Bob Lewerke – Driver, Owner

img237 bob lewerkeBy Chad Meyer

Bob Lewerke’s first involvement in racing was the straight-line variety, competing at the Humboldt, IA drag strip in the 1960’s. All it took was a few trips to the Algona dirt track to convince him that going in circles provided more excitement.

“I watched Bunkofske, Schattschneider and others race Algona, and I was hooked. In drag racing, your run was done in 15 seconds,” Lewerke explained. “It looked like so much fun racing on the dirt.”

In 1968 Lewerke built his first stock car, a convertible, and put his nephew Richard Simpson behind the wheel. “I consider Simpson one of the best ever to race out of Algona,” he said. “We won a bunch of heat races and trophy dashes and collected a few feature wins too against some of the best competition in Iowa. More importantly, I got so many lifelong friends from my time racing. I am very grateful for that.”

Bob Lewerke, winner at Boone, IA.

Bob Lewerke, winner at Boone, IA.

In 1971 Lewerke got the itch to drive the car himself and took over the driving duties. Even though he was in his mid-thirties when he started racing, he proved to be a quick learner, winning the feature race at Algona in only his second time in the car.
“The competition then was so tough. I was proud of the races I won, and was thrilled to beat Richard Simpson a couple times.”

Lewerke counts his favorite win as the night he beat Arnie Braland in the trophy dash at Algona. “The whole race, Arnie and I raced side-by-side and never touched. I beat him by a few inches at the line. What a thrill!”

When the Algona track closed after the 1975 season, like many, Lewerke’s racing career slowed. That changed when Algona reopened in the late ‘80’s and again when the Hancock County Speedway in Britt opened 1995.

Lewerke continued to race at Algona, and occasionally putting Simpson behind the wheel. “If I couldn’t make it to the track, or if I wanted him to run, I’d put Simpson in the car. I just loved to watch him race and he won some races for me too!”
He wasn’t done winning as a driver either, posting his final feature win in 1994, in an IMCA stock car at Algona when he was in his 60’s. “Algona was always my favorite track. The competition was great and the fans and people were even better,” he remembers.

Lewerke's car, with Richard Simpson at the controls at Algona Raceway.

Lewerke’s car, with Richard Simpson at the controls at Algona Raceway.

“I, Donnie Hiscocks, Dan Danielson and many volunteers helped build the Britt track. At the time I was living in Mason City and my wife and I would work till two in the morning helping with the track, and then be back at work in the next day,” he recalls.

He was as the Britt track, right from the start. “I remember riding with Dan Danielson on the grader, marking the outline of the speedway. It was a thrill to race there when it opened in 1995.

Lewerke retired from racing in 1997. “I loved every minute of my time in the sport, but it was just time to let the younger generation have their turn, and the expense was getting to be more each year to compete.”

Today, he and his wife reside in Garner, and he enjoys driving semi-truck, hauling seed across the Midwest. He considers himself a car-guy at heart, owning and showing classic cars.

Bob Lewerke joins six others as inductees into the Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame, located in Algona, IA.