The Dacotah Speedway Hall of Fame
- A Hall of Famer must have outstanding accomplishments as a driver, volunteer, official or sponsor in Bismarck-Mandan or the surrounding area.
- A Hall of Famer must have been a member of the Bismarck-Mandan Stock Car Association (BMSCA) and demonstrated good sportsmanship both on and off the track.
- A Hall of Famer must have retired from driving for at least five years, or, alternatively, served the sport in a different capacity for an extended period of time.
We proudly announced our first honorees in 2016, and continued inducting new ones to the Dacotah Speedway Hall of Fame during our subsequent annual racing banquets. We are now honored to celebrate many great members of the Dacotah Speedway community – and we welcome you to do the same!
by John Gartner Sr.
Marlyn Seidler’s racing career began in 1973 when he purchased a ’55 Chevy that had been sitting in a pasture in Goodrich for $50. He raced that car in Underwood, and then once more in Minot where he hit a track pole on his first night. Some said Marlyn “took out all the lights in South Minot” that evening.
In 1974 Marlyn bought his first Late Model, which had been refashioned with a ’49 Oldsmobile body. Two years later he would win his first Late Model feature in Jamestown despite squaring off against talented drivers including Ernie Brookins, Jack McDonald and Bob Simmers (who would also go on to become a Dacotah Speedway Hall of Famer). Marlyn declared he was hooked after winning that race.
In 1980 Marlyn began developing his own chassis until he struck upon the configuration that best complemented his driving style. Many of the nation’s most talented Late Model drivers raced at the North Dakota State Fair that year, including legends like Ed Sanger, Bob Shryock and Mike Niffenegger. Marlyn beat Sanger to become State Fair Champion – a victory he would always consider as one of his all-time greatests. Marlyn proceeded to rack up over 25 more feature wins that year. The feat earned him the opportunity to become a professional-level chassis builder. In true humble North Dakotan fashion, he declined it in favor of focusing on his farm.
In 1987 Marlyn decided to return to racing, but in a new class: the Dakota Modified. After spending a summer piling up feature wins, he chose to extend his season into the winter by joining the WISSOTA Modified. Marlyn fondly remembers racing in the Florida Speedweeks Modified championship during that era – an event joined by several sanctioning bodies’ best of the best. Marlyn won that points championship in 1990, which was also the year he became Dacotah Speedway’s first-ever WISSOTA Modified Season Champion. An auspicious start for Dacotah Speedway, as 1990 was the first season of the track’s existence.
As of 2023, Marlyn’s career includes 19 season championships and over 100 IMCA Modified feature wins. His career is also far from over. He has recently won several feature races, including the 2022 Oktoberfest show.
Marlyn does not only take pride in his own career. He has helped many other local Dacotah Speedway racers become faster over the years, including Brent Schlaffman, Tracy Domagala, and Spencer Wilson. Ricky Thornton Jr., a racer who has earned national acclaim, also received a great deal of support from Marlyn early on in his career.
A driver cannot enjoy such a long and outstanding career without others’ help. Marlyn attributes part of his success to three special people. First is his talented son Ben, who started building claimer engines for his father’s #7 cars when he was only 13 years old. Marlyn needed many of Ben’s engines over the course of a career that included 22 claims, and was especially proud to call his son his teammate when both raced the IMCA Modifieds.
The second is Mike (whom everyone knows him as “Bubba”), Marlyn’s right-hand man and crew chief of many years. The son of Dacotah Speedway Hall of Famer Lynn Christianson, Bubba prepares Marlyn’s car for races while its driver is busy farming and also serves as Marlyn’s confidant during the long trips to and from racetracks. Marlyn has not raced without Bubba to support him in the pit since 2009.
The third is Christie – Marlyn’s better half, and living proof of the old saying: “A good woman can turn a good man into a great man.” Christie cheers Marlyn up during the bad times and encourages him to exercise humility during the great ones. She runs Marlyn’s farm while he is away racing, and has always helped the great (yet occasionally stubborn) driver stay focused on what’s most important in life: cherishing friendships. Good or bad, win or lose, Christie has always stood by Marlyn’s side.
Marlyn entered the Dacotah Speedway Hall of Fame as an Outstanding Driver who won races for nearly half a century. No one is more deserving of a place in Bismarck-Mandan racing history.
by John Gartner Sr.
Harold Rooker began his career in the racing world as a maintenance worker for the Missouri Valley Fairgrounds’ old Missouri Valley Speedway track in Bismarck. That is where Hall of Famers Ivan Sailer and Wayne Martineson introduced Harold to racetrack preparation – an art that begins with mastering the unglamorous tasks of packing and watering track. Although Harold has never competed in any stock car racing events, he was eager to work multiple jobs at the track. He soon served as a scale man, and also performed some corner official work during his hours away from the track. Harold attributes his willingness to learn on the job to his early years as a farmhand.
Harold’s superhuman dependability made him an invaluable mechanic. He tended to the track vehicles – no small task, considering how often they arrive as secondhand cast-offs. He returned those vehicles to peak working order and kept them there, ultimately saving the track many thousands of dollars. More accurately, Harold created several thousands of dollars’ worth of value, as the track never could have budgeted so much money for his level of workmanship to begin with.
