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American Speed Reborn: The Polar Bear Out of Hibernation

By the start of the 1989 season, Mike Eddy must have felt like he’d lived four or five different careers in the ASA.


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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.

By the start of the 1989 season, Mike Eddy must have felt like he’d lived four or five different careers in the ASA. He was the young almost-white-haired boy who had upset the field to win championships in 1974 and 1976. He was the stifled also-ran behind rising stars Rusty Wallace and Alan Kulwicki. He was the triumphant back to back titlist of the early 80s, fending off the ever-prolific Bob Senneker with pure consistency. He had also bottomed out competitively with just one win in the last two years and missing the top-ten in points for the first time in his career in 1987.

1989 would bring him right back to the top. And it would be “vintage” Mike Eddy - grab a win here and there, but mostly just focus on logging laps, avoiding trouble, and taking home a solid if unremarkable top-five finish.

Fourteen points-paying races (the season-ending ASA-sanctioned All American 400 would be a non-points race) would dot the 1989 ASA schedule. His average finish would be an even 5th place finish. He finished no worse than 14th. He logged two straight wins - his only of the season - in July and was 179 points ahead at that point. Only a complete catastrophe in the second half of the season could threaten his title, and that never came. An unspectacular 14th place finish in the Winchester 400 points finale - his worst finish of the year - allowed him to lock the championship up.

Sorry if there’s not more to say about 1989. Of all the Mike Eddy championship seasons, this was the Eddy-iest.

Plenty of Canadian drivers would venture down to compete with the ASA regulars - here is Greg Sewart in the pits at the All American 400 (Rick Cashol photo)

Butch Miller, on the other hand, was as spectacular as ever. Really the only thing he missed out on the 1989 season was the points title. And maybe, considering everything else he won, he was willing to make the tradeoff for the sheer number of wins he bagged. He won the 500 lap race at Race City, and then won the ASA Triple Crown - the Redbud, Winchester, and All American 400s. The All American 400 was seemingly a gift, running fourth with six laps to go when the leaders crashed in front of him. But a win is a win and that ran his ASA total to 8 on the season.

This would effectively end the first phase of Miller’s ASA career. He would have an unspectacular NASCAR Cup Series season in 1990 before some solid seasons of NASCAR Busch Grand National competition. He would be back, and back with a vengeance. But it would be near impossible to pass up the three-year stat line he had just place. Between 1987 and 1989, he won 23 ASA races out of a possible 46 races. Yes, in short track racing’s most prestigious, most competitive series, Butch Miller had just won half of the races over a dominant span.

Miller’s two worst races of the year were the ones Eddy won - he blew an engine and finished 27th at Milwaukee before crashing out on the first lap five days later at Auburn, Michigan. If Miller had won either of those races instead of falling out, it would have been enough to bridge the ultimate 47-point gap he had to Eddy.

Butch Miller and Ed Howe crash on lap one at Tri-City Motor Speedway. This poor finish may well have been what cost Miller the championship (Eric Young photo)

Scott Hansen was the most impressive story of the 1989 ASA season. The Wisconsite ran his first full season in ASA competition, won twice, and finished 3rd in the final rundown. He was under the tutelage of already-famous crew chief Howie Lettow. He had plenty of competitive seasons ahead of him. Tony Raines was another impressive youngster who ran well, finishing in the top-ten in points of his first ASA season, and would factor into ASA title fights to come.

-Featured Photo Credit: Chip Hershey

1989 ASA Schedule & Winners



16 April 1989

Obetz, OH

Butch Miller


14 May 1989

West Allis, WI

Scott Hansen


4 June 1989

Hagersville, ON, Canada

Butch Miller


10 June 1989

Brownsburg, IN

Ted Musgrave


24 June 1989

Marne, MI

Harold Fair


9 July 1989

Calgary, AB, Canada

Butch Miller


16 July 1989

West Allis, WI

Mike Eddy


21 July 1989

West Chester, OH

Mike Eddy


6 August 1989

Hagersville, ON, Canada

Butch Miller


19 August 1989

Anderson, IN

Butch Miller


26 August 1989

Marne, MI

Bob Senneker


4 September 1989

St. Paul, MN

Scott Hansen


17 September 1989

Salem, IN

Butch Miller


1 October 1989

Winchester, IN

Butch Miller


15 October 1989

Nashville, TN

Butch Miller

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