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  .: 2013 Hall of Fame Inductees :.


Third induction class. August 10, 2013.
From Left: Speedway co-owner Dave Adams, Jerry Amundson, Dick Briesemeister, Phil Prusak, Doug Zimmer, Axel Dahlberg, Dean Harrington (representing inductee Dr. R.A. Doctor), 'Bud' Ellis, Florian Lawrence (representing his wife Mary Lawrence), Brandon Distel (grandson of the Lawrence's), Linda Reichert (daughter of Mary Lawrence) and speedway co-owner Mitch Hansen.

Jerry Amundson
1 When describing Jerry Amundson as a race car driver, the words undaunted, fearless, aggressive, competent and confident come to mind. Whether it was a heat race or a feature event, drivers and fans alike would take notice and knew that wherever he was on the track, that’s where the pressure would be coming from and the action likely at.

As a young boy growing up in the mid 1950’s, he would watch and tag along with his cousins Dale and Gene Bolin as they raced successfully at Rice Lake and other area tracks. With their guidance, he began racing at Rice Lake in the early 1960’s at the age of sixteen and continued through five decades as a driver and car owner. All told, he drove for thirty eight years with his first race car being a 1938 Chevrolet. His first feature win was accomplished during the 1966 racing season driving a car numbered #504. He is reported to have won one race with his hood flipped up and another with no left front wheel.

Among his many accomplishments at Rice Lake, racing in the Stock class he won the Aquafest feature race in 1966, the 1966 and 1969 Firecracker specials, the 1969 Mid Season championship, the 1969 points championship and the ’66 and ’69 season championships.

In the Modified class, he won the 1984 Aquafest trophy race and as a Late Model racer, Jerry won the 1973 Aquafest feature race, the 1974 Firecracker special, the 1975 Season Championship and also in 1975 , he won the prestigious Rice Lake Late Model invitational driving a 1973 Camaro against the best Late Model drivers from a five state area.

All told, Jerry won thirty nine feature races at Rice Lake, including eighteen in the Stock class, five in the Modified class and sixteen in the Late Model class. While he won feature races driving a variety of numbered cars, most prominently used numbers by Jerry during his racing career were the #504 and #30. Always a colorful competitor, the moniker of the “Dirty 30” was hung on his car, likely a commentary on his hard charging, take no prisoner aggressive style behind the wheel. Jerry also achieved much success at other area tracks and raced on both dirt and asphalt at such far flung places as Florida.

At the conclusion of his driving career, Jerry moved into the role of a car owner, owning the #30 Modified that was driven at various times by Pat Doar, Eric Pember and Brent Larson during the ten years he owned cars. During this period, Jerry’s car finished in the top five in the WISSOTA 100 race on five consecutive occasions, winning the title in 2000.

Noteworthy is that Pember won a race in 2002 in which Tony Stewart competed and Larson won a race in Winnipeg Manitoba in 2007.

Jerry resides in the Rice Lake area and is still involved in the cattle hauling business, something that he has done for many years. His son Jay is serving as a mechanic for Joey Jensen on the USMTS Modified circuit and another son Jared, an accomplished ice racer,  has revived the “Dirty 30”, racing in the Pure Stock class at Rice Lake this year. Recently Jared’s son Shawn made his debut behind the wheel of the #30 car also.

Ladies and gentlemen, Hall of Famer in the driver category, Jerry Amundson.
Dick Briesemeister
1 Although he raced for a relatively short period of time, what Dick Briesemeister accomplished behind the wheel of a race car during those years produced the kind of results that generate legendary status. Primarily known as a Late Model driver, Dick got his start at the Rice Lake Speedway where he became a dominate driver and then moved on to race at other venues and record more successes.

A 1960 graduate of Clear Lake High School, Dick started racing in 1961 at the Rice Lake Speedway and was right in the middle of the rivalry at the time between the bordering towns of Clear Lake and Clayton, as “young bucks” from both towns raced hard to try and top each other’s achievements on the race track.

