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American Speed Reborn: Butch Is Back

The 1994 ASA championship would be wide open after Johnny Benson Jr. moved up to the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series.


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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 1994 ASA championship would be wide open after the defending champion - wunderkind Johnny Benson Jr. - moved right up to the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series. Benson had been the face of what had been a youth movement in the ASA ranks during the early 1990s. Now a number of 20-and-low-30-something drivers were racing in the circuit with the explicit intention of using it as a springboard up the ladder.

But 1994 would prove to essentially be the last stand of the veterans before the youngsters took firm control. In fact, it would be the only time in ASA history the three most successful and dominant drivers - Bob Senneker, Mike Eddy, and Butch Miller - proved to finish 1-2-3 in the rankings.

They would take all season of course to figure out which of those three would finish in which order. But entering the season, it was most notable that all three ASA household names were coming in with three quite different objectives.

For Eddy, the motivation was simple. An 8th ASA title, breaking open the record books for all of American short track racing. The three previous three years had been the best of an already incredible career - 15 wins. He had looked poised to take Benson down to the wire for the 1993 title, but trying to figure out a new chassis in the second half of the year had fallen him down to third in the finishing order. Still, it was hard to argue that Eddy wasn’t the title favorite.

Mike Eddy racing the distinctive Goodwrench livery in 1994 (Doug Yockey photo)

Senneker, meanwhile, came from the almost opposite point of view. After winning his elusive title in 1990, he had fallen further and further from the top of the leaderboard, bottoming out in 1993 with a 13th place points finish. It was the first time he had ever finished out of the top-ten during a full season. About to turn 50, it was inevitable that the whispers were beginning that maybe Senneker should think about hanging up the helmet.

For Miller, a return to ASA was needed to regain his winning ways. After scorching the ASA Tour in the late 80s, Miller took the call to move directly to the NASCAR Cup Series in 1990. That rookie season was a disaster, and he moved back to the NASCAR Busch Series in 1991. After two solid seasons there, including a win in 1992, Miller suddenly split with his team 10 races into a moderately successful 1993. Suddenly rideless, Miller came back to the Midwest. He was a late entry into the Iceman Series that ran in Ohio and wound up winning the title. He had also been successful in his spot ASA starts and finished 2nd in the Derby. Now, after a 5-year hiatus, he was back in ASA full time.

Miller and Eddy would be fast right out of the gates. Miller started the season 1-2-1, that last finish courtesy of a rough-and-tumble last lap battle with Jay Sauter at Toledo. Eddy, meanwhile, won the race Miller was runner-up and then a few races later went back-to-back with dominant wins at Louisville and Tri-City.

The twists and turns at Brainerd for race #8 of the season proved to be one of the pivotal moments ultimately in the championship battle. Senneker, winless, but racing well thus far in the season, looked as though he would cruise to victory early in the event. Miller thought he had an oil leak and took a long pit stop near the halfway point. But Miller was wrong, the team shifted to a two-stop strategy that guaranteed them fresh tires late, and then blew by Leighton Reese with two laps to go for Miller to record the victory. Senneker had finished 18th after breaking an axle in the final ten laps while Eddy’s engine had only lasted 15 laps. Interestingly, in the first ever 5 ASA road races, Reese had been a second place finisher in all of them.

The next race, a July 4th race at Hawkeye won by first-timer Steve Holzhausen, saw all three title combatants finish in the top-five. And for the races after that, Miller went through his roughest patch of the year which allowed Eddy and Senneker to slowly chip away at the points lead. Entering August, Miller led Eddy by 75 points. Senneker was 200 points back of the lead.

Down the stretch, Eddy, Senneker, and Miller seemed to race in each other’s shadow - wherever one would finish, the other two seemed right behind. Senneker won Milwaukee with Eddy 3rd and Miller 6th. Eddy won the Minnesota Fair race with Miller 3rd and Senneker 5th. And so on.

Glenn Allen led the youth brigade in 1994 (Bobby Jones photo)

While Miller would not win again after that Brainerd triumph, his finish in the last seven races was 4th, 6th, 3rd, 9th, 2nd, 4th and 4th. Senneker had ceded too much ground early in the season to get within striking distance of the points lead.

Eddy though, had still managed to claw his way back into the title despite Miller’s consistency. His stat line starting at the Redbud went 3rd, 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 5th. Slowly but surely, the points lead was down to 10 markers.

But everything went wrong for Eddy in one week in mid-October. First off, he learned he’d have one less race to catch Miller. The ASA had planned to build a temporary half-mile oval in Las Vegas to host the season finale the first weekend of November. But ASA’s insurance company balked at the circuit’s safety plan for temporary DOT barriers and water barrels and no agreement could be made. So the ASA scrapped that plan the week of the Jennerstown race, meaning suddenly it was mano-a-mano battle for one final weekend.

That finale battle only lasted until the halfway point, when Eddy suffered a rear end gear failure. Guaranteed to finish in front of Eddy, the championship was now Miller’s.

The cars are different, and this series is tough," Miller told NSSN’s Ron Lemasters after the race. "It's getting tougher all the time. Ol' Mike didn't give it to us, and neither did Bob Senneker. They were strong contenders all year long, but they kept having problems.

“We worked like mad dogs on this car," Miller said after the last minute schedule change put extra emphasis on the Jennerstown race. “There isn't a nut or bolt on the car that wasn't checked, double-checked and triple checked, even. We didn't take any chances with the engine either. It's one of our better engines, the same one we ran at Toledo.”

For the first time, the champion was awarded a check for a full $75,000. Additionally, Miller would parlay this ASA title back into another shot at NASCAR. In 1995, he would join the fledgling NASCAR Craftsman SuperTruck Series, where he would be one of the winners during the series’ inaugural season.

Glenn Allen would win twice in 1994 as he led the charge for the youth movement. A miserable summer would drop him below the three veterans ultimately in the points, but he had some bright moments.

-Featured photo credit: Rand Thompson

1994 ASA ACDelco Challenge Series season






24 April 1994

Dacono, CO

Butch Miller


1 May 1994

Obetz, OH

Mike Eddy


15 May 1994

Toledo, OH

Butch Miller


4 June 1994

Odessa, MO

Glenn Allen, Jr.


11 June 1994

Louisville, KY

Mike Eddy


17 June 1994

Auburn, MI

Mike Eddy


18 June 1994

Marne, MI

Johnny Benson, Jr.


26 June 1994

Brainerd, MN

Butch Miller


4 July 1994

Cedar Rapids, IA

Steve Holzhausen


17 July 1994

Salem, IN

Mike Eddy


31 July 1994

Topeka, KS

Darrell Waltrip


20 August 1994

Anderson, IN

Steve Holzhausen


28 August 1994

West Allis, WI

Bob Senneker


5 September 1994

St. Paul, MN

Mike Eddy


11 September 1994

Brooklyn, MI

Bob Senneker


17 September 1994

Marne, MI

Mike Eddy


2 October 1994

Toledo, OH

Scott Hansen


16 October 1994

Jennerstown, PA

Glenn Allen, Jr.

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