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 Mike Klapak
Born: March 8, 1913      Died: March 13, 1997
Home: Warren, OH

Mike 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     Part 1     Part 2

Many thanks to Diz Dean who inspired Mike Klapak's entry. Most pictures cam from his private collection including the interesting story.         Editor

1953 Win


Bambi Special - Before

Bambi Special - After! Whi killed Bambi?

Mike Klapak with Felix Mesconis

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 Division

Mike Klapak with Mr. Marcum

Time to recognize local Ohio drivers         By KEN MARQUETTE

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 Ned Jarrett 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.

Sportsman Champion Three-Peat

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 from 1969-71.

Under Construction. Send Pictures and Stories

Studebaker History

Feb. 11, 1951 Daytona Bch, Fl. 4.1 mile sand & paved course on the beach & Hwy AIA - 160 mi. race

Mike Klapak, 1951 Studebaker #23, Perry Smith Studebaker, Finished 42th out of 54 entries

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 Mile!!
Thanks Tom Drummond for the great picture!

USAC Stock Car Championship History

1958     1- Fred Lorenzen     2- Mike Klapak     3- Norm Nelson  

1959     1- Fred Lorenzen     2- Mike Klapak     3- Nelson Stacy

Runner-Up Two Years in a Row

With NASCAR Trophy

Grand National DRIVER Statistics
Year Age Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn
1950 37 4 of 19 0 0 0 0 158 0 100 98   23.5
1951 38 5 of 41 0 0 1 0 0 0 150     28.8
1952 39 1 of 34 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 199 13.0 47.0
1953 40 2 of 37 0 0 2 0 0 0 250   2.0 7.0
4 years 12 0 0 3 0 158 0 500   7.5 24.9

Nascar Nextel Cup Series Tickets


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