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Doug Wolfgang – the South Dakota Wolf – Photo by Terry Bourcy

Doug at the Coastal 181 booth at Motorsports 2008 in Atlantic City.  With him is
Mares Stellfox, his daughter, Allie, and Dave Argabright - Photo by Cary Stratton

February 14, 2008


LONE WOLF, Dave Argabright’s new book on Doug Wolfgang, is haunting. In fact, it is that kind of read you keep coming back to in your mind, day after day.

Anyone who has spent a lifetime in and around sprinters would have yarns to spin. But with the South Dakota Wolf they just never seemed to stop. There were the nights of glory with the country’s finest owners, Trostle, Weikert, et al.; the tragedies culminating with the Larsen-Dawley fatal at Knoxville; the pranks with Lealand McSpadden; the life-threatening incident at Kansas City.

Deep inside LONE WOLF, however, are two amazing stories that symbolize just how unusual Wolfgang actually is in terms of his physical makeup. When Doug came to the Motorsports show in Atlantic City in January, 2008, we talked about both of them.

The first one involved those glasses. Do you remember those horrid black-rimmed ones he used to wear? Doug does. "Gosh, by high school I couldn’t even see the blackboard. So, in the car I used big plastic ones in the race car so they wouldn’t hurt my nose when I crashed. But everyone thought that nobody that dorky-looking could become anything, let alone a good racer!"

Then came along that night at Hartford, SD, in 1977. Doug was leading, but got into the fence, landing upside down, tail to the pack. And around came the field. "Some guy drilled the X in back of my cage, driving my head right on top of the magneto. I remember walking away seeing stars, but pissed off I hadn’t won the race. I immediately started getting headaches, and it was time for an eye appointment. The doctor said something very uncommon had happened. I had hit so hard I didn’t need the glasses anymore."

Fifteen years later, following his debilitating crash at Lakeside, Doug experienced another one-in-a-million transition. "When I first started racing," he explained, "I assumed it would be palms-wet, scary fast. I was so disappointed. It seemed like slow motion. I hated that feeling because I thought it was a curse and I was always over-driving because of it. But then I began to harness it and I realized it was more like a gift from God. The more I focused, the more I could win. Gosh, I could actually be leading at Knoxville and still clearly pick out my wife and two kids in the grandstands."

But, just as the dorky glasses went away after his 1977 accident, so did Doug’s accelerated perception ability. It was two full years of recuperation from the burns and other injuries at Lakeside before Doug returned to the seat. "I probably ended up running 100 races after the accident, and I bet I won 30 of them. But these weren’t at the highest level of sprint car racing – and I was finding myself a completely different driver. Suddenly things in front of me were happening FAST instead of in that slow motion, and I would back off way too much in reaction. Still today I don’t know what to make of it. I think about it a lot. But, in the end, I interpreted it as God’s way of telling me, okay, now it’s time to hang it up.’

"And I did."

© 2008 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

.: Previous Tearoffs :.

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer


























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