Rick Egersdorf (17) is challenged...
Rick Egersdorf (17) is challenged by Dan Yaunick (91) and Ryan Aho (71A) at Proctor (Minnesota) Speedway.
The story starts in a similar manner as dozens of stories across the country. During the late '70s, there was a concern about the creeping reduction in car counts. In Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the surrounding states, Late Models were dwindling. Drivers were retiring or the sport was just getting too expensive for some to stay in the game.
Track rules were making the situation a little more difficult. Drivers who had the cars would have to change them in order to go elsewhere. It was becoming an expensive proposition considering most of the cars were home-built. There were few aftermarket racing parts to bolt on and go racing. The engines were mostly big-block Ford and Chevrolet, reaching over 500 ci in cut-down car frames. You would see plenty of Monte Carlos, Novas, Chevelles and Mustangs. Under the stock steel body panel, the quick-change rearend gave the cars a racing advantage. Tires were wide open, and those who had the resources to have different widths and compounds handy were at a clear advantage. The gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" was vast.
Cedar Lake Speedway in New...
Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wisconsin, plays host to some of WISSOTA's big shows. In May 2003, the track will hold the first WISSOTA Cup and the 18th annual WISSOTA 100, a five-division program. Past Late Model racing action at the track saw this battle between Mike Chamernick (09), Porky Brust (49), and Keith Foss (95).
During these bleak times, promoters were seemingly faced with no choice: The Late Model class had to go from the weekly schedule. Why should a promoter put 60 percent of the money into a class that was providing, at best, 10 percent of the cars? In some cases, there were fewer than five Late Models in a show. Even the best tracks couldn't get 20 cars into the pit area. But, a group of promoters managed to see a light at the end of this tunnel.
Meetings were planned in 1980 and 1981 to come up with a course of action that could keep a proud part of a strong racing heritage alive in the region. Promoters and board members from eight tracks in Wisconsin and Minnesota and other interested parties (including tire company representatives) sat with Racing Promotion Monthly head Stew Reamer to work out a solution. The result was the formation of the WISSOTA Promoters Association, officially founded in 1981.
Red Cedar Speedway in Menomonie,...
Red Cedar Speedway in Menomonie, Wisconsin, has seen some great WISSOTA racing. Paul Harelstad (1), Pat Hardy (2), and Ron Mahder (55) go to work on the smooth surface.
The tire dilemma was first and foremost in the minds of those in that meeting. They decided to go with Hoosier after their first company choice was unable to fulfill the obligation. They also chose a hard tire, which wasn't favored at first, but when drivers and owners assessed their tire bills at the end of the season, the board's wisdom was realized.
Just before WISSOTA came into existence, another racing organization was doing its part to inject hope for the future of racing. The Indianhead Racing Association was operating the Rice Lake (Wisconsin) Speedway, and they were experiencing some problems with their two classes. A member of the board, Don Stodola, noticed the promotion of a new Modified class by Hawkeye Racing News publisher Keith Knaack. Stodola felt an open wheel car like this would be an affordable option, so the board contacted Knaack for details. After seeing the cars, the board opted to add an Economy Modified class to the Rice Lake schedule. The cars were fashioned along the same lines as the Modifieds in Iowa.
Here is some three-wide Late...
Here is some three-wide Late Model action at Proctor. Dan Yaunick (91), Don Copp (22), and Craig Scott (0) go for a spot.
Within a couple of years, the cars had grown to about 30. Some of the Rice Lake cars traveled to a special event at Superior Speedway in Superior, Wisconsin, to showcase the class. This drew the attention of WISSOTA members, who decided to add the class to their sanctioning action in 1985. With this move, Modifieds were being built rapidly and the class has since become a stalwart for WISSOTA.
The Late Models were experiencing slow to steady growth. The tire rule was helpful, but rules and costs continued to plague accelerated growth. The sport was changing with the introduction of specially made tube frames and wraparound sheetmetal bodies that varied from the stock appearance. With the standardizing of dirt Late Model body rules throughout the country, WISSOTA cars now look exactly like those in competition anywhere else in the country. Today, if a WISSOTA Late Model driver wants to travel, he has the car to do so.