Costa: What have you been up to Wolf!
Wolfgang: Iíve been building Sprint Cars, they are
mostly 360ís. I cover mostly from Lincoln, Nebraska to
Fargo, North Dakota. Itís a very small business, and my long
time friend, Jack, helps me quite a bit too. I do most of the
fabricating and welding. My son Robby is old enough to come
out and help me too. We are very lucky, because our business
goes good. We donít make a million dollars, but we stay busy
Costa: Your ďWolfweldĒ chassisí have really gained some positive
notoriety the last few years. Thatís got to be a satisfying
Well, itís a lot of fun. One of these days Iím
going to get a job, I just havenít had one yet! On the
serious side, thatís all I ever wanted to do, was be a racer
and Iím still a racer. I donít drive anymore, but for me,
rather that get mad and go home, cry, and whine, I decided to
start my own shop. Itís kept me in racing, and Iím still
involved in it on a daily basis; just like I was when I was a
race car driver.
Costa: Your son Robby garnered his first win earlier this year at Husets
Speedway, what a feeling of joy you must have had!
Well, it was amazing, but it was more amazing in a
different way. Up until last summer, he grew up here from the
time he was a kid, not going to the race track. He was born 6
weeks after I got burnt, so he didnít go to the race track.
All along, heís never had the desire to be a race car
driver. Heís just thought, Ďwell thatís a pain in the
ass, because that keeps my dad from hanging out with me.í He
was a very good motorcycle racer too. My wife and I liked the
fact that he enjoyed racing motorcycles, because it was his
Costa: How do you handle his racing?
The last race that I raced professionally, I was burnt
real bad. You donít forget that. But if this is what he
wants to do, itís up to him. It does make me nervous a
little bit though. It would really make me more nervous if
heís never raced before. Heís probably raced 400-500 Moto-X
races, before stepping into a Sprint Car.
Costa: I would love to be a fly on the wall in regards to the advice
that you give Robby. What do you tell him before he heads out
on the track?
One of the things that
I tell him is that you canít win these races on the first corner. Even though
theyíre Sprint Car races, and you have to stand on the gas.
If youíre learning to drive and youíre continuously
crashing it out of the ballpark in the first corner, you
wonít have anything left! The race isnít won until the
last lap. I continue to tell him, donít try to do too much,
just do what you feel comfortable with. It will comeÖ it
might not come as fast as what you want it too, but it will
Costa: Why did you choose to race Sprint Cars?
Heck, I weighed 150-pounds! I donít think I could
even hit the baseball out of the infield, and I sure as hell
wasnít fast, so I wasnít going to be a running back! It
was pretty easy for me to see, that my best bet was to be a
race driver. I never worried about the driving, I was just
afraid that I wasnít going to make it.
Costa: If things would have turned out differently, do you think that
you would still be competitive?
I donít know, Iím pretty old now! Iím 56, so I
donít know that. One thing I had going for me when I got
hurt, was that I was in pretty good physical condition. I was
just about 40, when I got hurt. When you get about 50, your
body starts changing. Right now, I know that I couldnít race
properly, but I went through a crash that changed my body too.
I might feel good if I didnít get hurt, but weíll never
Costa: With that being said, do you ever miss getting out there and
mixing it up?
Yeah, I sure do. Everybody that quits driving because
theyíve got hurt, or quits on their own terms, wants to race
no matter what they say. I was like Steve Kinser; all I wanted
to do is race. After I got burnt of course, I was thankful to
be alive, but after a few weeks after the crash, I knew that I
was never going to be ĎDoug Wolfgang the racerí
anymoreÖthat much was easy to see. I knew that was over. You
always here people say, Ďyou need to take care of that
bodyí. Well Iíll tell you, the body is one tough
son-of-a-gun. It heals itself, and then life goes on, and
youíre alright. The first 2 to 3 years that I was done
racing, I was miserable because the only thing that Iíve
ever done, was go to the race track. And worse than that, I
got pretty good at the end, where you would have people
patting you on the ass, and telling you about how great you
are. We all like that.
Costa: What does it mean to you to be noted as one of ďthe Big 3Ē of
Sprint Car racing?
