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Crash won’t slow driver down

Fremont’s Wedelstadt adds to stable of cars

By Bert Lehman

The offseason for Mike Wedelstadt of Fremont turned into a grueling one.

In November, he was racing his Modified in Arizona and was involved in a nasty traffic accident. He said he went through his vehicle’s windshield.

“The whole side of my face is brand new, it’s all plastic,” Wedelstadt said. “I pretty much tore that off. It bruised my heart, my brain was bleeding. I broke my neck in two spots. I busted my legs all up. There was internal bleeding in my chest. It was a mess. I think I was in intensive care for five or six days.”

Doctors wouldn’t give him medical clearance to fly home in Wisconsin, so he had someone take him home in his race hauler, a trip that took 28 hours.

“I got home and I thought I was going to die,” Wedelstadt said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it through.”

Since then, Wedelstadt has endured several surgeries.

“It’s been hell,” he said, describing his recovery.

He said his neck is doing well, but sometimes his chest hurts. His memory has also been affected by the accident, but it is slowly coming back.

“For the last month I get up at 4:30 a.m. to work out,” Wedelstadt said. “Since I’ve been doing that, I feel pretty good. I actually feel better than I did before.”

When asked if doctors placed any restrictions on his racing, Wedelstadt stated, “I’m going to plead the Fifth.”

He said there are no restrictions now.

“They didn’t want me racing until the middle of April and I was back in a car in February,” he said. “They weren’t real impressed with me, but it’s what I love to do. If I die in that race car, I’ll probably die happier than anywhere else. I’ve done this for 20 years and nothing has stopped me before. I’ve raced with broken ribs, broken wrists.”

With Wedelstadt well on his way to recovering from the traffic accident, he is venturing into a new form of racing: dirt Late Models.

He recently purchased a MB Customs dirt Late Model from Jimmy Mars Racing. Wedelstadt won’t be driving it though, at least not yet. He’s putting Arizona driver R.C. Whitwell behind the wheel.

Wedelstadt said he met and raced against Whitwell while racing in Arizona over the years.

“He’s a good kid,” he said.

Whitwell has worked for Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series regular Earl Pearson Jr. for a year, as well as racing Late Models on his own.

Putting Whitwell behind the wheel of one of his race cars is not new for Wedelstadt. Over the past year, Whitwell has raced on of Wedelstadt’s Modifieds on several occasions, including since Wedelstadt’s traffic accident.

“He’ll be in it for as long as he wants to be in it,” he said.

Wedelstadt will continue to race a Modified also.

So why is Wedelstadt also venturing into the dirt Late Model world?

“I said I never would, but after looking at them and working on them, I don’t know, we’ll give it a try,” he said. “It’s just something different. I’ve lived my life to the fullest and I just want to have fun. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. If I run good, fine, if I don’t run good, he’ll (Whitwell) have a backup car.”

Wedelstadt will also get behind the wheel of a dirt Late Model. He has another MB Customs car ordered. When it arrives, Whitwell be drive the new Late Model and Wedelstadt will drive the one Whitwell is racing now.

“I ran one (dirt Late Model) 10 years ago up in Antigo,” Wedelstadt said. “We were really, really good in it. We started way in the back and I ended up third that night. It was an old Rayburn, it was a really good car. I hot lapped it before and I think it’s easier to drive than a Mod.”

Whitwell will drive the current Late Model at select races in the Midwest.

“We spent a lot of money getting this all put together,” Wedelstadt said. “We bought the new hauler, the car. I have to work more than race right now. R.C. will do the racing and I’ll do the working.”

Whitwell is thankful for the opportunity.

“I guess I did enough to make him recognize me and see that I could get around the track well enough to where he let me drive his cars,” he said. “I was pretty fortunate, really. I was at the right place at the right time and put myself in position to impress somebody who wants to go racing full-time.”

He and Wedelstadt have talked about putting the program together for about a year.

“I was really happy that he decided to pursue some Late Model racing and for me to be a part of the team,” Whitwell said.

Whitwell raced the Late Model for the first time at the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series race May 20 at Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway. He finished fifth in his heat race and won his B-Main to qualify for the feature, where he finished 20th.

It wasn’t the first time Whitwell raced a Late Model in Wisconsin. He raced his own Late Model at the USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond last season.

“It was a great experience, awesome track,” Whitwell said. “I was very fortunate to qualify really good and get into the main event and I believe I ended up 13th on the lead lap. It was the first 100-lap race I’ve ever been in and to complete the whole thing on the lead lap, I was happy with that.”

Wedelstadt has a goal in mind for his Late Model program.

“Go and have fun,” he said. “Whatever it brings, it brings. I have no expectations. I think I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do and this will just be another step. I’m looking forward to it.”

• Bert Lehman is editor of Full Throttle, a Multi Media Channels publication. This article appeared in the June 2016 issue.

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