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“In Their Words” Volume 12 - Steve Sorenson Courtesy of Chateau Speedway History Facebook Group Page

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January 30, 2020

                                                “In Their Words” Volume 12 - Steve Sorenson


In this edition of “In Their Words” we catch up with Chateau Speedway’s 1982 Limited Late Model Track Champion Steve Sorenson of Austin.   Steve has been a fixture around The Track since he started back in the 70’s, and continuing up until today, along with his brother Harold as Sponsor at the Track, with “The Muffler Center” of Austin.   Steve and Harold recently announced they were retiring and have sold the business with new owners taking over.  They will be having a retirement get together at the Austin Eagles on Saturday February 7th and are looking forward to s seeing all the friends they have made both in the shop as well as from racing.  Now we sit down with Steve and talk about his years behind the wheel of his Stock Cars.  He also shared some photos with us including 2 very special ones that hang on his wall.  The one with David Pearson he talks about and a really nice drawing done by OB Smock of all his cars.  It also includes his hauler which he made.  He laughed as he said he copied Dave Bjorge’s but only did it better.  Photos of these hanging on the wall are included here.  And now Steve Sorenson, “In His Words”.


Webpage:  Good to See you Steve; let’s start out with how you got interested in racing.

Steve: Well I started way back when I was just, ah….7 or 8 years old.   I got my first ride in a Stock Car when they had a Fan Appreciation Night where you could get a ride going out and packing the track.  Driver by the name of Johnny Fodness, had to be back in, I’m gonna say ‘65 or ‘66,   I wasn’t very old, ten years old I think, gave me a ride around that old track in an old Coupe.  That kind of got me into it.  Dad was never really into racing but he’d take us out to Chateau, oh not every week but pretty occasionally in the summer time.  I just kind of got into it.   Then I started hanging around it, the older I got I helped a couple guys on their cars and it just kind of snow balled from there. 


Webpage: When did you get a car?

Steve:  First car was, well I drove for a guy, business man in town in 1974.  The first time I drove competitively, Street Stock, won the Mower County Fair in 1974 with that car, an old ‘65 or ‘66 Mustang.  I had a car, well I had a paper route and I worked, picked rock on farms and I saved enough money up, I bought an old…I believe it was like a ‘56 Oldsmobile from a guy.   Well we lived in Mapleview for a couple years so I knew Don Wytaske and I knew Maynard White and Ronnie Thomas, Donnie McAllister and all them boys.  So I bought this car from a neighbor of ours, my dad was friends with ‘em.   He was from Albert Lea, and I got this car, I don’t know how I got it, I didn’t have much money, but it was a Street Stock and I was seventeen I believe at the time. And I couldn’t drive, well back than you had to be eighteen or have a parents’ consent.  My dad had passed away that year, well 1972, and he was dead set against me spending my paper route money, all my money on a race car.  (Laughs)  but I’m gonna do it.  And I had a guy drive it for me, I wasn’t old enough, so a guy from town here, his name was Gene Pfeiffer, Greg Pfeiffer’s dad, he drove the car.  He won one feature with it; I still have the trophy for it, 1972.  But ‘74 I started racing.  I bought a couple of Street Stocks, I raced Street Stock ‘75 ‘76, I can’t remember….


Webpage: ‘78 you went to Hobby Stock.

Steve: Yep.


 Webpage: And ‘80 went to the Late Model.

Steve:  Than they went to Limited Late Model.


Webpage: ‘82

Steve:  Right, that was the best year I ever had, I think I won 12 Features; I still have the roof in my other garage somewhere.   Ya 12 features that year which was pretty good between Chateau and Kasson.  And won the Track Championship at both Race Tracks that year.  That was best year I ever had.  ‘83 wasn’t bad.


Webpage:  ‘84 Lansing was closed

 Steve:  Yep that’s right, that’s when I took a break and a guy, well I had that little Late Model, fella from Montana came over at a swap meet someplace and somebody told him I might be interested in selling it and he bought the Stoa chassis.  Roger Stoa built chassis back in the day.  People know who he is.  I sold it and in ‘84 Lansing was shut down.  Then they did away with the class.  I helped Mike Guttormson thru ’84.    Then they come out with IMCA Modifieds, I want to say ‘85, ‘86. 


Webpage: Madsen’s reopened it in ’85 and they introduced the IMCA Mods to Chateau.

