In Their Words - Volume 1 *courtesy of Chateau Speedway History Group Page

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March 9, 2019

In Their Words “ Volume 1

Chateau Speedway has a full 60 plus years of History and Stories and as part of our Chateau Speedway/Chateau Raceway History Facebook Group Page we are going to occasionally sit down with a former or current part of that History and bring it to you in a serie called “In Their Words”. We will present our interview in scripted form. Our First visit is with long time flagman Ronnie Ross.

“In Their Words” ….. Ronnie Ross

Webpage: Ronnie Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, to start out with why don’t you tell us how you became Flagman at Chateau Speedway.
Ronnie: About 1959. When they built it I was in the Navy. When I came home the first race was when I was on leave from Boot Camp. Howard Smith owned the race track, Howard and Art, which were cousins or something, they weren’t brothers. And he just said he had to much to do, would I do it for him, so I did. That went for 21 years, on and off; I went through so many promoters.

Webpage: We have a picture on the history page of you standing on a track, waving the flag and running off. How did that start?
Ronnie: You just did it on the track, he did it on the track and I followed him, Howard Smith.

Webpage: Let’s talk about some of the early drivers. You can just mention some of them or should I just call a few out?
Ronnie: Throw a few names out.

Webpage: Let’s start with Ole Brua; he was one of the top guys those early years.
Ronnie: He run a straight 8 Buick, I don’t think he run anything else out there. But then he got into Fords and IMCA, I actually think he took a Championship in IMCA for Late Models. I know the factory gave him one engine, maybe more, but he was good, he was good. He had a garage of his own in Albert Lea so he could work on the car when he got a chance.

Webpage: How did you get along with Ole?
Ronnie: It was good, it was good, I’d stop and see him once and awhile and he’d stop and see me once and awhile. But they all treated me pretty darn good actually. And actually I was pretty lucky because nobody ever got hurt to bad. Maybe a broken wrist or something like that from the steering wheel spinning around, otherwise it was good.

Webpage: Another of the top guys back than was Verlin Eaker.
Ronnie: Verlin was very good and he had 4 or 5 Hormel Employees that backed him so he had good machinery. Then from here he went down to Mechanicsville Iowa and he raced for Nichols Engineering and he did pretty good there. He went to Daytona too but wrecked the car, it would of been good to see him run. He was a guy who had to have seat belts on because if he didn’t he’d float right out of the car when he won. He was so happy, he was just like Dave Noble, he was just floating in the car.

Webpage: Talk about Dave
Ronnie: Same thing, must have been what they drank up there, cause Dave was just floating in the car too when he won. If he didn’t have a seat belt on he would of floated right out the window.

Webpage: Another one of the early Champions was Dave Bjorge.
Ronnie: Dave come down from up north and ran Pontiacs I believe, He was pretty darn good to begin with like most Track Champions were, they started out good. He didn’t have a lot of money behind him. He worked in a gas station for awhile with Orv Snater who raced. He worked for Hormel’s and Usem’s, Never had a whole lot of money behind him but had a lot between the ears.

Webpage: You race ?
Ronnie: I raced a little bit but I didn’t know nothing. 1953 and 1954. I destroyed it in the back of Dave Noble. That was in Kasson. We were starting a race one night, it was sprinkling, he spun out, and I hit him in the back end. The frame was down on the ground. It was pretty bad, I had a lot of money in that, I had over $85 dollars in that car. (Laughs) Seat Belts cost you double that now.

Webpage: What kind of safety rules did you have back then?
Ronnie: Everyone had on just a regular old car seat belt, just an old fiber one. If you wore a jacket it would loosen up while you were racing and you would try to tighten it up again. I seen Jerry Reutter come thru the driver’s door over in Albert Lea right in front of a whole pack of cars. He had spun sideways and rolled, it threw him out, it was sickening to see, but he walked away with just a bruised shoulder. I wasn’t flagging that time, I don’t remember who was.