When the Missouri Valley Speedway shut down permanently, Harold joined Ivan to take over operations at Dacotah Speedway. There he discovered his knack for driving the old, cantankerous knuckle buster blades that so few track hands ever master. In usual form, Harold learned by doing – an approach that requires making many mistakes, but which Harold seldom made twice.
As time progressed, so too did Harold’s talents. Dacotah Speedway started becoming one of the drivers’ favorite tracks thanks in no small part to his efforts.
Drivers Chris Krein and Bubba Christianson both provided valuable input upon joining Harold’s crew, which he implemented to improve the track even further. As the track grew more profitable, Harold’s equipment would become better and better. But no matter how much the technology at his disposal improved, Harold never failed to pay attention to the small details that separate a good track from a great one. He has invested countless hours into watering, packing and blading, always making certain the surface is never too wet, never too dry, never too coarse, and scored with the ideal number of racing grooves. Harold owes that level of detail to watching the weather radar like a hawk and making whichever decisions are necessary to ensure the best possible conditions for drivers.
Harold is also actively involved in Truck and Tractor Pulling, and has made a sizeable contribution to building the annual event at Dacotah Speedway. Harold is 73 years old at the time of writing and has given no indication that he intends to throw in the towel anytime soon. But when he does, he will ensure that his art lives on through his beloved granddaughter whom he trains.
Harold entered the Dacotah Speedway Hall of Fame in the Builder Category.
by John Gartner Sr.
An engineer by trade, Herb first began lending his expertise to the Dacotah Speedway when he facilitated the track’s creation back in 1990. But it was Herb’s long-time service as the BMSCA’s treasurer which truly helped the all-volunteer organization to excel. By combining his devotion to racing with his expert fiscal management, Herb has kept our club consistently solvent while continually improving it for more than three decades.
Herb got his start as a driver at a later stage in life. He won a contest to drive a club-built hobby stock type car at the old Bismarck Speedway during the late ’80s. The BMSCA had recently taken over the management of the facility, and its members were happy to see that their promotion to attract talented new drivers worked perfectly. Once hooked on racing, Herb proceeded to win events in Street Car, Late Model Sportsman, and finally in Modified. Herb’s positive demeanor on and off the track also earned him several awards for sportsmanship over the course of his career.
Although he has retired both as a driver and as a professional engineer, Herb continues to donate his efforts toward promoting the BMSCA and the great sport of racing however he can. Herb epitomizes what a driver, volunteer club official and Hall of Fame Foundation Builder should be.
Blaine Doppler has raced just about every class of car (with the exception of sprint) during a career that spanned over two decades. He started out at the old quarter-mile Bismarck Speedway track in 1988, where he drove a Bomber to win during his inaugural year of racing. Blaine sold that car to fellow Hall of Famer Carrie Mundahl and switched to a Wissota Street Stock for his second season of racing. True to form, Blaine won the season championship in that division as a rookie.
Blaine made the move to the Late Model Sportsman class in 1991. He won feature races in that division while driving on Dacotah Speedway’s new track in Mandan, and also drove Daryn Schuler’s WISSOTA Modified during a part of the season Daryn was unavailable for.
Blaine made the biggest move of his career when he joined Paul Muehler’s race team in 1996. He raced with Paul at several tracks throughout North Dakota, as well as one in Aberdeen, SD which was a hotbed of Late Model talent at the time. Blaine showed his mettle while competing against legends including Kent Arment, Curt Gelling, Mitch Johnson and John Seitz.
In 2010 Blaine etched his name on the North Dakota Governor’s Cup Late Model trophy – an achievement which was only more remarkable given that the best of the very best were racing at Dacotah Speedway at the time.
Blaine has many good memories of racing, and has also expressed great pride for having served as a board member for the club while improving both its facility and its track. Blaine’s tenure as a board member coincided with tremendous growth at Dacotah Speedway, but it was no coincidence. His support for the track and his fellow drivers equals the feats Blaine accomplished while he was behind the wheel of the #46 car, and exemplifies what it means to be a Hall of Famer.
By Becca Pelkey
Charlie Erickson (or Charlie Williams, as many locals know him) grew up in south-central Minnesota. He became interested in racing at a very young age while watching all-time greats like Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin and Richard Petty on the television. Charlie pursued that passion in the early ’90s when he got into dirt track racing while living in Sioux Falls, SD. At that time he frequented Huset’s Speedway in Brandon, SD, where he watched World of Outlaws drivers deftly navigate the famously muddy track.
Charlie quickly joined the local racing community when he moved to Bismarck in 1996 – the same year he started announcing at the old Bismarck Raceway. Charlie would also become Dacotah Speedway’s announcer in 2000, and joined a third track when he became Jamestown Speedway’s announcer around the same time.
Charlie was elected to the Missouri Valley Stock Car Association in 1999. When the Bismarck Raceway closed, he was instrumental in pushing for a merger with the BMSCA. He served as club president from 2004 until 2014, ultimately deciding to step down so he could solely focus on announcing.
Dacotah Speedway built a new scoring tower, installed scoreboards in corners one and two, and added a new pit shack under Charlie’s leadership. Charlie pushed for the track to use RACEceiver racing radios and helped to install its transponder scoring system. Thanks to Charlie’s efforts, Dacotah Speedway became one of the first tracks in the state of North Dakota to feature electric time and scoring. He also spearheaded the track’s state-of-the-art sound system, and started Dacotah Speedway’s original website.
Charlie introduced Dacotah Speedway to electric race management. The program, which is called MyRacePass (formerly Speednet), calculates race lineups, tabulates points, and handles the draw every race night. Charly worked closely with Marlys Schuler, who had previously performed all of those tasks by hand, to ensure the new software was working properly before sending the results and points off to the proper sanctioning bodies.
Charlie’s wife Deb and sons Jordan and Mitch also volunteered at Dacotah Speedway. In 2017 the couple moved to North Carolina to live closer to their sons. Although Charlie may not live here anymore, his legacy lives on through all the improvements he made to our great racing facility.
Dave McFerran’s racing career began in 1954 at the old Twin City Speedway near Menoken, ND. He raced in the B Division, driving old cars from the ’30s and ’40s that had been furnished with powerful Ford six-cylinder flathead engines.
Dave was very successful in the B Division, winning many feature races before taking the North Dakota State Championship in 1959. He was one of very few local drivers to gain distinction during that era, as at the time many small-town and county fairgrounds around the state could only feature stock car racing on dedicated horse tracks.
Dave also drove an A Division car with a V8 engine for Phil Thomas in Mandan. He raced using Phil’s #21 car in addition to his own B Division #74 car. Dave raced at the old Dacotah Speedway until its closure in 1962. He passed away in 2020.
by John Gartner Sr.
Competing at the old Central States Race track back in the mid ’70s meant squaring off against some mighty tough street car drivers – but one in particular stood out as the toughest. His name was Larry Oswald, and his natural talent, fiercely honed skill, and brothers’ support in the garage and in the pits made his #63 car the one to beat.
The Oswald brothers had a knack for completely rebuilding high-performance big-block Chevy engines until they boasted substantially greater horsepower than any showroom model. Larry, Clifford and fellow Hall of Famer Terry’s creations were as fast as they were dependable. Truly a well-rounded team!
Several current Hall of Famers raced against each other during the street car wars of that era. There were Lynn Christianson in his Chevelle, Darryl Erickson in his Torino, and even a fresh-faced kid by the name of Johnny Gartner tearing up the track in his Mopar. The roars of big-block beasts echoed out for miles in every direction during those legendary Tuesday race nights. Back then, beating Larry often meant winning the feature as well – and very few drivers had what it takes to put Larry in their rearview mirrors.
The Oswald brothers’ shared love for making Chevy cars go extremely fast still bonds them together, as they currently run a busy independent car repair business together.
by John Gartner Sr.
Racing was a man’s sport for many years in North Dakota. There were the Powder Puff events, but few women ever ventured to challenge men during regular races. Carrie Mundahl finally shattered our state’s racing gender barrier when she decided to compete in the Bomber division at the old quarter-mile Bismarck Speedway in 1989.
With her husband Steve serving as her primary pitman, as well as her brother Nathan and Emily, supporting her in the pits, Carrie didn’t just keep up with the men. To the chagrin of many, she started beating them as well. Moreover, her reputation as a clean driver meant she would frequently receive the nomination for sportswoman of the year.
Carrie quickly won over the female-race audience. They cheered for her when she moved up to the Wissota Street Stock class in 1990. Her natural talent and exhilarating performance on the track soon won over most of the men as well. She started garnering a regional following when she decided to run for a Wissota Street Stock national championship in the summer of 1995, which required competing at many different tracks several nights each week. It was a grueling run that few have the fortitude to undertake, but Carrie’s solid family team was committed to making mom #1 in all of Wissota. She raced all over the state and won the Nodak Speedway season championship that year.
Late that season Carrie’s engine was protested and torn apart. The controversial ruling didn’t go in her favor, but she remained a class act throughout the whole ordeal. Once the dust settled, even Carrie’s fiercest critics agreed no single engine part was attributable for her success. Skill, grit and determination: these are the qualities Carrie will always be remembered for.
Carrie and Steve have now turned their attention to supporting their children’s racing careers. The family has also competed in the BMX races which so often serve as a first step for future race car drivers. But wherever, whenever and however the Mindahls race, it’s always a family affair.
by John Gartner Sr.
Marlan “Hawk” Haakenson entered the world of stock car racing in 1954. That’s the year he joined fellow Hall of Famer Johnny Gartner at the old Twin City Speedway near Menoken, ND. Hawk proved to be a talented pitman for Johnny despite his young age.
Hawk became a driver in 1962, choosing a motorcycle for his inaugural races at the the old Dacotah Speedway near Bismarck. He soon switched to stock cars, and drove a ’56 Chevy with a 283 V8 engine when he won the season championship during his first year on the track.
In 1967 Hawk bought a used supermodified (now known as a sprint car) from a driver who had just won the prestigious Minnesota State Fair. He adorned car #14 in patriotic red, white and blue and raced it against legends including Hank Albers, Don Mack, Andy Nikitenko and Butch Skari over the course of his long career. He won at least five season championships during his time on the track in addition to several features.