 Steve:  I bought one when they switched to IMCA Modified, I bought a Modified.  Denny Anderson, friend of mine from Rochester he raced Modifieds, IMCA Class.  I bought one of his cars and then raced it a year than sold t in ‘86.  I had bought a Lou Fegers chassis, ‘86 was still IMCA right.  Than when they switched to WISSOTA me and Mike with Lou Fegers Racing teamed up.  Me and Mike teamed up and we had two team cars.  And we raced together out of my garage for geez all the way through’ 90, ‘91.   ‘91 WISSOTA 100 was my last race.  And that was all the Modifieds from ‘85 on. Then I just started helping Mike out on stuff.


Webpage:  Knew Mike awhile?

Steve:  We went to school together, he was a year older than me but we had classes, we were together quite a bit in school …we weren’t  – you know honor roll students by no means you know (laughing)  ya really…but anyway we went to school together and raised a little cane together.  A lot of cane to be honest with you.  Than we got racing … like I said I took that year off and we both started racing, we both had Lou Fegers Racing Chassis Race Cars.  So I had a place with a pretty good size garage and both of us worked together for gosh 3, 4 years together out of the garage.  Just the two of us.  We had a lot of fun (more laughing).


Webpage:  Any stories you want to share?

Steve:  Oh god, no (laughing) I have to many (laughing) I probably couldn’t reveal on tape (laughing).


Webpage: You quit but still helped with Mike

Steve:  All the way to the end.  I was there the night he won the race at Chateau and we were loading up the car, drinking a beer…. (Pause) … that’s when he said good bye.


Webpage:   That was a black night.

Steve:  Yes it was, I still remember that just clear as a bell.  Ya that was, Ahhh ugly.   (Long pause)  Lot of memories though.


Webpage:  Any memorable wins stick out for you in your career?

Steve:  So many good ones I had, I remember the one in 1979 in Mason City they had a David Pearson special.  David Pearson raced that night.  He was racing a Late Mode car for somebody out of Iowa might have been one of the Sanger’s, Ed Sanger maybe, but I was racing my Hobby Stock, the Chevelle, and I won that Feature.  I beat Don Wytaske if I’m not mistaken on that race.  Well that was a special, got the trophy with David Pearson, got the picture taken (points to wall), that was pretty cool.  That was a good one.  But I’ve had so many, well not so many bit I’ve had some good ones that I can remember but that’s one that’s probably most memorable.  I guess I never really won any of the real big ones.  Did pretty good at a couple of the WISSOTA 100’s but never got the big check.  A couple of Fair Races back in the day, Faribault race, an Owatonna race.  Webster city, I raced, won there, had a couple pretty good wins, ‘82 again when I had that good year. I felt unbeatable.  They were all good to me as far as I’m concerned


Webpage: Any Big Accidents?

Steve:  I had one bad one, the only one I had, when I tore up my knee.  It was in the 80’s, Owatonna Fair Race; I had an incident with a guy.  He come out of the infield … he went off the track in number three, come across the infield, I come off the comer.  I was running … it was the Feature…at that time I think I was running like third or fourth in the Feature.  And he come across, he lost control of the car and hit me right in the driver’s door, sent me into the wall right before the flagman.  Well destroyed it, it pancaked me into the wall.  The left front wheel went flying, I was surprised it didn’t go into the grandstand; it did dang near knock the flag man out of the tower.  It happened so fast I just didn’t know what happened but it busted me up pretty good, my leg.  I still have a little hitch in my giddy up.  Of course I thought I knew more than the doctor did you know so (laughing) so that’s the only time I’ve had a bad one, I’ve never had a car upside down., never had a car wreck, I can’t believe that I ever tipped the car over.  I’ve had some pretty good incidents but as far as that goes that was the worse one. 


Webpage:  Compare you experience of Full body verse Open Wheel.

Steve:  I think the switch from the Full Body cars to the Modified wasn’t that much different.  I think the engine set back might of made al little bit of a difference on ‘em getting started.  I don’t know.  It’s in my head I still like the Full Body Car Racing.   I adjusted pretty good; I had a couple pretty good years in the Modifieds too.   But the full bodied cars was my best years.  Even in ‘79 I run a Chevelle Hobby Stock, I had a good year that year too…I just enjoyed the Full Body cars I guess.


Webpage:  Difference’s in working on them?

Steve:  I think suspension wise things were pretty similar,  you had to still have some geometry and tricks to it but you could probably go to the junk yard and buy an A-arm for this or an A-arm for that, you could fabricate something verses this new car, today’s car, I looked at a friend of mines, got a brand new Modified and I just, it just blows my mind , I just don’t know how they can do it, how they can make I it work.  I like it back than to be honest with you, I don’t think I could deal with this new stuff.


Webpage: Do much traveling when you were racing?