Dick won a single feature during his rookie season of racing and stayed in the Stock class for two years, driving a 1946 Ford flathead.
In 1963 Dick moved up to what was then called the Semi Modified class, a combination of modified older style cars and the newly emerging, more modern style cars. Soon that class evolved into the Late Model class, the forerunner of the Super Late Models that we see run around the area even today.

In the Late Models Dick excelled, and within a couple of years he was the man to beat, not just at Rice Lake but at all the other area tracks too. This was during an era when most tracks hosted their own “invitational” for the Late Models, and as well as dominating at Rice Lake, Briesemeister made a name for himself with his strong performances at other tracks.

Dick won a feature race in the Late Models in his rookie year in the class in 1963 driving a 1957 Plymouth, but soon after he switched over to racing Fords, and a match was made that would dominate racing in the area for years.

Between the years of 1963 and 1969, Dick would win feature races at Rice Lake every year including an amazing eleven wins during the 1965 racing season. All the wins were accomplished driving a white, #107 Ford with his long time sponsor, Leo Kadinger and Kadinger’s Auto Salvage as his main sponsor.

The history of his car number is an interesting story as when drivers in that area started to race, they took numbers in consecutive order, each driver moving up one digit from the #104, out of respect and because of their relationship with the driver of the #104, one of our Hall of Famers, Buddy Mayala. Remarkably, while all the drivers who took those numbers have retired, the #104 and its driver Buddy Mayala will be seen racing in the Modified class here tonight.

All told, Dick won thirty feature races at the Rice Lake Speedway between the years of 1961 and 1969. In the Late Model, he won point championships in 1965, ’66, and ’67 and the Season Championship in 1965. He also won the Firecracker special in 1965, ’67 and ’68.

In the later years of his racing career in the mid seventies, he raced with the IMCA Late Models and participated in racing action at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds as well as other venues.

When asked to describe Briesemeister’s driving style, other drivers of that era to a man used the word “smooth” as their first word in description. A driver that won everywhere he raced, seldom got into tangles with other racers and always brought his car home clean and unwrinkled, that was the formula for Dick’s success.

Ladies and gentlemen, Hall of Famer in the driver category, Dick Briesemeister.
Axel Dahlberg
1 With a first name like Axel, how could someone not become a race car driver? Seriously, a decision made at the age of 16 became a life changing event, and even today, just mentioning the name Axel Dahlberg brings smiles to race fans that remember that era of auto racing and revive fond memories from fans all over the state of Wisconsin.

Axel Dahlberg was a racing machine. Racing as many nights as possible at area tracks, he ran at places like Boyceville, Milltown, Eau Claire, Durand, Wausau, Stillwater, Neillsville, Shawano, DePere, Shakopee, St. Paul, Superior, Duluth and in Fort William and Winnipeg in Canada. An early circuit included Stillwater on Wednesdays, Superior on Fridays, Rice Lake on Saturdays, fair races (of which there were many) on Sunday afternoons and Proctor on Sunday nights. A typical feature race win at Rice Lake in those days paid $200 to win, a healthy amount of money in those days. Costs were a lot different back then, remembers Axel. “I had a 1956 Chevrolet with a 283 engine in it. The whole car cost $1,800 and I could make nearly a thousand dollars a week, if I ran good.”

Axel learned about engines and cars from his father, also named Axel, at the Dahlberg Garage located in Poskin. He started racing at the Rice Lake Speed Pit at the age of sixteen in 1953, the first full year that the Speed Pit raced. He started in the Stock class, driving a 1937 Ford two door numbered #56-15, which was the phone number for the family residence. In 1955 he moved up to Modifieds, driving a ’34 Ford coupe and in 1957 he drove Late Models.

In 1958 and 59 Axel drove Midgets before returning to the Late Models which he drove until the early 1970’s. The Golden Era of Wisconsin Auto Racing, written by Father Dale Grubba, devotes a chapter to Axel, entitled “Axel Dahlberg, Rice Lake Champion.”

In that chapter, Axel is quoted about his days racing midgets. “Looking back, I don’t know why I ever drove one; I never felt comfortable,” said Axel. One of Axel’s worst wrecks occurred in a midget. “Those were the days before roll bars and I managed to flip five times at Shakopee and live to tell about it.”

