By Joe Verdegan
When a local race fan thinks of dominating performances year after year and Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna, naturally one of the first names that come to mind is Omro’s Terry Baldry.
And rightfully so. After all, Baldry only won 12 Super Late Model track titles on the D-shaped, half mile paved oval. No other Super Late Model driver has come close in WIR or Fox River Racing Club history.
But it’s another Terry — Terry Van Roy of Darboy, who has also put up some pretty impressive numbers at WIR over the years. In addition to winning a whopping 10 Figure 8 titles he has won nine Super Stock track championships on the quarter-mile.
Terry Van Roy has won 10 Figure 8 championships at Wisconsin International Raceway. (Dan Lews Photography photo)
When recently asked about how many track titles he’s won at WIR Van Roy, also an accomplished dirt track racer locally in the Grand National Sportsman ranks, simply replied “Joe I honestly have no clue. I really don’t even pay that much attention to it. I just race for wins every week.”
Van Roy has earned a dubious nickname from WIR weekly track announcer Matt Panure: “Oh Boy! From Darboy, It’s Terry Van Roy.” Van Roy is one of those guys who’s there, near the front, every week, no matter what the circumstances are or what division it may be in.
“Terry is a true ambassador to racing,” Panure said. “The guy knows so much about the sport and the history of the quarter mile. I think what makes him so tough is the fact that he is so experienced. Not only that, but he’s always had the passion for the sport and the knowledge of what it takes to go fast. To me, he’s just one of those guys that is always someone who can win — someone you never want to count out.”
The number of Figure 8 titles Van Roy has earned is one more than a long-time arch rival — Kaukauna native Danny Gracyalny. Gracyalny, who like Van Roy is a second-generation racer at WIR, has won nine Figure 8 crowns. What’s most impressive about Van Roy’s resume’ is that the Darboy ace has managed to win those Figure 8 crowns and race in that wild and crazy, smack-dab, meet-em-in-the-middle division for four decades using only two cars.
“I’ve still got my first Figure 8 car,” Van Roy said. “It was a ’70 Monte Carlo. I remember the first year I ran was 1985. Back then the only class on the quarter-mile was the Sportsman. I couldn’t afford to race any other division so Figure 8 for me was the cheapest way into the sport.”
To say he’s gotten his money’s worth out of his Figure 8 cars is an understatement.
“They get wrecked a lot so I’ve had to put new front stubs and new tails on them at times over the years,” Van Roy admitted. “There’s no way you could run those cars that many years without fixing them up.”
Terry Van Roy shares a winning moment a young fan. (Dan Lewis Photography photo)
What makes a good Figure 8 racer?
“You’ve got to be a little crazy,” Van Roy said. “The older you get though you do learn the patience and timing. You get used to the guys and know who you could go through the X. You know Danny (Gracyalny) is gonna blast through the X every time without stopping. You just don’t know. When you get somebody new in the Figure 8 class it takes you a little bit to learn what they are all about — if they’ll be like Danny or if they’ll drive a little more cautious through the X.”
It was a tough road to hoe for Van Roy in his first few outings on the Figure 8 circuit.
“I actually got hit in the middle the first few times I drove Figure 8,” he said. “It was during a Red White and Blue race. I didn’t let it slow me down though. The cars were real crude. You’d just go to a junkyard, build a roll cage, put it in and go racing.”
Racing for a track championship on any level — in any division — takes some of the same ingredients. Patience. No wrecks. Top five and top three finishes. Avoiding DNF’s is huge, too. And in the Figure 8 division that can always be a struggle for a variety of reasons.
And of course, a little bit of luck never hurts.
“It’s really a totally different game chasing Figure 8 title,” Van Roy said. “You’ve always got to have some luck on your side. But with Figure 8 you are always bumping and banging guys. It’s pretty much just how it is out there every Thursday night. So the risk of cutting a tire is much more apparent. And when that happens, it can really have an effect on the outcome of the title.”
Terry Van Roy in action in a Grand National at 141 Speedway. He also races a Grand National on dirt at Oshkosh Speedway Raceway on Friday nights. (Dan Lewis Photography photo)
When he’s not at WIR you can catch him racing his grand national Friday nights at Oshkosh Speedzone and Saturday nights at 141 Speedway in Francis Creek. It’s that dirt track racing experience that has helped him over the years on the pavement — especially in the Figure 8s division.
“Yeah it’s almost normal to be having your car sliding around since we turn both left and right,” Van Roy said.
(This article appeared in the July 2016 issue of Full Throttle magazine.)