Dale Wilhite – Driver

By Chad Meyer

The late Dale Wilhite, a long-time resident of Mason City was born May 3, 1927. His nephew Jim Wilhite remembers several stories about Dale and his racing career.

Wilhite collection

Wilhite collection

“Dale attended the Dunwoody trade school and helped put himself through school by working at gas stations,” said Jim. Back then, midget cars were very popular and it seemed every gas station had a race car in the back. “Dale helped build some midgets and that’s what he started driving. His first race car was a midget,” recalls Jim.

The racing bug bit Dale pretty hard says Jim. “A favorite story I recall is that on Dale’s wedding night, they raced somewhere that night and then went on to two more tracks before finally heading to their home on Wednesday.”

During this time, much of Dale’s racing took him to the Belmond and Mason City tracks.

Dale Wilhite, #21, with his car owner John Beck at Formula Ford event at Elkhart Lake, WI. (Wilhite collection)

Dale Wilhite, #21, with his car owner John Beck at Formula Ford event at Elkhart Lake, WI. (Wilhite collection)

Being from Mason City, it was probably inevitable that Dale Wilhite became close friends with Ted Zieman and spent many nights at the track. “Another favorite story I have is that one day the two of them were headed to a race. They used Glen Wilhite’s dump truck, put one car in the back of the truck and pulled the other on a trailer behind dump truck. Not only did they haul two cars with one truck, they worked on the car that was in the back of the truck the whole way to the track,” laughed Jim.

After midgets started to disappear from the Midwest, Dale started campaigning modifieds. It was during this era, from 1962-68 that he raced at Algona. He posted several heat race wins along with other victories. One of his most notable feature wins came in 1964, besting track champion Les Wildin for the win.

“The modified he raced at Algona was sponsored by the Ford dealer in Garner,” remembers Jim. “It was a pink 2-door sedan that was chopped and lowered. It was one of the few that had a Ford engine. In addition to racing Algona, he also raced at Jackson and Mason City.”

A little later, after the Garner Ford dealer ended his sponsorship of the team, Wilhite raced his own modified with a Chevy motor. He raced mostly at Fairmont on Sunday’s and also hit the Clay County Fair in Spencer.

Jim doesn’t remember exactly when Dale quit racing the first time. He does remember that he had been out of the sport for a while when the opportunity to race Formula Vees and Formula Fords presented itself.

“Dale had a friend that never raced. His name was John Beck, a realtor in Mason City and he wanted to race Formula Vees on road courses and asked Dale for help. Dale’s reply was ‘I’ll show you how to race, but you need to provide a car for me too.’”

The first year they raced Formula Vees, before moving up to the Formula Ford class for the next three. He also helped maintain a road race car for Dr. Tom Mangen, who was on staff for Winnebago Industries. This was the last racing of Dale’s career, which culminated in a win in at 1969 national SCCA event a the Daytona International Raceway.

Dale Wilhite passed away March 23, 2010 in Mason City.

Wilhite joins seven others as 2016 Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame inductees. The ceremony takes place Saturday, August 6th during the Kossuth County Fair.