Gale White – Driver

Gale White collection

Gale White collection

By Chad Meyer

In 1949 Gale White and Ronnie Kaufman, who were great friends, teamed up to field their first race car. Kaufman had a 1934 Ford, while White had the engine that served as its power plant.

White remembers their first trip to the track. “This is no joke, we drove the car track. We had no trailer. Everyone did that back then,” he said.

He liked speed and loved cars and the very next week White got his own car to race. At the time, he was 17 years old, and had to have his parents’ permission to race. In the early days of his career, he raced at the tracks in Cherokee and Milford.

His racing career was put on hold for a two year stint in the United States military from 1953-1954. He served in Germany during the Korean War.

When White returned from the service, his focus was on getting married and working on their house. In 1962 though, he got the racing itch again.

“I helped a neighbor build a 1937 Ford. He drove it, but he finished last, and didn’t do well at all,” he recalls. “I drove the car the next week, and we did a lot better.”

When Algona began weekly racing in the early 1960’s, White started racing at the Kossuth County oval. “It was a busy time then, we worked 70-80 hours a week, fielded two race cars and raced at Algona, Alta, and Belmond mostly.”

Gale White, car 72, competes at the Minnesota State Fair. White collection

Gale White, car 72, competes at the Minnesota State Fair. White collection

He raced two cars then, a modified at Algona, and a stock car at Alta and Belmond. White earned the track championship in Belmond on two occasions and won several times at Alta.

White was a race winner during his time at Algona, one in which he charged from 12th to win over Stacy Redmond, but what he remembers most are the relationships he built with the drivers there. “The people I met in racing and at Algona were special. We stayed friends with many of them and with Leo Christensen in particular, for a long time.”

As the cars continued to transition from stock, full-bodied cars, into modifieds, White began racing Jackson and Fairmont on a regular basis. “My best friend Ronnie Kaufman was already racing modifieds at Jackson, and Jackson paid a little better, so we started going there.” he recalls. “We went were we could make money racing, and it seemed that Algona paid less then, so we started going to Jackson instead.”

The level of competition at Jackson was stiff. “I never had the most wins, but I finished in the top 10 most nights.”

A hard crash at the Jackson Speedway on August 21, 1971 left White in bad shape, suffering a broken neck and out of the car for an extended period of time.

Gale White collection

Gale White collection

White said he could make money racing, and money earned at the track and in his garage building cars for others helped purchase the farm where he still lives today. When the cost of racing increased again in the mid-1970’s, he knew it was time to get out.

“Modifieds were turning into what are now sprint cars. The cost of wheels, tires, fuel injection, and then wings was expensive, and racing for the same pay, didn’t make a lot of sense to me.” In 1975, White hung up his helmet and retired from the sport.

His passion for the sport really never left, even though he was no longer driving. White was able to acquire one of his old modifieds, one he had sold to Bobby Houseman in 1976.

“I raced that car from 1969 through 1975. I sold it to Bobby and extended the frame out and ran it in the six-cylinder class.” In 2001 that car was saved from the scrap yard and White and his family and friends did a complete restoration.

Leo Christensen, 8, Darrell Dawley, 25, Gale White, 7X, and Bobby Geldner get together at the Clay County Fair, Spencer, IA. White collection.

Leo Christensen, 8, Darrell Dawley, 25, Gale White, 7X, and Bobby Geldner get together at the Clay County Fair, Spencer, IA. White collection.

When the car was completed, White and friend Mark White (no relation) raced with the IMCA Old Timers Racing Association for a while.

Looking back, White is most proud of the relationships he built in the sport and how he helped the next generation of racers and mechanics get started.

“There were always a bunch of kids hanging around our shop and many went on to be good racers and mechanics. I built the first car that Denny Hovinga raced. He was wild when he started, but he turned into a terrific competitor.

Today, White stays busy with a variety of construction projects and lives near Laurens.

White is also a member of the Jackson Speedway Racing Hall of Fame, inducted there in 2004.

White joins six others as inductees into the Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame. More information about the hall of fame and the ceremony is available at