Former Santa Fe Champ Larry Jackson Dies
FORT MYERS, Fla. – One of Santa Fe Speedway’s best, Larry Jackson, 72, died Sept. 5 in Fort Myers, Fla.
Beginning his stock car racing career in 1965, Jackson was a three-time late model track champion at the once-popular Chicago-area dirt speedway at 91st Street and Wolf Road near Hinsdale.
In 1965 Jackson was behind the wheel of a ’65 Buick Skylark and, two years later (1967) he found himself Santa Fe’s late model co-champion along with Dick Nelson.
Wheeling a ’66 Skylark convertible to the championship, Jackson scored an impressive victory in a 150 lapper on Santa Fe’s half-mile in August of his season title run. Jackson came close to another championship in 1969, finishing in the runner-up spot behind Don Waldvogel with Jackson in a fast Buick winning two 100 lappers in July and a 150-lap battle in August on the half-mile.
Finishing in the top 10 in Santa Fe’s final late model standings for 18 straight years (1966 through 1983), Jackson nailed down his second Santa Fe driving crown in 1975. Piloting a yellow Camaro No. 2 for car owners Seth Piper and Chico Venturella, Jackson won five feature races during the season.
Always among the leading drivers, Jackson finished third in Santa Fe’s late model standings in 1983, winning six feature races in his ’81 Camaro. He sat out a portion of the 1985 season before taking over Bob Novy’s Thunderbird from Arnie Gardner, who had undergone heart surgery. Jackson finished ninth in the final standings and topped off the year with a victory in Santa Fe’s National Clay Track Championship 200.
Taking the lead from Tony Izzo just passed the 150-lap mark, Jackson, who called Lyons home during most of his speed career, scored the $10,000-victory over Izzo and Indiana’s Ray Godsey.
With over 25 years of racing experience and at the age of 51, Jackson won another late model title in 1991 at the ‘Fe, this time being co-champion with Bill Knippenberg. Jackson won a total of four features, including 50 lap and 100 lap wins in his Buck Roderick’s M&R Wrecking ’92 Thunderbird, which again carried Jackson’s trademark number – ‘2’. Jackson finished seventh in the points in 1992 and won one feature race as his racing wound down.
“I guess it started as a hobby,” said Jackson in an interview with motorsports writer Tony Baranek some 20 years ago. “Then, as you go along, you become more serious. It was back in 1963, I helped a friend with his race car. I got interested and decided to give it a try. The rest is history.”
History indeed – Larry Jackson was one of the best at Santa Fe Speedway, “The Track of Clay.”
Jackson is survived by his wife, Donna, and children, Bonnie, Brenda and Danny and grandchildren.