Roger “The Flying Farmer” Paul reflects on a 22-year, Hall of Fame racing career
By Bert Lehman
Editor, Full Throttle Magazine
From 1959 to 1980 New London’s Roger Paul was one of the top drivers at local dirt tracks. During that time he won numerous track championships at various tracks, including three at Shawano Speedway — 1967, 1968 and 1973.
Looking back at his racing career, Paul, 74, says with a laugh that he’s not quite sure why, but his wife, Karen, bought him his first race car for $75. He says the car, a 1949 Olds Coupe, was smashed up and required quite a bit of fixing, but it was a good car after that.
He got his start racing on the quarter-mile dirt track in Shiocton, which no longer exists. The more he raced, the more tracks he ventured to, and for awhile he raced five nights a week. He raced at Oshkosh, Apple Creek, Shawano, De Pere and Seymour.
“I don’t know how, but we did,” Paul says regarding racing five nights a week.
Also dubbed “The Flying Farmer,” Paul says he doesn’t know when or where the nickname originated. He thinks an announcer started calling him that because he was a dairy farmer.
He says he enjoyed racing at Shawano Speedway and it was one of his favorite tracks.
“They had a lot of cars and very good competition,” Paul recalls. “It was very good. A guy thinks back now the way the track was, there were wood boards [because] it used to be a horse track. It was kind of dangerous you think back now. But they fixed it up now.”
He says there were a lot of good drivers that he raced against, and he is still in touch with some of them. But he says Roger Regeth was probably his biggest rival.
“He was very aggressive,” Paul says. “I passed him clean one night, [and] then he got on my bumper and took me right into the wall. …I would say he would be the toughest one.”
Even though he hasn’t raced since 1980, he still follows local racing, and he says he misses driving. He adds that he is glad to have raced in the era he did because of the way the cars were and it cost less to race at that time than it does now.
“It sure is different,” Paul says. The late models don’t seem like they are late models anymore. I know there is a lot more expense. You better have some sponsors or have a good wallet on you to do this.”
Despite winning three track championships at Shawano Speedway, Paul says his most memorable racing moment at the Speedway was when he rolled his car down the frontstretch. He says he doesn’t remember what year the accident occurred, but he was driving a 1934 Chevy Coupe.
“It was the start of the feature and I got a little tap on the bumper,” Paul says. “I was up front and it sent me wheeling. My sole [on my foot] was cut a little bit, other than that I never got a scratch.”
He says once he got airborne, he never touched the ground for the length of the grandstand.
“I’d come down on top of a car and I’d go back up,” Paul remembers. “I got out of the car and looked it over, it was junk. The motor was out.”
The accident didn’t stop Paul from racing, but it was a racing accident at a track in the Marshfield area that eventually led Paul to retire after the 1980 racing season. He says the accident was a chain reaction accident in which his car got sideways and another car ran into his driver’s door. He spent a day in the hospital with a concussion.
“She (wife Karen) didn’t want me to race anymore,” Paul says. “But when I got my bell rung up there, that was enough.”
Even with his retirement, he had the opportunity to race a couple times after that in his son Chad’s race car, but something always happened to keep to keep him from racing again. One time the races were rained out, and another time he was involved in an accident before the green flag waved to start the race. With those happenings, he says he believes someone was telling him it was time to hang up the helmet for good.
In July, Paul was inducted into the Shawano Speedway Hall of Fame. He says he feels very proud to be inducted into the Shawano Speedway Hall of Fame because Shawano Speedway was one of his favorite tracks. And a big reason it was a favorite track of his were the spectators who came to the track each week.
“I’m thankful for the racing years,” Paul says. “I do miss it. …Sometimes you feel like you can go again. Not with these cars, these are altogether different cars.”
(This article first appeared in the May 2010 issue of Full Throttle Magazine.)