In the last 38 years 22 people have actually won the 50 lapper! Sleepy Tripp, Michael Pickens and Jerry Coons Jnr have won it numerous times and there are others in ‘the club’, the ’50 lapper club’ who’ve been lucky enough to win once.
Bryan Clauson said this was one of his great wins! Names like Townsend, Fox, Larsen, Insley, Mosen, Alach, Standring are on ‘the list’, how does it feel? We decided to ask a few of them and here’s what they had to say.
The World 50 lapper is an event you have won, was that victory your greatest moment in Speedway? Why or why not? What makes this race so special?
Sleepy Tripp ” To me the 50 lap race at western springs was the biggest midget car race in the world – probably Chili Bowl took over in the mid 90’s when the car count started to get to 150-200 cars but up until then there was no doubt that this race was the biggest for me – bigger probably than Turkey Night and Belleville – you had the best from NZ Australia and the USA – the crowds were unbelievable and the atmosphere was pretty awesome – I was fortunate enough to win 9 of these races and went close to winning another 1 or 2. One that stands out was in around 84/85 – I was about 1/2 a lap behind Larry Rice with 15 laps to go and somehow I managed to run him down and win it on the last corner. So it was the race to win- it was big! It was pretty much the greatest era of midget racing. There is no track with the atmosphere and facility quite like the Springs!!
The night I won the 50 was easily the best night of my life. I was only 19 or 20 years old, and had the most intense, close quarter’s race with Jerry Coons, who was one of the most famous drivers of the time. I had idolised Jerry growing up as a kid so was feeling the heat! We passed each other 5 or 6 times throughout the race through lapped traffic and out on our own. I was driving a car owned and set up by my Dad, with all the original old-bastards that had been on the crew since Kiwi Kidz and TQ days. When the checkered flag finally dropped I drove straight to pole 8 where Mum and the family were and climbed up on the car. Someone handed me an NZ flag which I hurled up over my head, which made the enormous crowd all stand up and scream…that was a surreal moment that I’ll never forget!
Bryce Townsend – “There is no doubt that my win in the 50 lapper was the highlight of my career. I was fortunate enough at a young age to be on Sleepy Tripp’s crew and when he won his first one in the late 70’s it was the only race that ever mattered to me. I was a part of the first 6 that he won and Sleepy won 9 of them in total. So having experienced all of that with him it was just unbelievable when I won it in 2004. It was just awesome to have put that name on the 50 lap winners list. I can still remember that whole race pretty much lap for lap and I still remember the look on my father’s face after the race. It is still the race everyone wants to win. ”
The 50 Lap Classic is my favourite race on the NZ calendar! I think it’s the hardest midget race to win in New Zealand and you can’t win it unless you have everything 100% right. You have to have your head in the game, be smart remembering there’s only one lap that counts!
The 50 lapper is the race at Western Springs that we all want to win. A sense of relief after so many attempts is what I felt. It was a crazy race as I was coming second behind Shayne Alach and on lap 31 his car stopped and I inherited the lead and the following year on lap 31 while I was leading, my car stopped and guess who won…….. Shayne Alach!
Winning the 50 Lapper in 1997 was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done in a Midget. The crowd was unreal when I hoped out of the car at the end. It was very cool to have your home town crowd cheering you on against Sleepy trip and the other USA and Australian drivers. The car I won with was the first ever Aggressor chassis I built at home in our garage.