By Bert Lehman
One of the things that I enjoy about being the editor of Full Throttle is having the opportunity to interview drivers who I watched race when I was a kid.
I grew up attending races at Shawano Speedway since that was the closest track to where I grew up. The track was about 40 minutes from our house, so my mom would take my sister and I to two races during the summer, while my dad would join us for the races held during the Shawano County Fair.
When I was a kid, Roger Paul was my favorite driver. I think that had something to do with the fact he was known as “The Flying Farmer” and I grew up on a dairy farm. Whatever the reason, he was a good driver to have as a favorite.
I remember the first time I met Paul, it was at a bar between Shawano and Clintonville. Paul and several other former racers gathered there because they were being recognized in a hand-painting on a saw blade. I was tasked with writing a story about it for the Shawano Leader.
To this day, I remember how excited I was to meet Paul. At the event I had the opportunity to talk racing with him. I still have a photo that someone gave me of myself and Paul talking.
I can’t say that Chick Stolarik was ever my favorite driver, but I remember when he emerged on the dirt Late Model scene in Northeast Wisconsin in the early 1980s. I think there are three reasons I remember Stolarik. The fact he was from Illinois and drove to Shawano each week. The fact he won a feature when he was 18 years old. And also because of his name, it just kind of rolled off the tongue.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Stolarik for the August issue of Full Throttle. Just as I was excited to speak with Paul, I was excited to speak with Stolarik. I was also excited because I had the opportunity to ask him about a time he was black flagged at Shawano Speedway. I was at the races that night, and that night of racing is one that I remember the most.
Before I had the chance to ask Stolarik about it, he brought up the incident and described it in detail.
I vividly remember watching Stolarik riding the high side trying to catch the field of cars after he was black flagged. Eventually Stolarik hit the wall while driving like a “bat out of hell.” He didn’t wait for a tow truck to get him off the track. Instead, he drove it onto the scale in the infield and parked the car. When he got out of the car, there was no mistaking he was upset. A tow truck then had to tow the car from the scale to Stolarik’s pit stall.
I was probably around 12 years old when I saw that, but it is still vivid in my mind. Another reason that memory may be sticking in my mind is my mom was not impressed by Stolarik’s antics. She’ll even bring that race up now and then when we talk about our times at the races.
Whether you agreed with his antics or not, that was part of the Stolarik legend.
Personally, I don’t mind when a driver shows their emotions, as long as they don’t take it too far. In this politically correct world we now live in, it’s refreshing to see drivers passionate about racing.
It may also create a lasting memory in a kid’s brain — a memory that will keep them coming back to the races.
(This article appeared in the August 2016 issue of Full Throttle magazine.)