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2018 Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Fame Induction
The eighth class of the Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Fame inducted August 11, 2018.  Left to right; Tom Nesbitt, Todd Madsen, Rod Hensel and Dave Greschner.

Dave Greschner
Publicity is a key component to the success of any business whether they are in retail, wholesale or in the case of the Rice Lake Speedway, the entertainment business. Whether the operation is a restaurant, car dealership or a race track, they don't stay in business unless they have people passing through the front door or the ticket gate in the case of the speedway. The local media outlets are key to making that happen as folks still listen to the local radio stations and read the local paper.

The Rice Lake Speedway has long been blessed in that regard as the Rice Lake Chronotype and the Rice Lake Speedway have had a great working relationship for many years. Bob Heffner, a member of the Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Fame, was honored in 2014 for his contributions through the Chronotype during his years as Sports Editor of that paper, and tonight we induct the man who replaced Heffner and maintained that great working relationship.

Dave Greschner has been an employee of the Rice Lake Chronotype for the past forty three years and has served as the Sports Director of that paper for the past forty years. During that time, with his assistance, guidance and editing pencil, literally thousands of stories, features and photos, laid out in a colorful and informative weekly narrative involving the results and personalities of the Rice Lake Speedway have found their way into the pages of the Chronotype.

Publicity is key to making any venture succeed and the free publicity that the Chronotype has provided over the years has been a tremendous asset to the track, whether it was in the years when a volunteer group ran the track right up to today when for example, this week's Chronotype features almost two full pages of stories and reports on the racing action from last week at the track. While Greschner gets out to the track for pictures and such when he can, he and the Chronotype have long relied on another Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Famer, Doug Zimmer, to provide many of the pictures you see in the paper.

Dave will tell you that he realized a long time ago just how important the speedway is to the local economy and what an important recreational and economic asset the track is to the community. In fact, the Rice Lake Speedway probably ranks the highest in attendance for any sporting event held in the Summer in Barron County.

And the speedway has long recognized what an asset the Chronotype has been for them. Tracks both large and small across the country would literally “kill” to get the same great coverage that the Chronotype gives the track on a weekly basis. Track co-owner Dave Adams has often mentioned how impressed he was that Dave Greschner would periodically call him for information and updates on what was happening at the track.

Dave is a 1971 graduate of Prairie Farm High School where he was a three sport athlete in high school. He then attended U.W. Barron County and U.W. Eau Claire, graduating in 1975 and he began his tenure with the Rice Lake Chronotype Publishing Company in December of 1975. He has been the author of numerous articles and features that have received state wide acclaim.

The Rice Lake Speedway, it owners and management, are very grateful for the great coverage that the Chronotype has provided for the track over the last sixty years, helping to spread the story to the folks of Barron County and beyond about the great entertainment and family fun that goes on at the speedway every Saturday night.

Ladies and gentlemen, Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Famer, Dave Greschner.

Rod Hensel
A myriad of different things go on at the same time at a race track which all culminate in a successful racing program. Probably no one here knows that better than our next candidate to be enshrined in the Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Fame, Rod Hensel. Whether it is physically driving the race car, owning and preparing that car to race, prepping the race track to handle the pounding of the race cars and not dust out the spectators, actually managing and maintaining order during the race program or taking care of the finances and all the behind the scenes things that operating a race track entails, Rod has done it all here at the Rice Lake Speedway.

It all started back in his old neighborhood when he was a youngster growing up near Cameron. Hall of Fame member Chuck Kurtzhals lived in the neighborhood and Rod and his buddies would hang out at Kurtzhals' shop during the week as he worked on his race car. Later on, he and a bunch of his buddies including Woody Kurtzhals would build their own car to race. They would drive it most of the way to the track,using the back roads here in Barron County, then hook it up on a chain to tow it into the track that last mile or so. After the races, they would reverse the process to get it back home. He also helped Ron Clark at the track.

Rod's own first car was built in around 1974 when he was about 23 years old. It was a big old Ford Galaxy that Hall of Famer Butch Madsen helped him build. Eventually Rod would move up to the Super Stocks and he also had a stint driving the Modifieds. While there isn't one single win that stands out in his mind, he does well remember his first ever race win which was accomplished back at the long closed Racers Raceway in Bruce. He won a dash event and earned a trophy and to them it meant just as much at winning the Daytona 500 and it was well into the next day before the celebrating finally ended and they headed back home.

