Monday, July 7, 2008

Madsen Legacy - My brother and my dad

Photo by Paul Fraughton/The Salt Lake Tribune

Madsen will quit once he's on top

By Jay Drew, The Salt Lake Tribune

Article Last Updated: 07/06/2008 01:18:57 AM MDT

Thirty years after he ripped around the old Bonneville Speedway in a souped-up go-kart, following the path of his famous racing father, Salt Lake City's Gary Madsen has decided to retire.

But the 48-year-old son of "Wild Bill" Madsen has one little item of business to settle before he steps out of his No. 11 Madsen/Aposhian Racing/La Point Ford car for the final time. "I would like to go out on top," he says, "just like dad did." So far, so good.

Madsen was leading the Maverik Modifieds points standings at Rocky Mountain Raceways heading into Saturday night's Copper Cup Classic on the track's super oval, and is in position to win his first title since claiming back-to-back championships in 2003 and 2004.

He entered the night with a 73-point lead over Michael Hale and a 203-point lead over third place Lynn Hardy, the defending champion in RMR's premier series. Five races remain.

"I've got to qualify well and finish in the top five consistently," Madsen said. "Everyone is telling me, 'You probably won't retire if you win the championship.' But I will, win or lose."

Bill Madsen, who started racing in 1956, won seven Super Modifieds championships. The 52-year Madsen family racing tradition won't totally end; Gary's uncle, Vern, has a grandson, Eric, who is starting to race midget cars.

Bill Madsen retired when he was 49, which Gary Madsen believes is symbolic because he turns 49 next year.

Rick Aposhian, 50, who co-owns the car with Madsen and another car, the No. 10, that his son Jason Aposhian drives, said the team met when the season ended last year and set the goal of sending Madsen out with a championship. "We would love to see Gary get that title," he said. "That's the ultimate goal."

Jason Aposhian is eighth in the standings, and will continue to drive the No. 10 car next year. The group has not decided whether to replace Madsen or run one car next season.

Madsen also has a chance for a national championship in a new program for ASA member tracks that Joe Gibbs Racing is conducting, but says he is not concentrating on that right now.

In the race for the ASA Member Track National Championship, Madsen is second in the West Region behind Cary Stapp of Thunderhill Raceway in Northern California. The national champion gets to drive a truck in one of NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series races.

Upon retiring, Madsen said he will continue to operate his auto repair shop - Madsen Auto Service - which turns 25 next year, but will also do some traveling, fishing and sightseeing with his new wife, Jackie. The two were married just over a year ago and Jackie is also an accomplished race car driver, competing in a Ford Mustang on the SCCA circuit.

Reflecting on his 30-year racing career, Madsen said the highlights were the championships in 2003-04 because he was able to take his team to Nashville for NASCAR's season-ending banquet and meeting.

Of course, racing has always been in his blood from the time his mother gathered Gary and his five sisters and brother in the family stationwagon and took them to the State Fairgrounds on Saturday nights to watch their father race. He still remembers the first time he was allowed to go into the pits and help his father set up the car.

Now, folks are remembering his career. "He's real tenacious, but always with a smile on his face," said Rick Aposhian, who describes Madsen's racing style as "smooth and determined."

After running go-karts for five or six years, Madsen drove his father's Super Modified car briefly, then got in Street Stocks in 1986. In 1991, he started in Modifieds, where he's been ever since.

He has had countless wrecks and crashes, but has been hauled to the hospital just once, after a serious wreck on a dirt track in the Denver area. "I've been dang fortunate," he said.

Will Madsen be fortunate enough to get his championship? If he doesn't, it won't be for lack of trying. "We have a more dedicated team than we have ever had," he said. "We're giving it everything we've got."

Just like Wild Bill did.

(My note: some of the time it was me driving those kids to the races! Mom went out early to save seats and we followed. Craig would be the commentator on the freeway as I drove, "...she's passing on the left, moving into the lead..." etc. This was family home evening for us.)

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