A Tribute to Tom Reffner
by John Wells
On Friday, August 31st Madison International Speedway will be hosting Round 3 of the Super Late Model Triple Crown Challenge and the Tribute to Tom Reffner. He is a two-time Madison track champion and winner of almost sixty feature races here as well. Friday’s event will also include the Mid American Stock Car Series and the fireworks extravaganza presented by ThunderCat.
Tom will be at MIS on Friday night to meet the drivers and fans. Be sure to come out and say “hi” and meet a true short track racing legend.
Thanks to the Reffner family and MIS track historian Gary Schmelzer for providing the information to help me put this story together.
Tom Reffner won approximately 400 feature races in his career that began at Stratford Speedway and Wausau in 1959 before going to the first asphalt track in central Wisconsin at Griffith Park Speedway in Wisconsin Rapids in 1960. He won nearly sixty races at Capital Speedway (Madison) and picked up track championships in both 1975 and 1979.
His first track championships came in 1965 at Griffith Park and Black River Falls Speedway. He won his first race at Madison on the old quarter mile in 1968 and finished second in the points to Jim Back in 1969 after the half-mile was built and is now known as “Wisconsin’s Fastest Half-Mile.” He came back in 1970 and was runner-up once again this time to John Ziegler.
But of all his accomplishments, the miracle season of 1975 really stands out. In that season Reffner won an amazing sixty-seven features driving an AMC Javlelin. This includes sixteen at Madison, thirteen at LaCrosse Interstate Speedway, eleven at Golden Sands, nine at State Park, six at Dells Motor Speedway, three at I-70, two each at WIR and Elko, and one at Berlin, Columbus, Grundy, and Tri-County (Ohio). He also notched a track championship at Golden Sands and the ARTGO title.
His 1976 season wasn’t bad either as he won thirty-nine races and titles at LaCrosse Interstate Speedway and State Park Speedway. He also won the World Cup 400 at Odessa, Missouri.
Other racing hightlights include winning the ARTGO championship in 1978, the October Nationals at Madison in 1983 and 1984, Bobby Allison Night at the Dells in 1985 and CWRA Championships in 1987, 1990, and 1993. He was also a three-time LaCrosse Oktoberfest Champion.
Besides the aforementioned championships, he also won titles at LaCrosse Interstate Speedway (1976), State Park Speedway (1976), Golden Sands (1977), LaCrosse Interstate Speedway (1986), Dells Motor Speedway (1987), LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway (1987), State Park Speedway (1987), Dells Motor Speedway (1990), State Park Speedway (1993) and Golden Sands (1993).
Reffner’s final feature wins came in 1999 when he won a pair of races at Marshfield Speedway. He did appear in one event at Madison in the early 2000’s with the ASL.
All of this couldn’t have happened without the help of many, many people over the years and Reffner points out that the following played an important part and that this list certainly isn’t complete: Delores Reffner, Baird Reffner, Bryan Reffner, Leonard Trickle, Dick Trickle, Verlon Trickle, Marvin Marzofka, John Botcher, Larry Carcy, Stan Johnson, Bruce Giebels, Gary Giebels, Jim Back, Cyrilla Back, Les Back, Gary Back, Brian Back, Jack Skibba, Dick Skibba, Fritz Bishofberger, Helen Bishofberger, Don Bishofberger, Ron Bishofberger, Howard Joling, John Bovee, Pete Haferman, Ken “Sarge” Sether, John Boegeman, Ed Gille, Nancy Gille, Tom Gille, Jerry Gille, John Nash, Charlie O’Keefe, Keith Minash, Mike Minash, Kirby Kurth, Pat Hagan, Buck Hanson, Pat Hauser, Paul Smith, Carl Wegner, Dan Timm, Dennis Frings, Ed Howe, Bob Newton, Terry Newton, Jerry Bredl, Vi Bredl, Don Engelbrecht, Tony Wyse, and Jerry Hassl.
Reffner’s son Bryan went on to a great racing career and continues to race part-time and now his grandson, Colin, is racing at Golden Sands Speedway.
We are very happy to be honoring a true racing legend with the Tribute to Tom Reffner on Friday, August 31st.