After retiring as a driver, Hawk devoted much of his time to helping other young men get involved in his beloved sport. He also served as Mayor of Bismarck from 1986 until 1990, during which time he facilitated the creation of the Missouri Valley Fairgrounds and the Bismarck Speedway. He even helped to break in the new track by running hot laps around it in his vintage race car.
by John Gartner Sr.
Curt Klien didn’t fall in love with the local stock car racing scene until 1990 – the year his late wife wanted to go and check out Mandan’s newest race track. His initial experience at the freshly built Dacotah Speedway stirred a newfound appreciation for the operational side of racing in Curt’s heart, and so he became a volunteer on the track maintenance crew the very next year.
The club used to need someone to cart a big dry erase board in front of the cars during lineups. Curt volunteered, and quickly mastered the art of running backward so drivers could see the board as they sped by. When the club needed someone to perform tech duties, serve as corner official, and man the big tower’s scoring booth, its members asked Curt. His answer was always the same: an enthusiastic “Yes.”
Curt became a club board member in 1994, club president in 1997, and then a board member again until 2000. When the club’s idea to start a Hall of Fame started picking up momentum, Curt’s preternatural knowledge of local racing made him the ideal historian. He spent countless hours alongside Marlys Schuler poring over yellowed newspaper articles and old racing programs dating back to the ’50s while researching legendary drivers. Curt unearthed many photos in the process that had previously been assumed lost.
Curt just recently announced his retirement from his official duties at Dacotah Speedway. His contributions to the local racing community are just as invaluable as they are permanent, and so we hope he will say yes to us one more time when we ask him to help us create the North Dakota Racing Hall of Fame.
by John Gartner Sr.
Lynn Christiansen started racing in 1967 at the old Dacotah Speedway – back when the track was located on “old, old” Highway 10 just southeast of Bismarck. His first car bore the number 172, and he raced it in a class that was very similar to our current Hobby Stock division. Lynn switched to Street class and the number 45 during his first year on the track.
Dacotah Speedway closed its gate for good with the end of the 1970 season. Many drivers started searching for a new track, which led some to found the Capital City Drivers Association in 1973. Lynn served as the group’s inaugural president. That is also when he changed his Chevelle’s colors to blue and white – a paint scheme that rapidly gained popularity as he started racking up wins. Lynn placed third in points in 1976, and fourth during the following year. At the time Lynn shared a class with many talented drivers, nearly all of whom used powerful big-block engines taken directly from the popular muscle cars of the era.
In 1979 Lynn decided to move up to the new Super Stock division, which allowed headers and significantly wider racing tires. He finished in fourth place in 1980. Unfortunately, his preferred track closed once again for financial issues at the end of that season. The track reopened under a new promoter in 1983. The following year Gordy Berg offered Lynn his #44 car, which he drove until his final year of racing in 1988.
Lynn won many heats, features and trophy dashes during a career that spanned over two decades. Always friendly and always the life of the post-race party, Lynn gained plenty of friends and pitmen over the years. Many of them went on to race themselves. Many others started turning wrenches for new drivers. Both of Lynn’s sons would become key pitmen for other drivers as well. Mike “Bubba” Christiansen currently serves as a board member for the BMSCA and crew chief to long-time driver and Hall of Famer Marlyn Seidler.
by John Gartner Sr.
Tony Geiger began racing at the old Dacotah Speedway in 1964. He got his start driving what was then known as a “B” car – very similar to our current Hobby Stock cars, with stock components. He raced at the track until it was permanently gated following the 1969 season.
There was no racing in the area during the 1970 and 1971 seasons. Fortunately, Central States Raceway opened in 1972, and with it came Tony’s long-awaited return to racing. His brother Bob joined him in a new class called Late Model. Two-digit numbers were encouraged to help lap counters keep track of the Late Model cars, so Tony emblazoned his own with the number 79.
Tony and Bob owned a used auto parts business, and they both loved to tinker. In other words, they were suited perfectly for developing Late Model cars’ high-performance engines. Tony built a Nova with a custom racing chassis and painted it black – an unusual choice of color at the time. It did not deter A & B Pizza, a new restaurant that was rapidly gaining popularity in the area, from sponsoring Tony. He raced full-time with great success until the 1980 season.
The Geiger brothers were quite popular among other local drivers – not just because they offered a wide selection of quality parts, but also because they freely shared their knowledge with younger drivers who were still cutting their teeth on the sport. In an era before the track attracted parts vendors, the Geigers’ connections with emerging chassis builders secured other local racers’ access to key parts. The BMSCA’s inaugural Swap Meet was held in the brothers’ own shop. The event gained traction, and gradually grew into a regional event that helped countless drivers pursue their passion and advance their careers.
by John Gartner Sr.
Danny Herman came from a racing family – his father and fellow Hall of Famer Herbert “Lefty” Herman was one of the pioneers of racing in the Bismarck-Mandan area. Danny began his career by driving a street stock car at the old Central States Race Track in 1972. Two years later he moved up to the Late Model class, driving a bright red Camaro with #61 on its side.
Danny raced for a time in the Tri-Can Late Model series, finding success at tracks all around the region. His best year was 1976 when he finished third in season points. He concluded his Late Model days in 1980, as his local track remained closed in 1981 and 1982. Danny then switched over to the popular Super Stock class, finishing third in points in both the 1984 and 1985 seasons. When the class switched to the Late Model Sportsman division in 1990, Danny followed suit and finished third in points once more in 1991. Danny switched divisions yet again in 1995. He would compete in the WISSOTA Modified class until 1998, when he passed away at the young age of 48.
