Five decades in racing
Bertram named to Shawano Speedway Hall of Fame
By Bert Lehman
When Ed Bertram decided to sponsor a racecar driven by local racer Doug Blashe in the early 1980s, little did Bertram know that it would lead him down a path of local racing involvement that is still going, as well as being selected to the Shawano Speedway Hall of Fame.
In the early 1980s, Blashe asked Bertram to sponsor his racecar. At the time, Bertram worked at his dad’s body shop in Marion.
“I figured all businesses had to advertise, and I thought that was a good way to advertise. Put your name on a guy’s car out at the racetrack and get some exposure,” Bertram said.
The strange thing was, Bertram said he had never been to Shawano Speedway prior to that to watch the racing action there. That changed when he started sponsoring Blashe’s car.
“That’s how I got started, by coming here (Shawano Speedway) watching him, and then from there on I just went to every level that there was,” Bertram said.
In the early years, Bertram learned as much as he could about the local racing scene, and soon came to realize that there were few companies selling racing parts to local drivers. This led him to open Gold Star Racing Supplies in the early 1990s in an old soda pop factory in Marion. The business may have been headquartered in Marion, but the business plan also called for Bertram to have trucks at local tracks, selling parts to drivers exactly when they needed them.
At one time, Bertram had four different trucks filled with racing parts traveling to local tracks.
Bertram built his own racetrack in the late 1990s – a go-kart track. After Mike Mitchell helped spur go-kart racing in Shawano, Bertram took notice and built his own track – GSR Kartway – just outside of Clintonville. He also moved the storefront of Gold Star Racing Supplies to the same location.
Between GSR Kartway, and the go-kart tracks in Shawano, Ringle and Hilbert, the tracks proved to be a feeder program for local racing, with numerous drivers graduating from go-karts to car racing at local tracks.
“My intent with that track, honestly, was I wanted a way to get more customers in my race store,” Bertram said. “My whole thought behind it was if I can hook them young enough on the go-kart track then I can maybe drag them up into the store to buy parts and cars, and everything else. It never worked that way. But that was one of the reasons I started it and pushed it.
“Did I realize they were going to become what they are today? No way. I knew the kart track was being built to teach them kids flags, procedures, the whole ten yards, in order for them to transpose themselves into this program.”
Bertram moved to Michigan for a short time around 2008. Prior to the move he sold Gold Star Racing Supplies, which was eventually moved to Oshkosh by new owners.
Back to Clintonville
After returning to Clintonville, he saw there wasn’t a racecar parts dealer at some local tracks, so he once again started a racing parts supply business, but on a smaller scale than before. He travels to Shawano Speedway and Outagamie Speedway in Seymour every week with a trailer full of racing parts to sell.
“Those are the only two (tracks),” Bertram said. “I have no other desire to go further.”
Bertram’s almost 40 years of involvement in local racing, specifically at Shawano Speedway as a sponsor, car owner and race parts dealer culminated with him being inducted into the Shawano Speedway Hall of Fame on June 19.
What was Bertram’s reaction when he found out he was selected to be inducted into the Shawano Speedway Hall of Fame?
“I was totally shocked, because to my knowledge there has never been a non-driver put in the Hall of Fame,” Bertram said. “Let me tell you, that feather is in my hat big-time because I never in a million years figured that was coming down the pike.
“Those guys (drivers) belong in there. Do I belong in there? Damn straight, because if it wasn’t for me and what I do, a lot of people will never get to the Hall of Fame. They’re all talented people and I didn’t make them talented, but I helped keep them rolling.”
Commemorating Bertram’s HOF induction
To help commemorate Bertram’s Hall of Fame induction, Late Model driver Brett Swedberg, IMCA Modified driver Jordan Bartz, IMCA Stock Car driver Kyle Frederick, and IMCA SportMod driver Matthew Radtke replaced the body panels on the right side of their cars with a throwback graphics scheme from one of the cars Bertram owned in the 1980s.
“That was my deal,” Bertram said. “I wanted a car in every class to have the Blatz theme because that was just part of my whole program.”
In addition to a throwback graphics, several former pit crew members from that 1980s race team also returned to Shawano Speedway for the induction ceremony.
“That’s the other reason I put the cars out there, to try to get some of them guys to come back,” Bertram said. “That was part of the plan. That was neat to have them back.”
The crew members also returned to victory lane, as Swedberg won the Late Model feature that night.
When asked what he is most proud of about his involvement with Shawano Speedway, Bertram replied, “Owning the cars, getting them out (on the track), and having cars with my name on them.”