 1955. Nothing
like racing in style. Promoting MARC
More about MARC in 1954.
Klapak is seated to the right as the MARC Champion in the Sportsman
Mike Klapak with Mr.
Time to recognize local Ohio drivers
Warren, Ohio's own Mike Klapak, who won three NASCAR
Sportsman championships 1950-52 - beating the south's good
old boys and everyone else, should be a member of the
Motorsports Hall of Fame
having won three championships - drivers like
and Ralph Earnhardt
only won two and are members. However being a Yankee in
those days was not looked on as favorable. Klapak continued
to win races for many more years.
The inaugural NASCAR season of
1948 featured modifieds exclusively. The "Strictly Stock" division,
later known as the Winton Cup Series, then the Sprint Cup Series of
today, came about in mid-1949. Also, during that year, NASCAR created
the "Sportsman" Division -- also known as the "Special Modified" class
-- in response to car owners concerned about the mounting costs of
building a first-class modified. Today's Nationwide Series (Formerly the
Busch Series) is a direct descendant of that early Sportsman class.
The inaugural season for the
new division came in 1950. The Sportsman Division cars looked just like
the modifieds, but mechanically they were "mostly stock." Factory
cylinder heads, stock carburetor manifolds and stock rear ends were
required. A battery ignition was allowed, but no magnetos. On the other
hand, modifieds were allowed quick-change rear ends, hi-rise manifolds
with multiple carburetors and exotic ignition systems.
A Sportsman Division race was
held on Daytona Beach for the first time in 1951.
The event drew more than 100
entries, showing the popularity of the class. The Sportsman cars were
paired with the modifieds for Daytona's 1952 race. The highest-finishing
Sportsman car was driven by Tommy Moon, who finished 12th. Three
Sportsman cars were among the top-30 finishers as they competed against
their more powerful cousins.
For the first several seasons,
the division competed east of the Mississippi River.
Ohio's Mike Klapak scored a "three-peat," winning
the Sportsman championship, from 1950-52. The division soon
spread westward with Californian Danny Graves taking the title in 1954.
Among other NASCAR luminaries who have laid claim to the Sportsman title
include Ralph Earnhardt, back-to-back titlist Ned Jarrett, Daytona 500
winner Pete Hamilton, NASCAR Sprint Cup veteran Morgan Shepherd and
perennial favorite Red Farmer, who won three consecutive championships
- Feb. 11, 1951 Daytona Bch, Fl. 4.1
mile sand & paved course on the beach & Hwy AIA - 160 mi. race
1951 Studebaker #23, Perry Smith Studebaker, Finished 42th out of 54
Mike Klapak in Perry
Smith's #23 Studebaker in 1953
This is a picture of
Mike Klapak's USAC stock car. Taken in 1957 at the Milwaukee
Thanks Tom Drummond for the great picture!
Car Championship History
1958 1- Fred
3- Norm Nelson
3- Nelson Stacy
Runner-Up Two Years in a Row
With NASCAR Trophy