ASA STARS National Tour
American Speed Reborn: Senneker Finally Breaks Through
Jun 30, 2023
This year the American Speed Association (ASA) returns to the short track racing world in a big way with the launch of the new ASA STARS Late Model Series. For over thirty years, ASA was the national late model tour, and its return is understandably being met with excitement across the industry. To commemorate the ASA’s return, Racing America is partnering with The Third Turn to release a weekly column called “American Speed Reborn”. Each week we’ll examine one year of the ASA’s history, following along race-by-race as legends are made and stories are written.
The theme for the early 1990s ASA tour might best be described as “you can teach an old dog new tricks.” In 1990, Bob Senneker had given up driving for himself and hitched himself to a new team, promptly resulting in his most dominant season ever and his first ASA title.
Now, heading into 1991, long-time Senneker rival Mike Eddy was going to reinvent himself too. Eddy boasted a full five titles but his reputation was mostly based on methodical consistency. The most races Eddy had ever won in a season was four. Impressive to most, but sort of an unusual stat for such a prolific champion.
But Eddy entered 1991 with a new sponsor in Nationwise Auto Parts and decided to use the influx of cash to change manufacturers from Buick to Pontiac. Out of the gate, it was clear that his equipment was the fastest it had ever been.
In the best equipment of their careers, Senneker and Eddy were now on a collision course for their most direct championship battle yet. The two best drivers in ASA would end the season 1-2 in points for the only time during their storied rivalry.
Two of the rising stars of the circuit would claim the first two races. 20-year-old Glenn Allen, Jr. passed fellow Buckeye Gary St. Amant near the halfway point of the season opener and went on to win the Columbus 300. Two weeks later, ASA ran its last ever 400-lap endurance fest at the grueling Salem bullring. Scott Hansen took advantage when Tim Steele, fresh off his surprise Salem win the previous October, had his engine go south while leading in the waning circuits.
Glenn Allen, Jr. was the surprise of 1991, winning two races and showing plenty of speed in others (Brian Norton photo)
Senneker had been good in the first two races, logging a 4th and a 2nd. Eddy’s start had been a bit of a disaster - 12th and 24th. But the “Polar Bear” apparently was just waking up from his hibernation, because the latter part of spring would be his. For the first time in his career, Eddy would go on a three-race winning streak. Dominant wins at Milwaukee and Berlin sandwiched a bizarre finish at the Cayuga oval that saw Eddy gifted the trophy.
In that Cayuga race, Allen had again been incredibly fast, leading 158 of the first 291 circuits in the 300-lap affair. But Senneker had been lurking most of the race and had finally caught Allen as the ten-to-go signal was given. Senneker ducked under Allen in turn one when his car suddenly slowed. The culprit of the Bluebird’s misfortune was a broken oil belt. But Allen’s relief lasted approximately 300 yards as suddenly his machine’s engine also died. A broken ignition on the Allen machine meant that the two leaders fell out of the race on the same lap due to completely different mechanical issues.
"I went through the turn and saw a sump belt on the track," Eddy explained. "But I didn't know why both of them went out. I couldn't believe it. I've have bad luck in the past here. Today I had good luck. We hung in and it paid off.”
A young fan got more of an experience than he bargained for when he asked Jeff Neal for an autograph in the pits (Diz Dean photo)
A few weeks later, the Bluebird would be singing a new tune as he rattled off a winning streak of his own. While a few 3-race streaks had already been delivered in ASA, Senneker’s four-race July sizzler was the longest streak in ASA to that point. His wins stretched from central Canada down to the Missouri Ozarks, but the traditionally understated Senneker simply quipped after win number four that he was “just going on 5”.
But the streaky season would continue back in Eddy’s direction. He broke Senneker’s streak by completing a Cayuga season sweep. The next week, at Jennerstown he won his fifth race of the season, setting an all-time mark for wins in a season. A week later, another Berlin victory bumped the number to six.
These wild flashes of dominance had made the points battle a secondary affair, but now the approaching final run to the finish was starting to put emphasis back on stringing together good finishes, wins or not. After his four race winning streak, Senneker had been leading the points by 62 on Hansen and 162 markers on Eddy. After Eddy’s checkered rebuttal, he had closed the gap back to 46.
Hansen would fight valiantly to stay relevant in the title fight. While the storyline of the season was definitely to be Eddy v. Senneker, Hansen had a career year, as he would win thrice down the stretch, starting with a Redbud 400 victory. Eddy and Senneker ran well enough - now consistently grabbing top-tens - that Hansen would have had to be perfect to catch them. His efforts ended when a bad finish in the Winchester 400 left him too far back.
A wicked crash in the Winchester 400. Dave Jackson would spend months recuperating from his injuries. The wreck ripped out the guardrail at the facility. (Bennett Allen collection)
The Winchester 400 is also when the tides began to change in Eddy’s favor. Senneker’s car got roughed up early and wound up 15th to Eddy’s ninth. Eddy had the gap down to 40 markers. Then the penultimate race at Toledo threw the pecking order upside down when Senneker’s engine blew at the halfway point. Second place in the race to Hansen meant Eddy had the points lead going to the Jennerstown finale. Ironically, despite the terrible finish, Senneker had just set the mark as the first man to cross the $1 Million earned threshold on tour.
Eddy would take any drama out of the final race, however. In a tour that had seen drivers with similar points leads crash out of the finale and lose the title multiple times, Eddy took the opposite path as he cruised to victory. It was a personal record 7th victory in a season and now his 6th title.
"We didn’t come here to back into the championship,” a jubilant Eddy was reported as saying in National Speed Sport News. “We came here to win the race and the championship. Everything went just the way I expected it.”
“Racing is 100 percent of my life and I put 100 percent into it.”
-Featured photo credit: Steve Heiman
1991 ASA ACDelco Series Races & Winners
28 April 1991
12 May 1991
19 May 1991
2 June 1991
15 June 1991
30 June 1991
7 July 1991
14 July 1991
19 July 1991
28 July 1991
4 August 1991
11 August 1991
17 August 1991
24 August 1991
2 September 1991
22 September 1991
6 October 1991
20 October 1991
27 October 1991