Arnold “Arnie” Knepper, named after the 1930 Indianapolis 500-mile race winner, Billy Arnold was... born on October 10, 1930 in Belleville Illinois into a racing family; his father “Butch” and three of his uncles - Ollie, Ray and Walter Junior – also raced midgets.
During his long racing career, Arnie Knepper raced big cars with the All-American Racing Club (AARC) and the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA), midgets with the St Louis Auto Racing Association (SLARA) and the Midwest Auto Racing Association (MARA), and he raced midgets, sprint cars, stock cars, dirt championship and Indianapolis cars under the United States Auto Club (USAC) banner.
Arnie battled with 1952 champion Bud Hoppe to win his first SLARA championship in 1954 then repeated in 1955. Knepper added a third SLARA championship in 1960 then won the championship again back to back in 1975 and 1976 to claim five SLARA championships over three successive decades.
In the early nineteen sixties Arnie was a threat in IMCA big car races behind the wheel of Peter Mocca’s “Circle Deuce” Offenhauser powered big car. In the 1962 “Little 500” in Anderson Indiana Arnie in his fifth “Little 500” race started third, took the lead on the 481st lap and won by half a lap over Clare Lawicki.
Knepper recorded six USAC midget wins in his career which included wins at the 2/10-mile dirt “Little Springfield” Speedway in Illinois, the ¼-mile dirt Olympic Stadium in Kansas City and the 1/3-mile paved Lake Hill Speedway in Valley Park Missouri.
Arnie made his first start in USAC championship racing in 1963 and qualified for the first of his five consecutive Indianapolis ‘500’ starts in 1965. After being badly burned on his arms and face in a first-lap crash in the “Langhorne 150” in July 1967, Arnie shocked his doctors when he left the Brooks Army Hospital at the end of September after just five weeks.
Arnie returned to race at Phoenix a mere four months after his Langhorne crash and finished eighth. Arnie frequently drove the MVS Cecil-Ford IndyCar built by Dick Cecil from 1968 through 1971; it was in the Cecil-Ford that Arnie recorded his best finish in USAC championship cars, a third place at the Fuji Speedway road course in Japan in 1966.
Arnie was joined in his journey through life by his wife Wanda and their children Peggy, Art, and Tina. After several heroic battles with cancer, Arnie passed away on June 6, 1992, but he has never been forgotten. Knepper is a member of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame, a $500 scholarship in Arnie’s name is presented annually to a student in the High-Performance Racing Technology program at Ranken Technical College and the Arnie Knepper Memorial Race is held annually at Belle-Clair Speedway. Arnie Knepper accomplished many great things in his life in his roles as a teacher, fabricator, husband and father, but it is for his distinguished midget racing career that today we welcome him into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame.