Nearly 38 years after his passing, the legacy of Larry Detjens and his impact and influence on racing in Wisconsin is still very much alive and well, as evidenced annually in the memorial race held in his name
The Auto Select Detjens Memorial Weekend at State Park Speedway continues to be a bucket list item on the racing calendar in Central Wisconsin, one that long has attracted some of the best racers from around the state and sometimes further. This year’s 38th annual event takes place Friday, July 27 and Saturday, July 28, the eighth straight year it has been a multi-day event.
“It is truly an honor for us to continue to hold this race each year,” said State Park Speedway Owner Ron Wimmer. “Larry was family and a true friend and he was that to many people in the area. The racing legacy he left speaks for itself and we are glad we can continue to keep his memory and stories alive every year with this race.”
From the time Detjens tragically lost his life in a racing accident at Wisconsin International Raceway in Aug. 1981, the race in his honor has consistently drawn big crowds and a who’s who list of top drivers in central Wisconsin over the last four decades.
Dick Trickle won the first Detjens Memorial in 1981 and would win it twice more, and names like Tom Reffner, Bryan Reffner, Wayne Breitenfeldt, Kirby Kurth, Mark Mackesy, brothers Scott and Chris Wimmer, Chris Weinkauf and brothers Tim and Johnny Sauter are just some of the others to take the title. It’s a race coveted by many who competed against him, were fans of him, or-in the case of State Park Speedway owners Ron and Scott Wimmer as well as Chris Wimmer-were family of Detjens.
“This race is our Daytona 500, everyone is fired up,” said Mackesy, who will be attempting to become the first four-time winner of the Detjens Memorial and also is married to Larry Detjens’ daughter Margo. “We are focused on getting everything prepared for the big race.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been so many years since Larry passed. That his race is still so popular shows what an impact he had on so many lives, and not just racing. To win this race is like no other, it’s an emotional race to win.”
This year’s weekend is highlighted by Saturday night’s Northcentral Technical College Truck Driving School Detjens Memorial 100 Super Late Model feature. Chris Wimmer is the defending champion of the race, and while he won’t be in the field, three-time Detjens winner Mackesy will be there, as will current SPS Super Late Model points leader Luke Fenhaus, past track champions M.G. Gajewski and Jeremy Lepak, as well as Wisconsin standout Casey Johnson.
“To win this race you need a good car and to keep it underneath you for all 100 laps,” Mackesy said. “As Trickle used to say, ‘to finish first, you must first finish.’”
“It’s in memory of one of the best short track racers from years past,” Johnson said. “It would be an honor to win his memorial race.”
The Detjens Memorial regularly attracts drivers traveling long distances to compete. In recent years, Johnson has made the trip from Cambridge, Wis., south of Madison, and the north also has been frequently represented in the past and is expected to be again as Norway Speedway (MI) regular Jason Wells is among the entries.
“I went to my first race at Wausau last year as a spectator,” Wells stated. “I remember telling my Dad we have to come race here. We don’t travel often but have raced at the Dells, Marshfield and Slinger. It’s just really cool to go to other tracks for specials and see where you stack up.”
Saturday night’s show will also feature all of State Park Speedway’s weekly classes, including the Budweiser Fabiano Brothers Limited Late Models, Advance Auto Parts Pure Stocks, Snap-On Mini Mods and Motors Service & Supply Mini Stocks. The Wisconsin Mighty Bandoleros Traveling Series also will be on hand.
The Detjens Memorial opens Friday night with the Big 8 Series headlining an evening that also includes Mini Mods, Mini Stocks and Bandoleros. The popular Big 8 Limited Late Model touring series features drivers from four states, is part of the Detjens Memorial for the seventh straight year and has regularly put on entertaining shows at State Park Speedway.
“We’ve always had fun with it since we made it a weekend show,” said State Park Speedway’s Scott Wimmer. “It allows us to have two great nights of racing with the Big 8 Series and then the Super Late Model race on Saturday and then the support we receive from our other divisions on both nights is awesome.”
Michael Bilderback of South Beloit, Ill., is a two-time winner of the event and won last year’s Big 8 Series race, coming in ahead of Wausau native and former State Park Speedway Super Late Model track champion Jeremy Lepak. Bilderback also won a memorable race in 2015 when he spun across the finish line and sustained heavy contact in turn one, leaving the track on a tow hook.
Other previous Big 8 winners at State Park Speedway include Johnson, current Big 8 points leader Jeremy Miller of Rockford and Jon Reynolds Jr. of Loves Park, Ill.
Along with all the racing action, the Speedway Bar will be open Friday night after the races, and Saturday will feature the fourth-annual bean bag toss tournament, with sign up taking place Friday night in the Speedway Bar.
Racing begins Thursday night with Fred Mueller Qualifying at 6 p.m. and racing at 7 p.m. Saturday’s program gets started an hour earlier with Fred Mueller Qualifying at 5 p.m. and racing starting at 6 p.m.
Those who can’t make it to State Park Speedway this weekend will be able to watch Saturday’s 100-lap Super Late Model race live on Speed51.com’s Summer Thunder TV. All that is needed to watch is a monthly ($7.99) or yearly ($69.99) subscription to the Speed51 Network. Click here to sign up today.
-State Park Speedway Press Release
-Photo credit: State Park Speedway/QC Willy