Danny took pride in building almost all of his own equipment, just as his father had during the earliest days of racing in our area. He was a hard-charging driver, who often refused newer technology like power steering. To Danny, race cars were meant to be manhandled around corners.
Danny’s son Steve helped pit for his father, and also raced for himself for a time. In doing so he became one of the area’s very first third-generation drivers.
by John Gartner Sr.
Ross Nathan began racing in 1983 at the tender young age of 17 – hence the #17 painted on his very first Street Stock race car. The following year would prove an auspicious start for Ross, as he became mid-season points runner up and Street Stock season champion. Unfortunately, Ross was also diagnosed with a serious health condition that forced his retirement as a driver in 1984.
Despite that setback, Ross was still determined to help the fledgling BMSCA get off the ground. A welder by trade, Ross volunteered to help build and repair much-needed track equipment at a time when the club had few resources to spare. Ross performed almost all the track prep, and also served as race director, tech inspector, flagman, and any other role necessary to get the job done. Thanks to Ross’s and others’ hard work, the club made a good profit in 1989 – a time when plenty of capital was required in anticipation of the construction of a new track in Mandan.
When the club moved to Dacotah Speedway in 1990, Ross continued his volunteer work by helping to create the new guard rail, scoring tower, and several other features still in use today. Ross’s company Capital City Welding donated many materials over the years which were all instrumental in turning Dacotah Speedway into one of the Upper Midwest’s premier racing facilities.
by John Gartner Sr.
Marlys Schuler became a fan of racing when she started watching her son Daryn compete at the old Bismarck Speedway (a track which has since been incorporated into the city of Bismarck’s municipal landfill). When the BMSCA moved to the new Dacotah Speedway in 1990 and needed help with the tough yet crucial job of scoring, Marlys graciously volunteered her services counting laps. Her natural accuracy and reliability quickly made her into an expert.
Marlys stepped up yet again when the club’s growth necessitated a new secretary to manage its financial affairs. She performed those duties in addition to counting laps until Dacotah Speedway finally added an electronic scoring system. But points still had to be calculated and lineups still had to be coordinated even with that new technology. Fortunately, Marlys was there to keep the wheels turning year after year.
Marlys also spent hundreds of hours helping Curt Klein’s research into racing history in our area. Her knowledge of drivers from the earliest eras of racing proved invaluable to the Hall of Fame committee.
When Marlys announced her decision to ease into retirement, the sheer scope of her services became all the more apparent. She worked closely training the new volunteers who would assume her duties. They all learned from the best, but at the end of the day Marlys truly was irreplaceable.
Marlys Schuler has dedicated well over three decades of her life to the great sport of racing. Many fans will never witness her work firsthand, but she was instrumental to Dacotah Speedway’s success nonetheless. The BMSCA had the great privilege of honoring Marlys’s legacy upon inducting her to the Hall of Fame under the Foundation Builder category.
by John Gartner Sr.
Terry “The Outlaw” Barnes started racing in 1983 in a blue and white Chevy Impala Street Stock. In 1987 he made the jump to Late Model, competing at the old Fastrax Speedway and other tracks throughout the region. The Outlaw switched to Wissota Super stock in 1987, and then moved up to WISSOTA Modified the following year. He continued to race until taking a break in 1998, but eventually returned to the track for a couple more years while competing in Wissota Street Stock.
The Outlaw is just as colorful a character as his nickname suggests, but he also has a heart of gold. He gave away hundreds of bikes to young children, and many claim it was actually he who started the bike giveaways that are popular at race tracks around our region. He was also generous with his time and expertise. Several drivers credit The Outlaw for getting them started including Troy Butz and Jeremy Schmidt.
The Outlaw also spent time serving on the BMSCA’s board of directors in the ’80s and ’90s. His generosity toward fans and fellow drivers was matched by his marketing skills. The gifted promoter tirelessly drummed up interest in Bismarck Speedway and Dacotah Speedway during a time when both tracks were in operation. The Outlaw was also involved in starting the North Dakota Governor’s Cup Auto Race, and even met with Governor George A. Sinner during original planning of the event.
The Outlaw is never at a loss for words, and always had a colorful phrase or two for anyone he might have disagreed with. But while he may not have supported every decision that was made at Dacotah Speedway, he was always eager to show up and lend all of his effort toward supporting the greatest sport on earth. That is the hallmark of a Hall of Famer in our book.
by John Gartner Sr.
Paul Schulz started racing in 1968 at the age of 19. His first car was a Ford adorned with the number 3. He won his first feature and his first race at the Underwood track near his hometown of Washburn. Paul continued to race at tracks throughout North Dakota and South Dakota, finally winning his first championship in 1972 while competing in the Modified Stock Class at Bismarck’s Central States Race Track.