In 1957, Axel is credited with having one of the greatest seasons on any driver in Wisconsin racing history. Driving a 1932 Ford couple with the first overhead V8 Ford Thunderbird engine in the state, he took fifty seven firsts, nineteen seconds and eight third place finishes including three of the five monthly championships at Rice Lake and the Season Championship.

As quoted in the book, some of the drivers Axel remembered racing against in the 50’s and 60’s  included Bud Havel, Don Koepp, Dick Briesemeister, Harold Mueller and Russ Laursen, three of whom are Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Famers.

One of the most humorous moments in Axel’s long racing career involves a promotion at Rice Lake in 1957 where Axel raced a horse around the track. Having turned the quick time trial on the night in question, Axel earned the right to race a horse in a one lap race. The horse was provided by Tom Barr and named “Buck”. The race was scheduled to be one lap but because of wet conditions was shortened to a half lap, starting on the back straightaway. With the horse getting a running start, Axel managed to nip Buck at the line by a nose.

Axel also had a stint racing motorcycles in Colorado before returning to Wisconsin to race. In 1973 he made the switch to some asphalt racing and drove for famous car owner Gene Wheeler on both dirt and asphalt in eastern and southern Wisconsin. He also made some racing appearances driving Late Models in Iowa before wrapping up his career in the 1980’s, driving asphalt Late Models in southern Wisconsin.

Axel won the first two Auqafest trophy races at Rice Lake in 1964 and ’65, the ’63 Late Model Season Championship, the ’64 Semi Modified Point Championship, and the first Firecracker special for Semi Mods in 1964.

Axel is given credit for thirteen feature wins at Rice Lake in the ‘60’s driving cars numbered #73 and #43 but numerous feature wins before that time are undocumented due to lack of records.

With one of the longest and most colorful careers of any driver in Rice Lake Speedway history, Axel, (aka Sonny), now resides in Deerfield Wisconsin.

Ladies and gentlemen, Hall of Famer in the driver category, Axel Dahlberg.
Doctor R.A. Doctor
  Doctor R.A. Doctor is probably the least known of all the Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Fame inductees, yet without his important contributions to the track, it is likely the speedway where we are currently enjoying the racing at,  would most likely be either an industrial site or a housing complex.

Dr. Rude A. Doctor, a dentist in the Chetek and Barron area, was one of the first co-owners of the Rice Lake Speedway in 1952 of a track which was then known as the Rice Lake Speed Pit.

Along with Rice Lake businessmen Forrest Nutter, Art Shudlick, Hartferd Skrupky and Jerry Widdes, they were the first owners of the race track. As owners, they joined together with a group of local racing enthusiasts that had been meeting since 1949 and formed an organization known as the Rice Lake Speed Pit Inc. Among those enthusiasts were Lyle Nelson, Harris Johnson, Aldy Knudson, Ed Hyland, Roger Cipra, Richard Kurshinsky, Lyle Robarge, Lou Carpenter and Dean Harrington.

In 1951 the five owners purchased a former gravel pit on the north side of Rice Lake as the site for a new race track. The owners and the enthusiasts then built a lighted race track that was the first racing facility in the area equipped with lights that allowed for night racing.

The original track was a flat, fifth mile oval with a wooden rub rail that surrounding the inside of the track and was frequently broken by errant race cars out of control. Admission prices were one dollar for adults with children under the age of twelve admitted free of charge. The local track gave area racers a place to run and no longer forced drivers to tow their cars to such far off places as St. Paul, New Brighton and St. Cloud to race.

The first race at the new facility was held on Saturday night, September 13th, 1952 with a crowd of nearly five hundred fans on hand who braved glowering skies and intermittent squalls of rain.

Dr. Doctor steadily bought his co-owners out, until by 1954 he was the sole owner of the track. He then leased the Speed Pit to Speed Pit Inc, a group of racing enthusiasts and drivers while he continued to operate the concession stand, known as “Doc’s Concession Stand.”

