By John Wells
If you would have told Greg Baxter of Brodhead, Wisconsin, that he was going to be asked to give a speech for his racing accomplishments for the 2010 racing season at Madison International Speedway you probably would have received a pretty strange look.
“At thirty-seven I never expected to be rookie of the year in anything,” he said after receiving those honors for the 2010 racing season in the Sportsman division at Madison International Speedway.
In fact, if you would’ve asked Baxter prior to 2010 that he would be behind the wheel of a Sportsman car at MIS you no doubt would have received a blank stare.
So how did he get himself behind the wheel going 80-90 mph on Wisconsin’s Fastest Half-Mile?
“My wife and Don Wickstrum’s wife are best friends. One day I said we should go watch Don. We drove up to MIS and after about ten minutes at the track I was hooked,” said Baxter.
“I’ve known Don for probably ten years and we both grew up in Brodhead. Shortly after I watched him race I started helping him out in the pits and really enjoyed what I was doing.”
Then a great opportunity was presented to him. “Don gave me an opportunity to team up with him in 2010 even though I had never driven a racecar. I was able to practice a few times to get a handle on things and it seemed like a lot of fun.”
Now it was time for his first race. “I was very nervous the first time I raced. It was different from practice and pretty scary.”
“It’s actually pretty remarkable what Greg has accomplished. The closest thing to racing he ever did before getting in my car was watching NASCAR,” said teammate Don Wickstrum.
In his rookie season Baxter realized one of his goals when he won his first race, an eight lap heat race on August 27, 2010. That season he and Wickstrum teamed up to finish fourth in the Sportsman point standings which also earned him the aforementioned rookie of the year honors.
In 2011 Baxter finished in fifth place overall in the Sportsman division with 752 points in his first full season behind the wheel. On his way to his top five finish, Baxter picked up two heat race wins.
“Greg showed tremendous improvement in just his second year behind the wheel,” said MIS General Manager Dave Grueneberg. “This is a very competitive division and he definitely stepped up his game last year.”
This year Baxter returns to MIS very goal-oriented. “I’d like to win the championship and pick up some feature wins. It’s going to take some hard work though.”
Every driver’s biggest challenge is time management and that’s no different for Baxter. “With a family including three young kids it’s pretty tough to devote too much time to racing. Fortunately for me the shop is at my house so I don’t have to travel to work on the car,” said Baxter.
Like most of the drivers at MIS, Baxter has to juggle many responsibilities during the week. In addition to being one of the Friday night stars at MIS, he also manages a grain elevator in Orfordville, farms, and coaches youth sports in the summer.
But he doesn’t hesitate to say how thankful he is for his opportunity to race. “I have to thank Don for giving me this opportunity and all of our sponsors. It wouldn’t be possible without their help. My wife and kids are my biggest fans and I have to thank them for all of their support in letting me make this happen.”
Wickstrum summed it by saying, “He really is a blast to race with. But in all honesty, the thing that gives me the biggest smile is every time he gets out of that car he has the biggest smile. As long as we have the resources and he has that smile, he will driving the #7 Sportsman.”
Fans can see Baxter and the #7 Mustang in action in the Sportsman division at Madison International Speedway in 2012.