Paul switched to Chevy race cars after that coup, although he continued enjoying success wherever he raced. In 1973 he decided to try his hand at a different class, and drove a sprint car with the number 33 at the Nodak Speedway in Minot. In 1974 Paul resumed driving full-bodied race cars when he switched to a Chevelle emblazoned with the number 103. Paul returned to his original number in 1975, this time driving the #3 Camaro in the Late Model division. Paul won the North Dakota State Fair Championships that year and the next in the Late Model class at Nodak Speedway.
In 1977 Paul tried out the Mini-Sprint and raced in Bottineau. The following year he returned to Late Model racing, and won the Minot Merchants Harvest 100 as well as the Tri-Can Special in Grand Forks. In 1979 Paul became the Nodak Speedway Tri-Can winner and took the Williston Upper Missouri Valley Fair Late Model Championship. In 1986 and 1987 he drove in the Late Model class in the #2 car for Harry Kittler of Turtle Lake. In 1988 he drove a Dakota Modified at the Nodak Speedway. In 1989 he switched over to the new WISSOTA Modified class. In 1991 he won Jamestown’s Stock Car Stampede. He was crowned the Dacotah Speedway WISSOTA Modified Season Champion that very same year.
Paul became too busy with farming to make it to all the races following those eventful years. He had to step back for a bit while he recovered from the open heart surgery he received in 1995, but he was ready to return to the driver’s seat the following year. He drove a Late Model in 1996, and traveled to the Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo where he won the Budweiser National and was the Wissota Late Model Winner.
Since then Paul has raced IMCA Modified with the number 3, which he changed to 333 in 2014. In 2009 Paul founded Strateline Engineering, a business which specializes in building and selling modifieds. Paul has kept racing a major part of his family and built Hobby and Sport Mod cars for his grandson Aaron Aaseth. Today Paul lends his talents to McLean County Speedway in Underwood.
by John Gartner Sr.
If there was ever a local driver whose career merited induction to the Dacotah Speedway Hall of Fame, it is Leo Burkhardsmeier.
Leo began racing as a teenager at Fargo’s big half-mile Red River Valley Speedway in 1968. He cut his teeth driving his #8 car with the flying eight ball theme against Fargo area legends including Rick Aukland, Johnny Correl, Big Joe Jacobson and Bobby Sagen. Leo founded a transmission business in Bismarck in the early ’80s, but still found time to race in Fargo every Friday night. He used the venerable big-block 440 engine to build the all Mopar Super Stock that won him multiple season championships and hundreds of feature wins all over the region.
When WISSOTA Modified entered the scene in the late ’80s, Leo adapted that same Mopar engine into a Chevy frame to create a car that was all but unbeatable. He took four consecutive national WISSOTA Modified titles in the mid ’90s. In doing so he caused WISSOTA to outlaw big-block engines altogether, instituting a lower weight rule that favored small-block engines and slightly less dominating cars as a result.
Leo switched from WISSOTA Modifieds to IMCA Modifieds and raced locally until his retirement from the sport in 2012. When asked to name his toughest competition, he narrowed it down to a single driver who didn’t race very often in the eastern part of North Dakota: Hank Berry. “Hank didn’t have the best equipment early on,” Leo recounted, “but he could drive anything well.”
Leo has been nominated in the Modern Era category despite having raced during all three time periods. If you ever get an opportunity to listen to him speak about his long and storied career – seize it.
by John Gartner Sr.
Allen Johnson has attended stock car races for nearly as long as they have been presented in the Bismarck-Mandan area. He first became a fan at the old Dacotah Speedway, where he remembers fondly watching great drivers including Bob Bender, Marlyn “Hawk” Haakenson, Herbert “Lefty” Herman and “Curley” Werner as they raced around the old quarter-mile track until its permanent closure in the late ’60s.
Allen could finally resume watching his favorite sport in person with the completion of the new Central States Raceway. There he witnessed a new generation of drivers such as Donny “Big Block” Bender, Marv Gillig, and a fellow salvage yard owner named Leroy Walker. Many drivers of that era were also Allen’s good customers, as parts from Johnson’s Wrecking were often installed on and inside their cars. Allen began sponsoring many of those cars when he took the Mandan business over from his father “Pops” Johnson.
When the new Dacotah Speedway was built in Allen’s hometown, he started supporting the track with advertising and by helping to keep its older maintenance vehicles operational. Allen always seemed to have (or at least know where to find) the inexpensive parts the track and its drivers needed in order to keep going every night. In time Allen’s son Brian also stepped up to help out at the track.
Allen’s support for Dacotah Speedway as a life-long fan, sponsor and advertiser is unmatched. No other local businessman in the area has sponsored more cars or helped more drivers than him. For that reason we are honored to induct him to the Hall of Fame under the Foundation Builder category.
by John Gartner Sr.
Terry Oswald began his racing career in 1974 right after he got out of the service. Terry started out driving a Ford just like his brother Larry. His other brother Clifford built a Chevy, and both he and Larry soon made the switch to the “bowtie brand” that was becoming mainstream for its lower-cost parts (many of which were actually available for free at alleys and junkyards).
No matter the brand the Oswalds raced, one thing was for certain: They would rely on one another for anything they might need throughout their racing careers. Despite any differences they may have had, the brothers were all mechanics by trade. They would tear their cars to pieces every week to ensure no problems were in store during their next races. Fellow competitors knew that a mechanical failure would never hold back an Oswald. Beating one of the brothers demanded great skill on the track – another tall order, because Oswalds are as gifted at driving as they are at mechanics.