Then, after being co-owner of the track for four years and being the sole owner of the track for eighteen years after that, he sold the Rice Lake Speedway(renamed in 1967), to the Indianhead Stock Car Racing Association(ISCRA), in 1972. The sale price was a very reasonable $21,000 with the understanding that Doc would still be in control of his ever popular and highly successful concession stand.

The focal point of the track, Doc’s Concession Stand was the place that fans hung out before the racing started to trade rumors and chat about the upcoming night of racing action. With a slogan of “Good food, reasonable prices, lousy service…..but the coffee’s good”, Doc was a jovial soul who knew by name most of the regulars who frequented the track. Doctor Doctor continued to operate the concession stand into the mid 1970’s , at which time the track took over the concessions.

Unfortunately, despite extensive research, the Hall of Fame Committee has been unable to contract any of Dr. Doctor’s relatives. If anyone in the crowd would have a contact for someone from his family, please contact a Hall of Fame member.

Accepting the award for Hall of famer Dr. R.A. Doctor in the Friends of the Speedway category is Dean Harrington. Dean, already a Hall of Fame member, was one of those involved in the original negotiations that saw the speedway become a reality and knew Dr. Doctor well. Last year Dean celebrated his sixtieth consecutive year of involvement with the speedway and I believe this is Dean’s first visit to the track this year. Let’s all welcome Dean back.
Roger "Bud" Ellis
1 Some of the Rice Lake Speedway’s Hall of Famers made their presence known by their accomplishments on the race track. Some, however, have made their mark behind the scene. Such is the case with Bud Ellis.

While Bud was a racer at the speedway, it was what he did for the speedway after he hung up his helmet that has qualified him for the lofty title of Hall of Famer.

Bud’s interest in racing began as a driver at the Rice Lake Speed Pit, as the track was originally called, in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Bud was a competitive driver in the Stock class at that time, racing for the enjoyment of the sport.  Bud also has the distinction of being one of the very few drivers that can claim that he raced at the unlighted, dusty speedway that was located on the south side of Rice Lake near where the Seventh Day Adventist church now stands on old highway 53. This track, which was the forerunner of the current speedway, only lasted for a year or so until it was shut down and Bud’s memory of the one time he raced there in the early 50’s was that he got hit pretty hard in the face by a rock, not an unusual hazard at that time.

However, it was after Bud gave up racing that his statue as a future Hall of Famer came about. It would be very difficult to measure the amount of money Bud has saved the Rice Lake Speedway over the years through the donations of time and money that he has given towards the best interests of the track. During the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, Bud helped the racers at the track and the track itself with his advertising, sponsoring special events and contributing to the purses paid the drivers. This was at a time when the speedway was owned and run by the Indianhead Stock Car Racing Association, a non profit club struggling to keep the track operational. 

In 1986 Bud purchased H & E Ready Mix and soon after he lent to the track his trucks, heavy equipment, concrete and manpower to get the track ready each season, and for needed improvements both during the racing season and at its conclusion.

Bud came up with the idea of the high rise fan booths located directly behind the bleachers in the late 1980’s. He built the first one located directly in front of the rest rooms with his own money and then he and his wife Mary donated it to the track. He then paid a yearly fee to use the booth with all the high rise booths that now nearly surround the track set up with the same agreement.

Bud served as treasurer of the Rice Lake Speedway, through the Indianhead Stock Car Racing Association, in 1985, the year that the speedway joined the WISSOTA Promoters Association for its sanctioning in the Late Model and Modified classes.

Among Bud’s hobbies is his racing cards collection, which has evolved into a very elaborate collection.

Bud has retained his love of racing over these many years, a passion that has been transferred to other members of his family. Sons Rick and Bob were both accomplished racers themselves with many feature wins and titles between them. A third generation of racing Ellis’s has also hit the track with Bud and Mary’s Grandsons Zach, Colton and Austin either currently racing or having previous racing experience, all a part of one of the Rice Lake Speedway’s first families of racing.

Ladies and gentlemen, Hall of Famer in the Friends of the Speedway category, Bud Ellis.  
Mary Lawrence
1 Mary Lawrence broke the barrier of the “glass Ceiling” long before the term was ever coined. But she didn’t do it for a political reason or to advance a cause, but simply because her love for auto racing drove her to do things and go places and say things that women weren’t supposed to do in the world of short track auto racing.

