It’s Hall of Fame Night this Friday at MIS where we will be honoring the accomplishments of our first class of inductees. It will also be a full night of racing with action in the NASCAR Whelen All American Late Models, American Ethanol Super Trucks, Pellitteri Waste Systems Bandits, Legends, and the Milwaukee Stock Car Club Vintage Modifieds.
One of those being recognized this Friday is Johnny Ziegler whose racing career spanned thirty years.
A big thank you to track historian Gary Schmelzer who researched the following information about Ziegler’s career for an article a couple of years ago.
Ziegler began racing in 1966 at Columbus driving in the Hobby Stock division and sporting the familiar #93 and made the switch to Late Models in 1967 when he won his first feature at Columbus on August 27th.
In 1968 he won three features at Columbus and picked up his first checkered flag at Capital Speedway (Madison) on August 9th.
Ziegler’s career really took off in 1969 when he piloted his late model to a pair of feature wins at Madison, Columbus, and the Dells. Overall, his efforts at Madison were good enough to earn him fourth in points, but things were just starting to heat up.
The 1970 season found Ziegler dominant in qualifying as he set fast time on twelve occasions at Columbus and eleven at Madison. He won seven features at Madison, six at Columbus, and track championships at both facilities.
The following season (1971) he won five features at Columbus, one at Madison and finished third in the points at Columbus and fifth at Madison. He also finished runner-up in the MARA series.
Ziegler would go on to win another track championship at Columbus in 1972 powered by nine feature wins and ten fast times. He finished third in the points at Madison with two feature wins and was eighth in the standings at the Dells.
In 1973 he finished second in the points at Columbus thanks to seven feature wins and added tenth place finishes at both Madison and the Dells and notched two feature wins at Madison.
The 1974 season saw Ziegler win one feature at Columbus and finish second in points while also competing at Madison and the Dells.
Feature wins at four different tracks were the highlights of the 1975 season as he took checkered flags at Madison (4), WIR (2), Dells (1), and Columbus (1). As a result he finished with a third place finish in the points at Madison and fourth at Columbus. This season found him driving the 93 car plus the 73 and 2 cars.
In 1976 he set fast time on eleven nights at Madison and picked up seven feature wins there as well to finish second in the overall point standings. He also won features at Columbus, Dells, Golden Sands, and won the Red Race at WIR. He finished ninth in the points at Dells and tenth at Columbus.
Highlighting the 1978 season was a track championship at Madison in the Limited Late Model division where he set fast time on eleven nights and won nine features (8 in the 93 car and 1 in the 73 car).
The 1980 season found Johnny winning features at Slinger (2), Columbus, Jefferson, and Golden Sands as he ran both a late model at Slinger and limited late model at Columbus, Jefferson, and Golden Sands.
Ziegler’s greatest season may have come in 1981 when he won track championships at both Madison and Slinger in the 11 car as well as finishing seventh in points at WIR and 8th at the Dells. Enroute to his championships, he won seven features at Madison and five at Slinger. He also added wins at the Dells and WIR.
In 1982 he took home feature wins from Slinger (2), Dells, and WIR driving both the 73 and 93 late models.
Feature wins continued to come Ziegler’s way in the 1980’s as he won at Madison in 1983 and finished tenth in points and picked up a pair of wins each at LaCrosse and Slinger in 1985 along with a victory at the Dells. Two checkered flags were also earned at WIR and Slinger in 1986 plus a win at Slinger in 1987 and Rockford in 1988.
When Madison re-opened in 1992 Ziegler was there setting fast time on one night and finishing sixteenth in points. He continued racing making limited appearances until 1997 when he pulled off the track for the final time in his career.
It was an incredible career that included 115 feature wins and six track championships at three different tracks. Overall, he picked up wins at nine different tracks.
But even though Johnny wasn’t behind the wheel, the Ziegler legacy continued at MIS when son, Jared, won a track championship in the Limited Late Model division in 2002.
Ziegler’s grandson, Zack Riddle, currently races at MIS in the NASCAR Whelen All American Late Models and is hoping to become a third generation family member to win a track championship.
Come out and honor Johnny Ziegler this Friday night and be sure to wear those famous Ziegler colors. Let’s let Johnny know how much he means to the racing history at Madison and come out and greet him on Friday night.