Terry’s best year came in 1985. That’s when he was crowned season champ in the Street class at the old Bismarck Speedway, which was run at the time by fellow Hall of Famer Darrell Farland. Terry decided to retire from driving while he was still on top, but continued to participate in racing by serving as a pit steward and then as a flagman for Allan Doffee. Terry’s many years as a driver, official and BMSCA board member all exhibited his love for and service to the great sport of racing.
Always a family man, Terry currently works at Oswald Brothers Repair in Bismarck. The long list of drivers he respected as tough competitors includes Darrell Bauer, Lynn Christianson, Darrell Erickson and John Gartner. He was nominated for the Legacy Era due to his driving accomplishments and outstanding service as an official and board member.
Pioneer & Legacy Eras
by John Gartner Sr.
Pioneers of our area’s racing scene characteristically wore multiple different hats. Once they concluded their driving careers, they continued to keep the great sport of racing alive by supporting their favorite tracks during their retirements.
Allan Berg exemplified this principle. He raced from 1964 until 1967, and then again in 1972 at Central States Race Track. He was chosen as Sportsman of the Year in 1967, and elected as president of Stock Car Inc. by his peers from 1968 until 1969.
But Allan’s retirement did not end his active support for racing. He was a car owner for many drivers and sponsored the cars that were driven by many others. His wrecking yard provided an invaluable source of parts that he was quick to sell to racers at reduced prices (if he charged them at all).
Allan also served numerous tracks as their wrecker driver. Local tracks seldom owned their own towing equipment back in the day, but they could always rely on Allan to arrive and be ready on race nights. Allan would keep a cool head and a steady hand whenever emotional drivers emerged from their wrecked cars. He would calm them down as he loaded their cars onto trailers. He offered them sage advice, as well as the parts they needed to fix the damage – oftentimes for free.
As a true renaissance man of the racing world, Allan was universally respected and regarded as an excellent role model by younger drivers. We lost Allan in 1997, but the Bismarck-Mandan racing community still remains strong thanks in no small part to his kindness, advice, and passion for our great sport. We are proud to honor a foundational contributor to the Modern Era of racing.
by John Gartner Sr.
Johnny Gartner officially started what would become a three-generation racing family when he first took the wheel at the old Twin City Speedway in 1955. His friends had recently persuaded Johnny that racing was much safer than the illegal street hotrods of the time. The new track just east of Bismarck provided the perfect place in which to demonstrate his talent.
Johnny initially drove a “B” car that was owned by Bob Anderson. His number, 147, represented the first three digits of Bob’s Body Shop’s phone number. Johnny moved up to the “A” division the following year, when he drove for Ken Landers and was sponsored by Harley McDowell’s new Big Boy Drive Inn.
Johnny’s best year came in 1958, when he raced all over the state in a Corvette powdered by a fuel-injected 283 V8. He developed a close friendship with fellow cobbler Andy Niktenko of Minot during that time. In 1960 Johnny moved up to the Super Modified division, where he drove a car with an Oldsmobile fuel-injected engine, early sprint car chassis and wing on its roof. Johnny was severely injured during a rollover at a race in Jamestown – a mishap which convinced Johnny that cars’ capabilities had evolved faster than their safety features.
Johnny was always the life of the party after each race. No matter how fiercely a driver competed against him, they would quickly become Johnny’s long-time friend off the track. Johnny believed that sportsmanship, family and giving back are all inextricable qualities of racing. He passed away in 1974 at the young age of 46, but we are proud to keep his philosophy alive at Dacotah Speedway.
John J. Gartner
by John Gartner Sr.
If you looked in the driver’s seat of Johnny Gartner’s car after he finished a race, you might have found two boys taking turns at the wheel and making engine noises. They would have been Greg and John – Johnny’s sons.
John started following racing alongside his father in the late ’50s. After John’s father passed away, John kicked off his own racing career by teaming up to build his own car with his fellow shopmates Paul Mueller and Don Sayer. John was hooked on racing for life when he won three features in 1976. In 1983 he teamed up with car owner Warren Greenwell and raced in the new Super Stock class in Bismarck, Fargo, Jamestown and Minot. He took the Minot Harvest 100 and several other features in 1983. He won the Super Stock Season Championship in Bismarck in 1983. John also had the distinction of becoming one of North Dakota’s first drivers to get featured in a national magazine when his ’84 Dodge Daytona appeared on the cover of Circle Track.
John was the BMSCA’s very first promoter, beginning at the old Bismarck Speedway in 1988. He worked closely alongside his friends and a host of hard-working volunteers to build the new Dacotah Speedway in 1990. In 1991 John was hired as director of the Mandan Park District, which owned Dacotah Speedway, and was instrumental to shepherding the track through its earliest years.
John made plenty of other contributions to racing when he wasn’t at the wheel making engine noises. He acted as mentor to many track officials, guiding them so they could become better at their duties and managing their yearly training program. John’s knack for instruction was nationally recognized when he was invited to speak at an RPM Promotions workshop. John served as one of the founders of the Dakota Classic Modified Tour, which he also helped guide.