In total, Rod won nineteen feature races at the Rice Lake Speedway, eighteen in the Super Stocks between the years of 1977 and 1985 along with one Modified feature win that was accomplished in 1983. All the wins were achieved driving race cars numbered #44, a number Rod used since that was his football jersey number at Cameron, where he was a four year starter on the football team.

Included in those wins was the Midseason Championship in 1979, the Firecracker Special, Season Championship and points title all in 1982. Rod also won the Best Appearing Car award the first four years that award was presented, winning in 1978, 79, 80 and 81.

Throughout his entire racing career he was strongly supported by Drag's Pizza and Byng Studios, both long time businesses in the Rice Lake area. Also mentioned as critical to Rod's racing career was another Hall of Famer Troy Newman who built and owned the motors in Rod's cars almost from the beginning and was with him throughout his racing career.

Rod stepped away from racing following the 1984 season so that he could support the budding career of his son Jason, who was just getting started in the sport and Rod felt that he couldn't both race and own multiple cars so he turned over the driving duties to Jason.

But Rod wasn't done with his involvement with racing. In 1985 he became the Head Flagman at the Rice Lake Speedway and handled the flagging chores from 1985 through 1991 and then returned for a one year stint in 1997. He had no bad memories or horror stories to relate about his years as the flagman, saying that he enjoyed it and that there would always be nights when someone would be upset, as it is the nature of the sport, but most times later they would all get together, have a laugh over what happened over a “cold one” and then move on.

Rod was also the President of the Indianhead Stock Car Racing Association in 2000 and 2001. He presided over the track during its most crucial period as he was the President of the club when the decision was made to sell the track to Smith-Bisonette Inc. and terminate the association. He said that the sale of the track was the best possible outcome available as the banks would no longer support the track and participation by club members was very low and going the route that they did allowed racing to continue with the Smith-Bisonette group making some much needed track improvements.

Besides Jason, Rod has two other sons that have also gotten involved in racing. Ryan raced Pure Stocks, Super Stocks and MidMods on and off and now races a Bat Wing at area dirt tracks.

Adam raced Pure Stocks, Super Stocks, Late Models and now races Modifieds and among his biggest achievements was a WISSOTA National Championship in the Late Models.

Rod operates Rod's Painting and Sandblasting and he and his wife Tanya live in Hammond but by the end of September they hope to have everything completed for their move back to Barron.

Ladies and gentlemen, Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Famer Rod Hensel.

Todd Madsen
Todd Madsen, having been a part of dirt track racing almost from the time he was born, is now one of the second generation drivers to join the Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Fame. His father Butch was fully involved in his racing career as Todd grew up, and he watched and was a part of racing from a very young age. He fell in love with the sport early and was soon a part of the racing team.

In a day when the rules were a little looser than they are currently, Todd got a very early start in the sport as he made his racing debut in 1979 at the age of twelve.

However, it wasn't too long after that before Todd earned his first feature win and victory lap, having taken his first checkered flag in 1983 which Todd reported to be his most memorable win ever at Rice Lake.

His first race car was a 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle with a three twenty seven V-8 engine that was donated to him by renowned car owner and collector, Elmer Duellman and Todd estimates was worth about $500.

After that the wins and success just continued to grow. In total, Todd won eighteen feature races at the Rice Lake Speedway in the Super Stock class with the first win coming in 1983 and the last in 2006. These wins were achieved driving cars numbered #04 and #007. Todd picked the #04 because his favorite driver was the late Ben Mizer who also drove the #04 and his father's number was #4 so the association made perfect sense.

He also won two Modified features at Rice Lake, in 1995 and 1999 driving the number #7x car. He recorded feature wins during twelve different years of his racing career and was also the Super Stock point champion at Rice Lake in 1992.

Away from the Rice Lake Speedway, he recorded his most memorable win in 2003 when he won the Punky Manor Challenge of Champions at the Red Cedar Speedway in Menomonie.

Along with his parents and family, some of those special people that helped him during his career included Bob Chaplin and his family, Richard and Mary Froemel, who's #007 both Todd and Butch drove at one time, Curt Myers, Mikey Woller, Del VanGilder, Mike Kisling, Scott Tiefs and Traver Boettcher.

Along with being a successful driver at the track, Todd was also a Board Member of the Indianhead Stock Car Racing Association that owned and governed the track and he was a member during that historic year when the track was rebuilt to its current one third mile dimensions.