Steve:  We raced, Ahhh, well we raced religiously in the summer, Friday-Saturday-Sunday.   Than specials come up and Fair Time we raced four and sometimes five nights.  But it was always between Fountain City or Morristown on Friday, than Chateau and Dodge County, or Kasson.  Mason City Speedway once and awhile, or if they had a special or if Kasson wasn’t running.  Other than that, well Cresco too was another track, they were racing middle of the week for awhile, I wanna say ‘76 or’ 77 there.   I would race there weekly too.  Religiously 3 nights a week.


Webpage:  How did you get hooked up with Gene Pfeiffer?

Steve:  He had raced before; in fact he was one of the guys I helped.  He was one of the guys I helped when I was just a squirt.  He had raced; well it was Chateau and back than they had St Charles.  I remember going to St Charles with him.  He had a, gosh what was it; he had a ‘56 or ‘57 Ford.  I don’t know how long he had raced before I started helping him; I know he had been around a few years anyway.


Webpage:  Help with Greg at all?

Steve:  I didn’t help with Greg, I was pretty busy on my own than but I remember Greg starting, we raced together, I mean I was a class higher for awhile cause I stated earlier.


Webpage: You guys actually were both in the same race for his big accident at the Fairgrounds.

Steve:  Ya that was a Special at the Austin Fairgrounds.  Ya that was a bad deal there.  I got into a pretty good wreck and it wasn’t long after that Greg got into his real bad wreck, he’s lucky to be around today.  They were hauling my car in, I do remember everybody hooting and hollering and I looked up and I seen that car in the air somersaulting and his arms flying out of it.  I thought he was coming out of the car.  I do remember that, that image sticks pretty good in my head.  That was ugly, that was ugly.


Webpage: Memories of any drivers you ran with?

Steve:  Oh I got so many good ones, I always had a good deal with Leroy Scharkey, him and me always had some pretty good battles together in the Limited Late Model days.   Bobby Saterdalen is another one.  Mark Noble of course, even David I raced back there with him a couple times.  Of course Mark Wytaske, there was a lot of ‘em that we always raced hard with, the Zwiefel brothers, raced hard with them guys.  We had our times but we always got together, we never had an issue with anybody.  If we had an issue with somebody we usually worked it out without a big deal.  Have a beer or something afterwards; say what we’ll try to do better next week. 


Webpage:  See many of them anymore?

Steve:  Most of them unfortunately are passed.  But I just talked to Leroy Scharkey here a few weeks ago, of course he was at the Hall of Fame Induction here last year talked to him than too.  Hoping he comes over for the little party were going to have, Dick Sorensen he’s another one I didn’t race a whole lot with him but his son Mike.  Me and Dick, ya Dick like’s to have fun too.   I see Mark Wytaske occasionally ,  I’ve run into Mark Noble, of course he changes so much, don’t know if he’s gonna run a dirt car or a semi somewhere.  Mark and I were always good friends.  If there still around racing I usually find them or talk to them.


Webpage:  Go over to Yaggy’s for the reunion in the Spring?

Steve:  I’ve been to everyone of ‘em, well l I might of missed one of ‘em a couple years ago but I’ve been to everyone but one for sure.  That’s always a good get together.  Some of the guys bring their old cars that were redone, those things are just fun to look at,  the cars back in the day, and these new cars, I don’t know, those are race cars back than to me . 


Webpage:  Thoughts on the fans.

Some of the best, and they’re loyal.  I mean they may not like you , they might holler at you whatever but after the race is over with, you got the car loaded up , you’re sitting around having a cold one, just unwinding, people come up, it’s pretty cool, you don’t see that anywhere else .  Not in other sports, just motorsports, but, local dirt track racing is the ultimate.


Webpage:  Seems they don’t stick around long after the racing anymore.

Steve:  I noticed that the last little bit.  I always told myself when I got done racing I could never sit in the grandstand cause I hear so many people think they know how to drive the car.  I didn’t want to deal with it; I always hung out in the pits all the time.   The last little bit since Mark took over the Chateau I’ve been going up in the grandstand and it’s been pretty cool but I noticed that also.  Use to be the races were over and people were flocking to the pits and talking to the drivers, but now nobody does that, there are some, very few.  They all  head out,  down the road …”where are they all going (laughing) it ain’t over yet” .


Webpage:  Always had big crowds in the pits afterward, whether it was Mike or Mert or whoever.

Steve:  Packed yep.   We of course, Me and Mike, when we raced together, we always parked next to each other. When the races were over with we had, of course, had a full cooler and everybody knew where to get a free beer.  Leroy Scharkey he’d come over, hey Steve you think you got an extra one.  (Laughing)  Ya those days unfortunately don’t seem like there around anymore.


Webpage:  Thoughts on today’s racing?