Webpage: Let’s talk about how you got along with the drivers, we see plenty of debates these days with the officials.
Ronnie: They treated me good; they treated me as friend most of the time. The ones that didn’t was the wives in the grandstands (Laughs).

Webpage: How about a few more of the drivers, like Floyd Matter.
Ronnie: He was one of the better promoters of racing in this part of the country. I remember one time, we were over in Albert Lea, he come back around ahead of Smokey Campbell, at the end, when they passed the finish line Smokey was ahead, but Floyd passed him before they got to me. I had about 2000 people after me on that one. (Laughs) But the next week I took 5 or 10 pounds of flour and put it across from the judges stand to mark the finish line. So we could both see. I started on the track and had to get on top of that cement pillar in the infield.

Webpage: How about 2 guys whose names are kind of linked out there, Mert and Wendell.
Ronnie: Kuehn had a Ford, I was never enthused about, Mert started with his straight 8 Buick, they were good, they were both good.

Webpage: Any stories as a flagman?
Ronnie: I was pretty much ashamed of one race I flagged at Rochester Fairgrounds. At the pit meeting the promoter told everybody that if you’re involved in a wreck you go to the back, which is normal. But if you miss it and spin out you get your spot back. The race started and he penalized a guy, think it was a number 54 from up by Mankato, and there was quite a stink over that because it was absolutely nothing like what was said at the meeting for getting disqualified or put to the back. I could of walked out that night but I had 2000 people in the grandstand and I had to finish the races. I never felt right about that for a long time. You don’t judge from the infield sitting in an easy chair. But I got along with the promoters …. Almost. (Laugh)

Webpage: Was it hard to be the guy making the calls:
Ronnie: Not really, because once I seen it, I called it. Even if I was wrong I would never admit it. (Laughs) But I could have been in a different position; it makes so much difference where you’re at. It makes no difference if you just in the infield. It means nothing if you’re not in the flag stand because that’s where it’s at.

Webpage: Now days they have officials all over the track¬¬¬ making calls. Back than it was pretty much you.
Ronnie: Yea that was pretty much it, and I would never flag that way it is now. Somebody over here telling me one thing and somebody else telling me another. If your there and do it the same way every week, it worked out pretty well for me. The judges are important though, you have 15 – 20 cars out there, somebody passes somebody and someone keeps on going, who’s in front?, I had to try and keep track of who’s in front, and 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, I was told many times just put em where you think they belong, the judges would have it down in black and white but I didn’t.

Webpage: You didn’t have the advantage of the headsets like they do today.
Ronnie: No, I had a little clicker in my hand, and I’d click off the laps.

Webpage: Do you remember much about the first owners and the start of the track?
Ronnie: Well the track was built before I came home on leave from Great Lakes. It’s been rebuilt about 3 different times, made a little bigger, it’s pretty darn nice now, hope they can keep it going. Get the people behind it and it will go.

Webpage: After you got out of the flag stand you changed positions with your son getting into a car. How was that being on another side of it?
Ronnie: I enjoyed it, I enjoyed working with my son, he probably didn’t enjoy it working with me once and awhile (Laugh), but he was Track Champion at 18 years old. How he did it, I have no idea, but he still drives like it (Laugh).

Webpage: Any other thoughts on the racing.
Ronnie: It got to be a big family, had more friends when we were racing, than when I was flagging (Laugh). It worked out good, very proud of some people; I don’t have any enemies I don’t think.

Webpage: You get out to much racing anymore.
Ronnie: Not to many, I’ve been under the weather for 11 years, I got shingles up here in the forehead and I think they went inside instead of outside like they should of. I haven’t had a doctor tell me what it is or that it went inside, but that’s what I think it did, I got nerve damage in the head. I’ve had headaches for 11 years in front and in back, it’s pretty miserable.

Webpage: Thanks for sharing your time with us.Ronnie.