John’s leadership united Western North Dakota racetracks for many decades, and for that we are honored to name him as a Foundation Builder for the Modern Era of racing in our area.
by John Gartner Sr.
Don Helbling’s involvement with the BMSCA began in 1982 when he built a Ford Super Stock to run at the old Fastrax Speedway east of Bismarck. He served as the club’s president for many years, leading the movement to transition from a privately promoted racetrack to the club-run facility that is still in existence today.
Don worked with the Mandan Board of Park Commissioners to establish the fundraising system that would ultimately build the track known as Dacotah Speedway. Don continued to lead the club after its move to its newly established facility in 1990. In 1991 Don built a WISSOTA Modified which he raced until his retirement from driving three years later.
Don was instrumental in the creation of local swap meets, and worked diligently to help nearby tracks coordinate their scheduling. His sharp business acumen and experience in construction inspired the group of volunteers which built Dacotah Speedway’s lower grandstands, old announcer’s tower, current pit concession stand, water trucks and scale. Don took inspiration he gained during visits to NASCAR tracks and adapted it to fit the local racing scene’s unique needs.
Don’s ability to stretch a dollar without sacrificing continual improvement of the track and its equipment was indispensable during the club’s early years when its funding was so tight. He was a leader with a singular vision for his beloved club – and the rare talents he needed to bring it to life.
Herbert "Lefty" Herman
by John Gartner Sr.
Lefty and his family were true pioneers in the sport of stock car racing. They were instrumental in constructing the Capital City Track (later renamed Twin City Speedway) on the Rennick farm seven miles east of Bismarck. Lefty raced with his brother Eldon “Eldy” Herman, and also joined his father working on cars over the years.
Lefty started his racing career upon completing his service in the United States Army in 1950, driving for a while at a track situated between Bismarck and Mandan. He won the points championship in 1954, and spent the rest of the decade competing at tracks across North Dakota. Lefty moved to Jamestown following his retirement from racing in 1961, but still participated as a car owner for several more years.
Lefty passed away in 1997 at the age of 68. His brother Eldy is still a great fan of racing, and has supported the club by submitting old photos and sharing history of the earliest days of racing in our area.
by John Gartner Sr.
Ivan Sailer started riding his bike to the track when he was 12 years old – always excited to see his favorite driver Ernie Seeman in action. In 1976 an 18-year-old Ivan began driving Street Stocks and Super Stocks, both categories he would compete in for the next 12 years. He was instrumental in bringing Modifieds to the North Dakota Racing circuit. In 1989 Ivan and his wife Sheila founded Racer Performance Center, which supplied fuel and parts to drivers on and off the track for over 25 years.
Ivan, his brother Dennis and his best friend Al Doffee founded Winner Circle Promotions in 1996. They spent countless hours away from home running the Bismarck Speedway, always ensuring it was prepared for thrilling Wednesday night races. Ivan and his crew ran both Bismarck Speedway and Dacotah Speedway during the 2000 season.
Ivan brought the first three INEX Legend cars to North Dakota in 1998. In 2001 he purchased 10 additional INEX Legend cars and started the rental program that gave many drivers their start. Many successful Modified drivers got their bearings on those cars before moving up. Ivan continues to race INEX Legend cars at Dacotah Speedway and other tracks to this day.
Ivan served on the BMSCA’s board of directors in 1984, 2005 and 2006. He was president of the club in 1982, 1983, 2007 and 2008. During those terms he brought in the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars, Monster Trucks and Thunder Fours. Over the years Ivan has brought many new faces to auto racing. He understands the sport’s value to the local community, and his commitment to growing it has earned his place as a Foundation Builder for the Modern Era of racing in our area.
Legacy & Modern Era
by John Gartner Sr.
Bob Simmers raced for over a quarter of a century. He primarily drove Late Models painted white and green with the number 13 – a double defiance of convention, as many drivers have traditionally considered both green and that number to be extremely unlucky. Bob defied convention even further by using a converted ’46 Flxible Bus as his tow rig, as well as a double decker trailer long before they became common in racing.
Bob used to race as often as six times per week, and competed a phenomenal 130 times during one extraordinarily busy year. In 1980 he won the Tri-Can Late Model Championship running a small-block Chevy engine when almost all of his competitors chose the venerable 454 big block. (Tri-Can was the Late Model sanctioning body before the creation of Wissota.) Although he was well aware of its lower horsepower, Bob took full advantage of a lighter small-block car’s superior handling. Within a few years almost everyone else would do the same.
Like many of those who built up the racing scene in our area, Bob was driven to give back to the sport he loved even when he wasn’t at the wheel. In 1989 he took some time off from active racing to become flagman at Bismarck Speedway, Dacotah Speedway, Missouri Valley Speedway and in Jamestown.
In 1993 Bob teamed up with Jim Sahr, an old classmate who worked for Ace Chassis, to build a new Modified. In 1995 he was points champ at both Missouri Valley and Dacotah Speedway, and was named Driver of the Year by the latter. Bob retired from racing in 1997 at the age of 50 and focused on his other hobby of building muscle cars. Today he drag races an impressive ’74 Chevy Nova, and can often be spotted cruising around town in one of his many muscle car era Pontiacs.
Bob helped build both the Legacy and Modern Eras of racing in our area, and for that he has our sincerest gratitude.