Mary married into a family of auto racers and before all was said and done, at least six of her brother-in-laws and two of her family members participated in dirt track racing , either as drivers or car owners.

She even had the rare experience of owning her own race track along with her husband Florian, along with a brother-in-law and her father-in-law  as they built and ran Lawrence’s Speedway in a field west of Trego for several years in the ‘60’s where she had the opportunity to run the concession stand.

When the family moved back to Trego from the Twin Cities in 1971, her involvement with the Rice Lake Speedway began. She immediately began to get interested in the workings of the track through the club, the Indianhead Stock Car Racing Association and she started attending the weekly meetings. At that time, weekly meetings for the association were held in the smoky backrooms of local watering holes, and she was almost exclusively the only female in attendance, listing to what was happening, offering opinions and suggestions and putting up with the verbal barbs of some of the less than broadminded club members.

She volunteered for every committee and was willing to work on any task the club needed done and never asked for anything in return. When it was time to fix the fence at the track or paint or even pick up the garbage, she was always the first one there and the last to leave. Eventually she earned acceptance among the club members and was elected to several positions on the Board of Directors for the club. She was a member of the board when the track was expanded to its current dimensions and was instrumental in getting that feat accomplished. Always a person that felt flying the American flag was important, she assisted Florian in the building of the flag pole which still proudly flies the flag in the middle of the track to this day.

She was one of the biggest supporters of the concept of the Modified class when that ideas was being bantered about, and she and Florian built and owned one of the first Modifieds that raced in 1980 at Rice Lake, the first year the class raced at the track, resulting in the Rice Lake Speedway being the second track in the entire United States that ran the Modifieds and has continued to run them weekly since.  On their own dime, they, along with people like Jerry Curnow and Buddy Mayala hauled their cars to places like Menomonie and Kasson to show off the cars and promote the class.

She was also on the Board when the concept of the Street Stock “Little Dream” race was first proposed and she was a strong supporter of the concept. She would be very happy to know that Sam Fankhauser went home with over $8,000 just a couple of weeks ago as the “Little Dream” just keeps getting bigger and better.

One of her biggest thrills was being on the Board when the first big Modified race was presented at the track and she got to meet Ken Schrader and her proudest moment at the track had to be the night her grandson Brandon raced his first Pure Stock race. She would be thrilled to learn that Dave and Mitch have taken over the speedway, that its rich heritage is being preserved and that its future in Rice Lake is strong.  

She supported the Rice Lake Speedway in every way she could and saw the track advance from the days when women weren’t even allowed in the pits, payoffs were made in cash and everyone was required to wear white pants, although she would have preferred , even today, to see all the pit personal in starched white pants. She saw the Late Models come and go and then come and go a second time. She was never a showy person and preferred to remain in the back round, never drawing attention to herself. But those in charge knew how much work she did for the track over the years and how much “guff” she endured along the way.

Mary becomes the first female member of the Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Fame.

Mary passed away on December 27th, 2005 following a stroke. Accepting her Hall of Fame plague in the Friends of the Speedway category is her husband, Florian.
Phil Prusak
1 Phil Prusak’s storied career in the dirt track auto racing arena appears to have had its origins in a long standing rivalry between two neighboring communities in northwestern Wisconsin.

The Clayton Bears and the Clear Lake Warriors have long been rivals on the gridiron and the basketball court and every other area where comparisons can be drawn, so when Phil, a 1958 graduate of Clayton High School, and his friends saw the level of success the neighboring Clear Lake drivers were having at the Rice Lake Speed Pit, they felt they could do as well or better, and thus a Hall of Fame racing career began.

Interestingly, tonight’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony again brings the two communities into the forefront with Prusak, a Clayton graduate joining Dick Briesemeister, a Clear Lake alumni, also joining the Hall tonight.

Phil began racing in 1959, at the age of eighteen,  driving a 1939 Ford two door in the Stock Class. In 1960 Phil moved up and raced both a Stock Class car as well as a Late Model. In 1960 his brother Joe also began racing as the Clayton delegation at the track continued to grow.

