Slinger Super Speedway Track History – The Sunday Night Tradition
Credit: The Village’s History Book It all began in the mid 1930’s, when Washington County Sheriff Deputy, Bill Johnson Sr., became interested in the speed of racing. He bought his first midget car in 1938; and the next year, when his son, Bill Jr. began to race, they graded an impromptu track in their backyard, on the south end of Slinger. In 1948, the Senior Johnson approached Rollie Heder about building a real track in Slinger; and one hour later, they stood on a hill overlooking a natural amphitheater located on the village’s north side.
Immediately, the word was out: Slinger would have a race track. Much work would need to be done; and it seemed everyone was willing to help, putting up lights, building bleachers and grading the original 1/5 mile dirt track. Six weeks later, Johnson and Heder’s dream was reality; and on July 10th, 1948, an estimated crowd of 5,000 paid $1.00 each to watch 35 cars compete in a seven-event program.
Midget cars raced during most of the Speedway’s first two years, and “stock cars” first appeared on the scene in 1949. The first two years also had the shows scheduled on Saturday nights. “The Sunday Night Tradition” began on July 27th, 1950, and with the exception of one year, has been the norm. In 1952, the track was leased to Cyclone Speedways, and 1953 saw the Central Stock Sanctioning Body operate the track as a non-profit organization, which turned out to be so non- profitable that Heder regained sole ownership of the Speedway in 1954. 1958 and 1959 saw the cars change in appearance, from large sedans to open-wheeled modified.
The legendary Miles “The Mouse” Melius dominated much of the action during the track’s first 20 years, winning 7 track championships. Bill Johnson Jr., one of the original owner’s sons, also won 5 titles in the first 20 years. After a trip to Daytona in the early 1970’s, Heder decided to build his own “Little Daytona” in Slinger. The last dirt race was held in 1973, and in the summer of 1974, the track reopened as a high-banked 1/4 mile paved oval. Late model stock cars debuted on July 22nd, 1974. Joe Shear and Dick Trickle split the twin 99 lap feature events, and a new era in racing was born in Slinger. Wayne Erickson leased the track from Heder in 1975 and took over as owner in 1976. In 2013 the torch was handed off to promoters Todd Thelen and Rodney Erickson and in 2019, Thelen took over as the sole promoter.
Events such as Slinger High School football games and rock concerts added to the lure of the race track as a place where exciting events would occur. Forty years ago, Slinger Speedway track owner Wayne Erickson and short track legend Dick Trickle got together and came up with the idea for a big money, mid-week super late model race that would pit the best from Slinger, the Central Wisconsin Racing Association, Midwest, and the entire US against one another. From that idea sprang the Slinger Nationals, which continues annually in July. Many big name drivers either got their start at, or have passed through, Slinger Speedway. Some of the more recognizable include Alan Kulwicki, Matt Kenseth, Robbie Reiser, Mark Martin, Richie Bickle, Bobby Allison, Davey Allison. Dale Earnhardt Sr., Kyle Petty, Harry Gant, Kenny Schrader, Ernie Irvan, Sterling Marlin, Ted Musgrave, Rusty Wallace, Michael Waltrip, Darryl Waltrip, Kenny Wallace, Neil Bonnett, and Kyle Busch.
~Excerpted from Slinger Historical Album: Schleisingerville to Slinger, 125 years, 1869-1994