One of Madison's favorite sons, Fran Bruns, will be inducted into the Huset's Speedway Hall of Fame on July 28. Also to be honored that evening will be Randy Droescher of Larchwood, Iowa, who won the sprint car championship at Lake County Speedway in Madison in 2007, the last year that Lake County Speedway ran races.|
The following driver profile on Bruns is taken in part from "Thunder Over the Plains," a book penned by Daily Leader contributing writer Gale Pifer, soon to be offered for sale by the newspaper. The 510-page book contains 460 pictures and illustrations and 115 driver profiles.
Bruns was one of the greatest sprint car drivers ever to come out of Madison. In all, he notched nine track championships and won an amazing 87 feature races in the heyday of sprint car competition -- a time when the likes of Doug Wolfgang and Kenny Hansen were tearing up the dirt ovals in the area.
Bruns won the 360 track championship at Lake County Speedway in 1987 and '88. In 1988, he took the track titles not only at Madison but also at Huset's Speedway and Rock Rapids, Iowa. He was the season champion at Fairmont, Minn., and missed winning the title at Jackson Speedway by just a scant two points.
"I made lots of friends over the years. I really enjoyed racing," said Bruns. "It's kinda funny that when you start winning races, everybody is happy for you, but when you are winning regularly, then some folks don't like to see you win. Doug Wolfgang told me once that the folks in the pits and grandstand will let you know if you are winning too much."
Bruns was rather old when he started racing. In fact, Wolfgang said that Bruns was too old; he was 27.
Bruns started racing mini sprints in 1984 but switched to sprint cars the next year. He campaigned the powerful sprinters for 20 years, ending his career behind the wheel of the Championship Sprint Cars. He ran with the World of Outlaws, Wissota and other national and regional sprint car series. Three times he won track championships at Huset's Speedway, considered one of the toughest sprint car ovals in the country. Wolfgang said once that if you can win at Huset's, you can win anywhere.
The 1987 season was typical for Bruns. Knotted at the top of the point standings listing with Nunda's Hansen, he had to overcome blown engines and on-track crashes. Originally, the power plant in the red and white No. 18 totalled 355 cubic inches.
But on June 11 at Madison, while competing in a heat race, the engine spilled its insides in a cloud of smoke. Bruns and his Rawhide racers refused to give in. Instead, they bolted a less powered 302-cubic-inch power plant in the sprint car and continued racing.
"We really don't make money racing," Bruns said. "We just try to make expenses."
By Sept. 3, Bruns had claimed the sprint cup championship at the local speedway. Hansen failed to finish in the top three in the final feature race. Had he done so, he would have won the championship crown.
"I appreciated all the help I got from sponsors and the many friends I had on my pit crew over the years," Bruns said.
The collection of friends that made up the Rawhide Racing Team, so named because they all liked the popular TV western program then airing, consisted over the years of DeLon Mork, Glen Hovrud, Lee Robson, Dave Lebahn, Tim Gullickson and many others.
"Racing is enjoyable, but it takes lots of work. I was fortunate to have lots of people over the years giving me a hand. I'm also thankful for the many fans that I had when racing," Bruns said.
"Thunder Over the Plains," the complete history of Lake County Speedway from its inception in 1959 until its closure in the fall of 2007, is now being printed. Over three years of research and writing has gone into the book. Pre-print orders can be placed by sending a check for $35.63, which includes handling and postage, to the Madison Daily Leader, 214 S. Egan, Madison, S.D., 57042.
Copies of the book are expected to be available for $29.95, plus tax, on Aug. 15. A book signing will be held in the near future.