The only thing that it tells me, is that I came along
at the right time. There have been several race car drivers
that have raced, and are real good. In my opinion, Donny
Schatz is good as there ever was, but he still hasnít gotten
the notoriety as one of the ĎBig 3í. I think Steve, Sammy,
and myself, came along at a time, when the popularity of
Sprint Car racing soared to unbelievable heights. Right now at
the moment, itís entirely different. The newness of winged
Sprint Car racing has worn off a little bit in some ways. It
doesnít get the notoriety that it did in the í80s for
example. Iíve also noticed that the older that I get, and
the longer that Iíve been away from racing, the greater that
Iíve become. The media people write things about the ĎBig
3í, or on me, which sounds so good, that I canít even
believe that I was that great!
Costa: Letís take a step back in time to 1985. What an incredible
Well, there were guys that have won lots of races in a
year too. In defense of them, there werenít magazine racks,
so nobody knew about it. One thing that I do remember about
that year is the 17 race win streak that we had. In that
streak we won the Kings Royal, the Knoxville Nationals, the
Sharon Nationals, the Jackson Nationals, and some real big
races in those days. To me, that is more unbelievable than the
55 main event win season.
Costa: If we were sitting in your shop on a cold South Dakota afternoon,
and I pulled out a sheet that listed all of your wins and gave
it to you, which wins would stand out to you and why?
Probably none of them, because I donít remember that
many wins. I wanted to train myself to be able to win, and I
expected myself to be able to close the deal. Thatís the
difference of being good, and just being there. If you have 10
touchdowns in he first 3-quarters of the game, and you get
beat in the end, youíre a slug. If you canít close the
deal, it isnít any fun! It isnít so much the ones that
Iíve won that I remember, but I can remember losing several
races like it was yesterday. People always ask me about
winning the Knoxville Nationals, and I canít even remember
winning it for the first time. Most people would give their
left arm to win the Knoxville Nationals; it would be
everything to them! But I canít even remember winning the
Costa: You mentioned that you can remember the races that you lost like
it was yesterday, care to share one?
The following Wednesday after the Knoxville Nationals,
there was a race in Granite City, Illinois. It was a year
before the World of Outlaws was formed. It was also the same
day that Elvis Presley died. Well, we went to the track, and I
led 39-3/4 laps. Joe Saldana passed me coming off of turn-4 on
the outside of me. When he went by me, I can remember it like
it was yesterday! I remember reading the ďHalibrandĒ,
which was printed on the left front wing panel! It just drove
me nuts! That year I won 45 main events, and I got beat on the
last lap 4 times, and I can remember every one of them!
Costa: What races have you won, on your unwavering determination?
There was so many that I won like that, and thereís
also a lot that I lost like that too. I get guys that call me
and tell me how different it is to race now, then when I
raced, it isnít just one guy winning. I tell them all the
time that I know exactly what they are talking about. They
say, Ďyou really understand?í Hell, I lined up every night
of the week against a 25-year-old Steve Kinser and a
24-year-old Sammy Swindell, and those guys still breathe fire
Costa: Did you think that Steve and Sammy were going to be good when
they were coming up?
They were different racers, and they both are as good
as they come. When I was first started driving, this is even
before I got in Bob Trostleís car; I already knew that Sammy
was going to be the competition. The first year that I won the
Knoxville Nationals, I saw Steve run 2 or 3 times, and there
was no doubt in my mind that he was going to be good, and he
ended up being the best ever.
Costa: In those early days, you faced some really tough competitors...
: Oh yeah! Danny Smith was real good, and heís the
nicest guy that youíd ever want to meet. Ronnie Shuman and
Lealand McSpadden were tough. Lealand was braver than Dick
Tracy. Lealand had so much speed, that if he didnít get it
out of the ballpark, he was going to whip your butt! Of
course, at that time too, there was Bobby Allen, Steve Smith,
Sr., and Lynn Paxton. Bobby Marshall out of Texas was good.
Randy Smith from Iowa and John Stevenson, from Minneapolis
were tough. Then you had Rick Ferkel and Fred Linder from
Ohio. You can see that these guys were going to be fast, and
they all were.
Costa: One thing that all of those guys had in common was the desire and
passion, that they were going to be great race car driversÖ
You can be short, fat, skinny and tough, and I donít
think none of that really matters, unless youíve got desire
and passion. Sammy was a little boy when he first showed up,
and he had the desire to go to the front like no other. Steve,
(Kinser) was definitely no bull of a man when he first showed
up, he was just a kid. Lynn Paxton and Rick Ferkel was pretty
good size, but Jac HaudenschildÖ. he didnít weigh 120
pounds! The first time I saw Jac race, he ran 2nd
to Ferkel in a 50-lap race at Eldora, and he couldnít get
himself out of the car after the race, but he still hung on to
run 2nd! You knew he was going to be good. He had
the desire that it takes to be good.
