By Bert Lehman
Editor, Full Throttle magazine
If you want to learn why Roger Regeth was a human punching bag during his racing career, or why Pete Parker was suspended by area dirt tracks in 1976, the book “Life in the Past Lane – a history of stock car racing from 1950 to 1980 in Northeast Wisconsin” is a must read.
“Life in the Past Lane” is written by Joe Verdegan, who has been involved in local racing in many capacities over the years, including a contributing writer for Full Throttle magazine.
The 223-page book contains 33 chapters, many of them profiling the top race car drivers from Northeast Wisconsin during the fledgling years of local stock car racing, as well as the heyday of the local racing scene up until 1980.
I received an advance copy of the book in order to write this book review.
I have been following local stock car racing since I was a kid and I am fascinated by the history of local stock car racing. After reading “Life in the Past Lane” all I have to say is I want to read and learn more about what took place at local dirt track in the past.
Through the chapters in the book it was easy to get a sense of what a racing life was like back in the day. Buying race cars cheap, fabricating parts obtained at junkyards, and racing up to five nights a week. Drivers shared how this allowed them to sometimes actually turn a profit from racing. That’s a far cry from today’s local racing scene where everything is specialized, and expenses have soared.
One thing that surprised me was how much drivers in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s traveled to other tracks, including tracks in other states. And they didn’t have the fancy haulers and trailers that many of today’s drivers have.
The book also delves into racing in other areas other than the Fox Valley, Green Bay and Shawano areas. A few chapters are devoted to drivers who raced in the Manitowoc area. You’ll find out that area had some unique tracks.
Several chapters are also devoted to racing in the Luxemburg and Sturgeon Bay areas. This included a chapter about drivers from Upper Michigan invading the tracks in those areas.
The rise and fall of the dirt track in De Pere was also touched on in the book. I’m not going to share any of those details here as I don’t want to ruin your reading pleasure, because it is worth the read.
Any race fan of local racing history will enjoy “Life in the Past Lane.” It is easy to read, and will have you asking for more. Oh yeah, there are also some cool vintage photos in the book.
There is so much more I could write about that is in the book, but I’ll let you find all the nuggets of information in the book.
“Life in the Past Lane” will be released on Saturday, Dec. 5. Verdegan will be part of a book signing at Titletown Brewery on Green Bay’s west side, from noon to 3 p.m.
The book will also be available at Amazon.com after Dec. 5.
Outlets confirmed that will be selling the book include: Muenster Shell in Green Bay, Victory Sign in Suamico and Bosses News Depot in Green Bay. Other places, which will be named later, will be available. Follow the Northeast Wisconsin Racing History Facebook page for further announcements.