My interest in racing began a very long time ago, not in a Galaxy far, far away, but right here in the good old USA. I have been a race fan since I moved off the Wisconsin farm, almost 50 years ago. My first stock car race I saw was at a local quarter mile dirt track in 1961, that is now paved, but still running every Saturday night during the summer in Wisconsin. I was hooked on the sounds, the close racing, the fans in the stands and V-8 rumble. Shortly after that great experience, I saw my first professional race, a USAC Indy car race at the legendary Milwaukee Mile. I wanted to see every race, but since I did not drive and my parents worked weekends, I had to depend on friends of my parents to take me to the races.
It was the summer of 1964 that I found a copy of Stock Car Racing in a hobby store and could not put it down. I purchased it and took it home to read cover to cover. I thought Fireball Roberts was the most fascinating man I had ever read about in my few years on this earth. I was hooked on NASCAR. My little HO slot car track road course was turned into an oval with 100, 200 and 400 lap races with one of the neighborhood kids. I have been a fan ever since.
Living in Wisconsin and being a race fan, you could not ignore Road America at Elkart Lake. When I finally could drive, I had to journey to the other Wisconsin legendary race track. Watching the early TransAM cars thunder down the hill into turn five was just plain spine chilling. I am not that old to have been to Road America in the early fifties to watch NASCAR race there, but I wish I could have been.
Being able to drive allowed me to travel to some of the most famous Wisconsin short tracks and others in the Midwest. There was; Wisconsin Dells, Columbus, La Crosse, Madison International, Slinger, Plover, Kaukuna, Angle Park, Rockford Speedway, just to name a few. In the Seventies and into the early eighties, you could find a stock car race 5-7 nights a week at a paved oval track someplace in Wisconsin. Drivers like Dick Trickle, Tom Reffner, Larry Detjens, and others were making a name for themselves not only in Wisconsin, but around the Midwest. The best drivers in the nation would travel to Wisconsin to race. Bobby Allison, Mark Martin, Ed Howel, and many others would make the trek to Wisconsin to race against our best. It was the golden era of short track racing.
My first NASCAR race was at Michigan International Speedway. I still can hear and feel the first time they took the green flag and 43 cars thundered down the back straight into turn three. It sill gives me goose bumps just thinking about it. Bobby Allison and Larry Peterson were my favorite drivers. The first year we did not camp and stayed at a Holiday Inn, the Wood Brothers crew (and maybe Larry Peterson too) were staying there too.
I have seen all types of racing, but over the years, stock car racing has been my favorite. I do still enjoy Road America and it’s beautiful rolling hills, the great track food.