The legend of Chick Stolarik
By Bert Lehman
In the early 1980s a young, flamboyant driver from Waukegan, Illinois, joined the dirt Late Model ranks, first in Southeast Wisconsin, and then in Northeast Wisconsin. He had the talent to grab the attention of fans, as well as an attention grabbing name — Chick Stolarik.
Stolarik’s career started in the Hobby Stock division at Waukegan Speedway when he was only 15 years old. The hurdle of not being old enough to race was easily overcome by Stolarik using his brother’s driver’s license.
After only one year in the Hobby Stock division, Stolarik’s racing career moved to the Sportsman division at Wilmot Raceway.
“I got hooked up with Howe Racing in Beaverton, Michigan,” Stolarik said. “Actually I got their catalog and a couple of buddies of mine drove me up there and we bought a kit car, our first Sportsman car. My brother and a couple of buddies, we welded it up, put it together and we went racing at Wilmot for a season.”
Wasting little time, a move to the dirt Late Model ranks followed only one year later.
“When I built my first Late Model we went up to Hales Corners, I was planning to race there, and maybe do some traveling,” Stolarik said. “I think I ran there one or two weekends and we won. I was 18 years old when we won the main. They didn’t like me after that at all.”
Soon after that the decision was made to make the drive from Illinois to Shawano Speedway each week.
Shawano Speedway wasn’t foreign territory for Stolarik as his parents owned property on Legend Lake.
“We used to go to the races [at Shawano Speedway] sometimes when I was a kid to watch,” he said. “That was back when they were running convertibles.”
Stolarik said he doesn’t remember the specifics of his first night racing at Shawano Speedway, but he remembers how he was treated by other drivers and the fans.
“They treated us like gold, M.J. McBride, Terry Anvelink, Pete Parker, and the Buckbee family took me in too,” Stolarik said. “They were super great to us. When we needed to work on the car or anything they let us take it out to their farm, out to Chuck’s [Buckbee] shop and we worked on the cars.”
He added, “The fans were awesome, the greatest people in the world.”
Despite being only 18 years old, Stolarik won a Late Model feature at Shawano Speedway. Stolarik credits his early success on his upbringing.
“I raced around, not competitive racing, but out in the backyard and back field, we had 50 acres of field behind us, and in the summertime I’d race mini bikes and go-karts,” Stolarik said. “I’d be sideways all the time. When there was snow out, I’d race the snowmobile sideways.”
The year after his rookie season at Shawano Speedway, Stolarik said he got involved with Nielsen Racing.
“I started to work with Joe Shear on the asphalt cars,” Stolarik said.
He added, “Joe Shear taught me a lot. I followed Joe around the shop wherever he went.”
Stolarik described his time with Nielsen Racing as an “experience” and not a sponsorship.
“It was my family who financed me 100 percent. [Fred] Nielsen helped me and gave me a career that some young 17, 18, 19 year old would dream to have. We came out of it very successful,” Stolarik said.
That whole time Stolarik continued to race dirt Late Models at Shawano Speedway and Seymour Speedway. Seymour Speedway was a half-mile at that time.
“I loved Seymour, running up high,” Stolarik recalled. “That was my thing. Anybody can go drive around the bottom. I loved rubbing the wall and rubbing on the cushion. That was my favorite. We’d always go there Sunday afternoon before they opened and hang out under the shade tree and work on the car and cookout. I had a lot of good times there.”
It was at Seymour Speedway that Stolarik remembers ever having any sort of run in with another driver while racing in Northeast Wisconsin.
“I won three in a row, that’s when I had the Howe car,” Stolarik said. “We were real close to winning the championship with M.J. [McBride] and he and I got into it or something. Something had happened and they called us down under the stands after the races to talk about it to see if there were any hard feelings. I said, ‘Hell no. We were racing, man. That’s good ole times.’ That’s the only time I really had a conversation like that with anybody.”
Stolarik also remembers a time he was black flagged at Shawano Speedway. Shawano Speedway has a rule that if a driver isn’t lined up for their race on time, they have to enter the track via pit lane. Stolarik was late to the lineup chute for a heat race, and he pulled onto the track at the opening near the second corner.
Stolarik describes the rest of the incident:
“I shot out the backstretch to try to catch the field and they black flagged me. I was so mad. They pulled me into the pit lane area. They let me go after the green flag dropped and I was catching them and picking them off running up high and I ended up hitting the wall in one and two. Oh was I mad. No tow truck, I pulled that thing right up on the scale and I was ready to kill King Kong, I was so mad.
“After I calmed down and they towed the car over by the trailer, Pete Laska from M.J.’s crew opened the door and he said, ‘Chick, get your drivers suit back on.’ I looked outside and there was every crew and everybody and their mother were putting parts on the car. He said, ‘We’ll have this car done in 15 minutes, get ready.’
“We got it back together and I remember during intermission, I didn’t have my suit on, I pulled it around front on pit lane where it was asphalt so I could set the front end. I’m pretty sure when I came around and jumped out of the car to do that there was a standing ovation. I’ll never forget that as long as I live. That was the last race my grandmother got to see before she passed away.
“They let me run a couple hot laps and sure enough we went out and won the race.”
Stolarik still made appearances at Hales Corners Speedway, as well as other tracks in the Midwest. He said he finished fourth at the Hales Open in 1983, ’84 and ’85.
“The last couple years there I ended up pitting outside of the pits in the parking lot. That’s how much they loved me there,” Stolarik said.
Almost as fast as he burst onto the scene, Stolarik vanished from the racing scene after the 1985 season.
“My parents retired, my grandmother passed away and the funding got cut short. Chick had to go to work for a living,” he said. “I sold out the racing business and I went to work.”
Stolarik said he dabbled with racing Midget cars a few years in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“We were running the Pepsi Nationals and we slipped in one and two and the cage came down three or four inches on the left rear, I hit so hard,” he said. “I almost rung my bell again and that’s when I decided to retire, 1991 was when I was done.”
Stolarik may have been done racing, but he left race fans with plenty of memories.
(This article appeared in the August 2016 issue of Full Throttle magazine.)