Phil raced for eight years at the Rice Lake Speed Pit before moving on to different venues. Phil is credited with seven feature wins in the Stock class, driving cars numbered U15 and 95. He is also credited with six wins in the Late Model class. Veteran race fans will recognize the car numbers of winning cars during this period. Wins driving #57, #6 and #66 all represent some of the strongest racing teams in the state during that era, most based out of the Eau Claire area.

Phil was the 1960 Stock class champion at the Speed Pit.

In the late 1960’s,  philosophical differences saw Phil move on and start racing at a variety of other tracks, both in the area and as one of the top Late Model drivers in the Midwest, traveling to tracks near and far.

Phil won point championships at seven different race tracks and won at least one feature race at twenty different race tracks. He is considered to be one of the top three in total feature wins at the Cedar Lake Speedway in the Late Model class and had the most feature wins at the New Richmond track in 1968,’69,’70 and ’71.

Phil’s last full year of racing was in 1982 although he raced part time in both 1984 and ’85.

Phil and his wife now reside in Eau Claire. An interesting story that reflects the changes that racing has undergone involve Phil’s residence. It seems that Phil selected the location where he lives as his race shop many years ago because it is just around the corner of the location of the old, Eau Claire Speedway and if he was running late getting the car prepped for the evening’s racing, they wouldn’t bother to load the car on the trailer, they simply drove down state highway 37, around the corner and up the drive way right into the race track! Try that on highway 48 these days and see what happens!

Ladies and gentlemen, Hall of Famer in the driver category, Phil Prusak.
Doug Zimmer
There’s a mound of dirt between the third and fourth turns at the Rice Lake Speedway that has been missing one of its long time residents as the 2013 racing season has unfolded.

After more than three decades of shooting photos of racing, Doug Zimmer ended his full time gig on the speedway’s infield following the 2012 racing season.

Zimmer, a Rice Lake native, spent thirty two years as a photographer at the Rice Lake Speedway, along with shooting photos of special events at other tracks in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. His photos have regularly appeared during the racing season in the Chronotye and racing publications.

Zimmer started taking racing photos in the mid 1960’s with equipment he used from the photo club in high school. But the seed of combining photography and racing had been planted when he was about five years old, he recalls, when his parents took him to see stock car racing when the track was on the south side of Rice Lake.

“I got the bug. I got to be a dirt racing fan. And I always liked taking photos. The two kind of came together,” said Doug.

His first camera was purchased for a dollar and in 1964 his first racing photos featured Russ Laursen and his Super Modified at the Rice Lake Speedway.

In the late 1960’s Zimmer gave motorcycle racing photography a shot while stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. Always an airplane buff, Doug also took photos of air races in Reno.

Zimmer started providing Rice Lake Speedway action photos to the Chronotype about 1980 and has continued to do so ever since, moving from film to digital as the times have changed. He has also helped out as a track photographer, mostly in a volunteer capacity.

One of the highlights of the speedway racing banquet each year is the presentation of Doug’s favorite action shots to the drivers pictured.

“Zimmy” on that mound of dirt has become a common sight over the years at the track. It’s a location where photographers need to keep their eyes open as drivers throw their cars into the final corner before the checkered flag. One of Doug’s closest calls over the years to getting hit was during a “Blindman’s Race” many years ago, an event where the driver drives blindfolded and is steered by an assistant who indicates how the driver should turn by pulling on the driver’s shoulders. The car in question climbed the dirt mound and wrapped around the light pole. “I was hanging from the other side,” said Doug. Insurance companies, by the way, would probably frown on such an activity these days.

Doug is still sitting in the stands and occasionally taking photos from there. He did miss his favorite race of the year, the “Little Dream” race, for the first time this year but it was for another very important interest of his, the annual EAA convention in Oshkosh. And the speedway has already called upon him in 2013 to sub for regular photographer Chris Burback. Doug and his camera will always be welcome at Rice Lake Speedway.

Ladies and gentlemen, Hall of Famer in the Friends of the Speedway category, Doug Zimmer.

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