Renewed track brings hundreds of spectators out every Friday night
WAGNER -- Every time Dwight Wudel puts on his racing gear, climbs into his car and competes at Wagner Speedway, it's a dream come true.
Growing up in Tripp, Wudel would visit the dirt track with his family -- times he calls unforgettable.
While he attended the races in the mid 1990s, he became a fan of local drivers, such as Dennis Seckner, John Otte, Jeff Johnson and Scott Borkowski.
Watching the races at Wagner cemented Wudel's love of dirt-track racing and when the track closed in 1996, it was a crushing blow -- one Wudel can't forget.
"Back when I was kid, I really became a fan watching those guys go at it," Wudel said. "It definitely sparked my interest and I have always liked Wagner because it has always been one of the highest banking tracks around. ... I wasn't real happy when it shut down. As a family, we quit going to the races for quite a while, but when they opened back up, it was really, really cool."
In 2007, Wagner Speedway reopened after being out of service for years. Before it was shutdown in 1996, it was known as Tomahawk Speedway, but after getting a touch up, it was renamed Wagner Speedway when it reopened in 2007.
Track Manager John Havranek wasn't involved with the track when it closed in 1996 but guessed the track was closed due to economic conditions.
"It is very difficult to keep a racetrack going," Havranek said. "It takes a lot of really good sponsorships, great promoters and lots of support from the community and surrounding areas. ... It just takes a whole lot of staff support to put a lot of time in each and every week to get it race-ready. I have a pretty good staff that helps me with everything."
Havranek said the track gets about 60 to 70 cars and drivers each week and between 400 and 500 spectators every Friday, depending on weather conditions.
Wudel, of Mitchell, is one of those drivers and is in first place in the overall standings in the B-Buzzer Class -- front-wheel drive class -- this year. To compete in the class, participating cars must have front-wheel drive and either a four or six cylinder engine.
Wudel has been racing B-Buzzers at the speedway since 2010, when he and a few friends decided to create a team named Dirty Deeds Racing.
"We decided to put a team together and make a race car," said Wudel, who has won four out of six races this season. "I went and found a car on Craigslist, drove it home with the air conditioner blasting and stripped it down and made it a race car. We took it out at the end of the 2010 season and have been racing ever since.
"This has been an unbelievable year."
The first night Wudel raced, he said he can recall one of his idols, Borkowski, being there. He said racing in front of the guys he grew up watching is a great experience.
Other area drivers who are leading in points standings in their respective driving classes are Tom Moysis, of Wagner, and Brandon Tingle, of Mitchell. Moysis leads in Hobby Stock, while Tingle leads in Pro Stock.
Havranek said the track not only attracts drivers from around the state, but also drivers from Nebraska and Iowa. The two largest classes at Wagner Speedway are B-Modified and Late Models.
"You won't find any track in the state that pays what those two classes get for winning," Havranek said. "We also have some of the highest banks in the state and drivers really like that."
The payout for a driver who wins a Late Model class race is $750, while the B-Modified winner receives $500.
Races take place at 8 p.m. every Friday with the season culminating with a championship on the Monday of Labor Day.