Bryan Mortensen – Driver/Owner

Bryan Mortensen, Fenton, IA, owner and driver of this NHRA Competition Elimnator gas dragster. Mark Aaron collection.

Bryan Mortensen is probably the only person in Kossuth County who could drag race down State Street in Algona with the blessings of the local police department. His immunity from trouble with the law was only good once a year, however, when Algona played host to “Race Days” downtown.

The annual “Race Days” event began in 1970 and brought cars and drivers from many racing disciplines to State Street in Algona. Mortensen, who competed in the C-dragster class, was always a hit with spectators when he would do his burn-outs down an entire city block.

Mortensen began racing when he was 20, however in the early ‘70s his racing schedule was trimmed after he became owner of Electronic Specialties. “Business comes before pleasure, you know,” he said in a 1974 interview with the Kossuth County Advance.

Though he spent most of his time repairing televisions and selling two-way radios, he spent several weekends a year racing his C-dragster as a Sportsman Racer. Sportsman Class dragsters are hobby racers, who traveled to places like Indianapolis, Wichita, Minneapolis and Denver. One of the closest places that he raced was at Marion, S.D., near Sioux Falls.

Mortensen’s dragster had between 500 to 550 horsepower and was capable of reaching 160 miles per hour in a quarter-mile run, taking about 8.5 to 9 seconds. His team entered about 30 events per year, capturing a number of trophies and cash prizes, according to a 1973 interview in the Algona Upper Des Moines newspaper.

In the 1974 interview referenced earlier, he commented that, “Dragster racing is as safe as you can make it. We have a very safe sport. It’s organized to be that way, just like stock car racing is organized to be safe right here at Kossuth Speedway.”

The suit Mortensen wore was made up of five layers of fire resistant material. The face mask had organic breathers and the shoes and gloves were of the same material.

However, sometimes the unpredictable can make things unsafe. In 1973, when Mortensen made his “Race Days” burn-out run, he had to slam on the brakes when he saw a car edging out from a side street. His alertness avoided disaster.

“The guy supposed to block off the traffic had been looking the other way,” he explained.

Mortensen’s life was cut short in a helicopter crash at the age of 35 on December 15, 1978 about 20 miles south of Sioux City.

Mark Aaron remembers Mortensen as “a very intelligent man. The things he came up with and did. He was successful too. He was the national elapsed time record holder at one point. Mortensen set that record at the track near Sioux Falls.”

In a tribute penned by his sister Doris that appeared in the Algona newspaper, his personality and passion was remembered.

“Bryan had a unique personality. An ability to get along with people and to make new friends was a big asset in his business. He was always looking for new avenues to travel. His last dream was to have a helicopter in his business. He thought of using it to build towers among the many uses it could perform,” she said.

“Bryan was a fine young man who had a yearning for excitement and who loved life for all it had to offer. He followed his dreams with all the zest he could give, from his career in electronics to his dream of flying a helicopter, which lead to his final road of peace.”

Mortensen joins six others who will be inductees into the Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame in Algona in 2017. More information is at