An auto technician by trade, Todd retired from racing at the very young age of thirty nine in 2007.

Despite no longer racing himself, Todd is still involved in the sport as he was one of the crew members that spent untold hours this Spring getting the twin #84 Street Stock and Super Stock cars for his nephew Hunter VanGilder ready for the 2018 racing season.

Todd couldn't get too far away from the Rice Lake Speedway as he lives only about three miles West of the Speedway with his wife Lisa and their children Gavin and Lauren. Todd's spare time is happily used to help coach Gavin in both basketball and football.

The Madsen family now joins the Ellis family as the only two families in Rice Lake Speedway history to have multi generational members of the Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Fame.

Ladies and gentlemen, Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Famer, Todd Madsen.

Tom Nesbitt
No one enshrined in the Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Fame probably has higher name recognition among race fans across the country and loftier credentials than those presented by Tom Nesbitt.

Fifty consecutive years of racing spread across six decades and a documented seven hundred and eighty seven feature wins are among the achievements recorded by Tom, the first Canadian racer to ever enter the Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Fame.

One hundred and fifty seven feature wins alone at Riverview Raceway, the now shuttered track in Thunder Bay Ontario plus being the highest winning driver in Gondik Law Speedway history are just a small portion of the honors that Nesbitt has recorded.

Nesbitt earned fourteen feature wins over his career at the Rice Lake Speedway with his first win coming during the 1969 racing season and the last win being in 2002, and these were during the most colorful early days of Late Model racing when rules were minimal and personalities larger than life. To veteran race fans from this area, Tom is best remembered for driving his Chevrolet powered Studebaker (with the illegally set back motor that was finally admitted to years later), and his iconic sponsor, Half way Motors. He won Season Championships in 1969 and 1983 along with the point title and Mid-Season Championship that same year, the Firecracker special in 1970 and the Late Model Invitational in 1982.

Tom started racing in 1959 when he and some buddies put a 1948 Ford together and they raced it at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition (CLE) Fairgrounds half mile track. A 1950 Dodge soon followed and what turned out to be a lifetime changing pattern had taken hold.

But there wasn't enough racing in Canada to suit Tom who soon took his race car on the road to visit U.S. tracks with an early circuit that included Superior on Fridays, Hibbing on Saturdays and then back up to Thunder Bay on Sundays. A dispute with the Hibbing management team and Nesbitt switched his Saturday night racing to the Rice Lake Speedway.

Just imagine the dedication it took to drive down what was then a very rustic highway 61 to Superior on Fridays, race then in Rice Lake on Saturdays and then drive all night back up that tote road to Thunder Bay to race on Sunday afternoons. But he did it year after year. And successfully so. In 1967 he quit his job and became a full time racer, perhaps the first driver ever in this area to do so as he relied on his race earnings to support himself and keep his car on the track.

Asked to comment on Nesbitt, Rice Lake Speedway co-owner Dave Adams, a supplier of Nesbitt's racing engines for most of his career answered, “Hell, he lived in my back yard for twenty two Summers. That should about say it all!”

“Colorful” was a good way to describe Nesbitt, both on and off the track. Commitment, determination and dedication were personified in him as he towed up and down the highways of America, always pulling his car on an open trailer and always sporting the #1, a number he settled on for his first car because it was an easy number to put on the car. Whether he was beating the local hero, arguing to the death with the track promoter, disrupting another driver's meeting with a challenging question or perhaps wrestling in the dirt with another driver or tow truck operator, you either loved him or hated him, but above all, you respected him. He raced in nearly every state in the Midwest and South over his storied career which finally ended in 2008.

Among the high honors he has received in recognition of his profound achievements is membership in the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame headquartered in Florence Kentucky, the Northwest Ontario Hall of Fame and numerous track Halls of Fame.

Along the way he racked up honors and feature wins too numerous to mention, picked up the nickname “The Bomb” and somehow made wearing bib overalls a fashion statement.

Tom now enjoys his retirement from the sport, traveling to races to visit with fans and former

competitors across the country and watch the new breed of racers develop. He is also mentoring his twin grandsons, Lukas and Matt Koski, as they race their #1 Super Stock, colored and lettered just as Tom had his cars.

Ladies and gentlemen, Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Famer, Thomas Anthony Tom “The Bomb” Nesbitt.

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