It All Started with Mechanical PencilsLyle said he was a straight-A student in school until third grade. That's when he discovered mechanical pencils and could put his love of things mechanical to work. He went on to bicycles, motor scooters, and by age 14, cars.
He grew up during World War II on a farm north of Holloway. His oldest brother was in the Marines so Lyle helped his other brother, Bernard, with the farm work. Their father had been killed in a car accident before Lyle was two years old. By the age of five Bernard had him driving the old Whippet out to the field, and by age seven he was hauling corn into Holloway to the elevator. Both of which made his mother very angry.
It was no surpise then that he became involved in stock car racing when it came to town. Lyle and I got married in 1962 and I had watched the races in 1961 and a few times before that. My dad was an avid fan. He was a junk dealer from Cottonwood so he got to know the drivers well. In those days most of the parts came from a junk yard. Anyway, we towed the race car down to the track. Worked well because as a junk dealer's daughter I knew all the signals and how to tow so the chain stayed tight. If we wrecked the car, we had to get Paul Phillips to bring us home with his wrecker.
We had one car that had trouble with the rear axle breaking. During the week I would scrounge area junk yards looking for a Mercury axle. One time we were at the fair in Howard Lake. Muffy Pape pushed Lyle off the end of the track during the trophy race, so he didn't finish. Got everything straightened and went out and won the feature. As they were pushing the car up on the trailer…we were big-time then and had an old trailer or maybe we borrowed it…as we were pushing the car up on the trailer, the rear wheel fell off. The money was in the feature so it's nice to have friends that help out. If we had finished the trophy we would have been out of the feature.
One of the worst times I had was when Lyle was driving a 1956 Chevy 2-door hardtop. He came by the grandstand and there were flames shooting out the back of the front fender on the passenger side. As he came out of the number two turn, the inside of the car was enveloped in a ball of fire and the shadows made it look like he was still strapped into the car being burned alive. I was in the top row of the old grandstand and I raced down the steps, across the track, through the pit and beat most of the guys from the pit area. As he came out of the number two turn, Lyle had jumped out the passenger side window into the slough and was standing casually in the pit area. I was so relieved to see him, but then he said, "Hey, Ma, with that kind of speed, we should run you in the trophy dash." When he said that, for a split second I was tempted to deck him, but I was so glad to see him safe I just hugged him. I saw his funeral in my head all the way across the pit area. It's amazing how many things go through your mind at a time like that.
Back in those days all the drivers stuck together. If your car broke down, there was probably someone in the pit who had the parts you needed to keep going. Lyle used to say, "Let's beat them on the track— not in the pit." Example:For the 1963 Fiesta Speedway Championship race Lyle's car was out of commission. He won the championship race driving Norm Milbrandt's car with Morrie Weflen's engine in it. There was a rivalry between the Monte cars and the Watertown cars and they wanted to keep the championship at home in Montevideo.
Lyle's First Race Car
Completely stock with an old, worn-out flathead, the car was his first attempt. He rolled it over about the third time out, and the roll bars fell out. That happened a lot at Speedy Acres. Most of the drivers were novices and these were their first attempts at oval track racing. After talking with some of the drivers, it seems that the biggest danger when rolling the car was getting hit by falling roll bars.
The Singer Sewing Machine Car
Car with the Key on the Back
The Last Flathead
Lyle can't remember this car, but it is the only good picture of him wearing his "soup-bowl helmet." Back in the
early days a good share of the drivers wore football helmets.
Chuck Ludwig said he had one that was a Cromwell. They were made in the 50s and 60s and were called a half-moon helmet. He was in a good
set of company because most of the well-known race drivers wore Cromwells.
From the Montevideo American-News, 1962
THE SUMMER OF '62Opening Race Event Marked by Smashups The Season Opener had many accidents as the drivers fought a treacherous ridge of mud near the inside rail. A serious mishap in the pre-race warmup eliminated Chuck Ludwig's car, No. 2, from further competition that evening. Ludwig was miraculously unhurt when his machine tangled with Mel Zimmerman's Y-4, hit the concrete guard rail in front of the stands, skidded and rolled over onto the track in a mass of twisted steel and flaming wreckage.Track officials quickly doused the flames after Ludwig crawled from the car. Zimmerman was ready to remain in competition after a safety check indicated no serious damage to his car.
It was a bad night for Montevideo drivers. Lyle Hoidal snapped a tie rod and rolled at high speed on the first turn of the second lap of the first heat. Norm Milbrandt went over the bank on the first turn in the heat race, incurring a broken front axle. Ronnie Peterson threw a rod in the consolation causing untold damage to the Corvette mill. Morrie Weflen was out before the first heat with a broken rocker arm.
Memorial Day Classic
Chuck Ludwig's No. 2 suffered its second major mishap of the season when it rolled off the south end of the track after momentarily locking rub bars with another car. No injury to Ludwig; some to the car. In the A Feature Paul Phillips rolled his No. 77 in front of the grandstand after hitting a ridge of mud that had been bladed to the inside rail of the track. Again, no injuries to driver; injuries to car.
Saturday, June 16
Lyle Hoidal led off last Saturday night's stock car racing program with a win in the first heat. Hoidal was at the wheel of Morrie Weflen's 222 as he jumped to a lead which he held throughout the event.
Saturday, June 23
Morrie Weflen's big 222 pounded across the finish line first in the opening event Saturday night. Duane Kittleson was second and Fred Haas third. In the Consolation it was Hoidal, followed in a close second by Milbrandt. The two Montevideo drivers put on an excellent display of driving ability as they battled for the lead throughout the event. Hoidal brought a roar from an appreciative crowd as he took the inside lane through a stretch of water on the track in front of the stands in an attempt to overcome a car-length lead by Milbrandt. His No. 32 skidded crazily and sent a spray of water some 30 feet into the air. Hoidal brought the car under control again just before going into the first turn and went around Milbrandt on the back stretch.
Sunday, June 24
Norm Milbrandt paraded the checkered flag in the B feature after a close race with Hoidal and Weflen. Lyle Hoidal appears to have the car to bring the checkered flag back to Montevideo drivers after Watertown cars have dominated the honor for most of the season. Hoidal and Jim Davis were in the midst of a great battle, with Hoidal in the lead, when a blown tire forced Lyle to slow down for the final two laps. He finished the race on three wheels and still managed a third place.
And the winner is...
The 1/2 & 1/2 Car
The Era of the Overhead
It was a good summer and Lyle did well at the local fairs. While all this was going on, Lyle had teamed up with Jim Larson and they were putting together an Indy sprint car. The Watertown cars who raced in Montevideo were all driving "rail jobs" so we had to get one, too.
The Pink Pussycat