Costa: What are some of the changes that you see from the drivers in the
early days versus today?
(deep sigh) I sympathize with these guys today. When I first raced, money was
never was an equation. We never thought about how far the race
track was. Itís hard to really understand the difference of
how totally different it is, unless youíre a guy like Steve
or Sammy, or a one of those guys that are still out there
doing it from the earlier days. I couldnít imagine trying to
keep up with their expenses at the moment. I have the utmost
sympathy for these young guys. I donít know if these kids
can make it on just peer talent anymore. We never had a
thought about money. The money issue wasnít a big deal, we
didnít have to think, Ďdo I need to bring a bunch of
money, to even be able to sit in this car?í
I won the first $10,000 to win World of Outlaws race back
in Illinois. To me that was just a bragging point. The $10,000
didnít mean shit. It was just a number to brag about.
Instead of it being $400 to win, it was $10,000. Just like
when I won the Kings Royal, it wasnít about the money. The
first time I won Knoxville, it wasnít about the money, it
was about being able to win the race. Now, everything is money
Costa: You strived to be the best Sprint Car driver in the country,
where did your incredible drive come from?
My drive came from being scared to death that I was
going to go broke, and have to go home and work in the packing
plant. I had to do something on the weekend because I
couldnít make my house payment, or feed my kids if I
didnít win races. This wasnít no $18.9 million dollar a
year contract. But you know for me, money never mattered. It
was kind of in the way to be honest. But I had to perform, to
keep from get fired or whatever.
Costa: You were inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, the
Knoxville Raceway Hall of Fame, the Iowa Auto Racing Hall of
Fame, the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame, and the South
Dakota Sports Hall of Fame. Your thoughtsÖ
Itís just amazing isnít it?
I was just different from all the other kids around me.
All I wanted to be was a race car driver. The amazement and
luck is that, I got to be good enough to be in all of those
Hall of Fames. Itís unbelievable; I canít believe it to
this day! I was so scared to pat myself on the back, when I
was racing, because I thought that was the kiss of death. I
felt that if you thought you were good, youíd lose 15 in a
Costa: Doug, you donít give yourself enough credit. At some point,
youíve got to realize that youíre one of the best Sprint
Car drivers everÖ
Well, I didnít at the time. Even the moment that I
got hurt, I didnít realize it. What I didnít know at the
time was that I was at the prime of my career. You could have
parachuted me into a race track, and I probably could have run
in the top-3 at any race in the country. But I worked hard at
my craft, and learned every race track that I went to, day in
and day out. I thought that I put in the effort to be alright;
and I was alright. I was just a racer, and I was just trying
to do the best I could.
Costa: Toughness is measured on many different levels, but I donít
think that Iím going out on a limb when I say that your
wife, Jeri, has to one of the toughest women on earth, to put
up with all of racingís curves...
(laughs) Sheís a hot olí broad, Iíll tell you
that! Sheís pretty rugged! Iíll share a funny story with
you. Not too long ago we were getting ready to go somewhere
one night, and I said a smart remark to her. And at the time,
she was combing out her hair. After I made my remark, she
never even missed a stroke on the comb; I mean she never even
flinched! She went on to say, Ďwell, I donít suppose that
youíve looked at yourself in the mirror for the last 16
years now have you?í Sheís pretty rugged!
(Doug and I are
laughing real hard!)
Costa: Hereís your chance to say anything that you would like to all
of the racing fans out there. The floor is all yours champÖ
Obviously, the fans mean everything to me. When you first start out racing, youíre racing for yourself.
Then all of a sudden, you get to be OK at it, to where you
realize that youíre drawing fans into the race track. When I
realized that, I felt that it was my duty to treat people the
way that I wanted to be treated. One of the first race car
drivers that I met, was, Johnny Rutherford. He treated me like
a real human being, and Iíve never forgotten that. On the
other hand, Iíve met several race car drivers that were too
busy, too mad, or whatever it was, to give me the time of day.
I know that I was like that a few times too. But I didnít
want to be like that. I love the fans, and they are a big part
of who I am today, and I canít thank them enough for being
part of my life.