Steve:  You know I still like the Modifieds and the Late Models, but the way the cars run ….  I like the Iron Man Stock Cars, they look good and the cars go around the corner like I remember them going around.  Racing three and four wide and not causing you know a fiasco.  You know to me I still like watching those.  These new Late Models are fast, there so darn fast in the corners.   I talked to a driver  he says Steve you don’t really drive these cars anymore, you just aim em, you floor it and aim em, I don’t know how they do it (laughing)  I don’t know if I’d even want to try it to be honest with you.


Webpage:  You and your brother continued to sponsor the track all these years.

Steve:  We’re helping Mark out there now.  We try to help out.  Ya even back when the Gopher 50 was out there before it went to Owatonna.  We did a lot, ya we did a lot for racing in the area.  Around Austin, and the Fair Races and stuff.  We still do to this day.  Hopefully we can continue with the new take over, the new people who are buying our business.  We d like to keep it the same.  So I’m going to encourage them, even if I have to I’m going to do something to keep that sign out there.


Webpage:  Now getting ready to retire from the Muffler Center.  How did that all Start there?

Steve:  1974, August of 74 I started.  Couple guys, they were out of Omaha Nebraska, one was out of Omaha one was out of Lincoln.  And what really got me working down there was the guy he had raced at Sunset Speedway in Omaha, and his car, had a ‘66 Chevelle Late Model Car sitting on the corner of the shop there and I was working at the time in Blooming Prairie.  I was a welder up there welding gates for livestock and I had stopped in and the car was sitting out there and we talked a little bit.  Never knew what the heck was gonna happen, well pretty soon I get a call, I was working on my race car in my mom’s garage and ah, he said I’d like to have you come down, I’d like to talk to you a little bit. Well I went down there and he wanted to know if I wanted to go to work for him.  I said well I don’t know, I don’t know nothing about this, the last thing on my mind growing up was working on exhaust.  (Laugh)  But he gave me a pretty good shot at it and I said ya I’ll do it, I’ll go for it.  The business had opened in April of ‘74 and I started August of ‘74.  It’s kind of a funny story about this deal.  Like I said he had a Late Model Car and he had never raced up here but the Austin Fair was going on.   They hired me one week and the Austin Fair started, and the Austin Mower County Fair always had two day races.  The place was always packed.  They did a super job with Fair Races.   Anyway he’s talking about getting going out racing and I told him ya I’ll be racing there too.   He goes where’s your car?  I said well I just show up with my helmet.  I drive for a guy.  I don’t have my own car. He thought I was pulling his leg.  I m sure people know who were talking about is Bee Line Autobody.  Bob Smith owned a body shop in town and now it’s called Car Nu.  Anyway he had owned that and he hired me to drive that 65 Mustang.  I went out to that Austin Fair and I won the feature.  Beat a local guy on the last lap by about half a car and I won the Feature.  I don’t know what they did, I can remember they was pretty impressed with that, “you just show up and I hire you to go to work, and now what are we going to do” (laughing)   Like I said he raced Sunset Speedway. That was the first time he raced here.  He started racing, well he did some Chateau Speedway racing, but they did a lot of Kasson and Mason City, Walt Kiest was his name.  He liked the half mile tracks basically.  He liked Mason City and mainly went there on Sundays, he was at Lansing a few times but he’d go to Fairmont on Friday night.  He liked the big tracks he didn’t know what to think about me showing up, like some hot shot jumping in that car and win a race and go to work Monday (laughing). Bought the place in 1978.


Webpage:  What you gonna do now with your time?

Steve:  I’m gonna buy a new race car (laugh) told that to my wife, she says I don’t think so (big laugh)


Webpage: She was a big supporter of your racing?

Steve:  Ya pretty much, she was real good.  She was there, got no complaints at all.  But I don’t think she wants me to do it again.  (Laughing)


Webpage:  Lots of Hobbies to keep you busy?

Steve:  No I don’t, never got into hunting, never got into fishing.  I did take up a few years ago whacking that golf ball around.  I do kind of enjoy that once and awhile to get out and do something.   I’d get a kick going out to the Chateau when I was pulling my Street Stock out there with a log chain going by Ramsey Golf Course and somebody would be out there getting ready to tee up or hit their shot and I’d holler ‘fore’, and I’d distract ‘em and they’d give me the finger as I’d go by.  I’d say how can anybody chase that little white ball.  Here I’m doing it now (laughs)  I’ll keep busy though, I’ll go out to the race track and might even be a pain in Marks butt out there , I may need something to do, mow grass or something. 


Webpage:   Looking back on it all now what are your thoughts?

Steve:  I have no regrets over all the years I’ve done this.  A lot of good memories.


                     * See Gallery For Extra Photos