School buses to race again at Proctor Speedway

When track announcer Mark Fleischer first mentioned he wanted to compete in the school bus races last summer at Proctor Speedway, most people thought he was joking.

When track announcer Mark Fleischer first mentioned he wanted to compete in the school bus races last summer at Proctor Speedway, most people thought he was joking.

But Fleischer was serious, and when the dust settled, he had taken the rest of the competition to school.

Fleischer isn't playing hooky this year. He is back to defend his title at tonight's Midsummer's Night of Mayhem.

"I wanted to do this as soon as I heard about it," said Fleischer, a local radio personality and sports play-by-play man. "So when it came to race day, I was like, 'Got a bus for me?' And they said, 'Yep, get in that one.' And I went out there."

In addition to bus races, tonight's racing lineup includes trailer races, a pick-up truck pull and Pure Stocks, which help pack the track for racing.


Last year's inaugural school bus racing event was organized chaos as officials expected a crowd of 1,500 but more than 3,000 people showed up. The crowd included 100 Hells Angels and about 200 ATF agents and other law enforcement, including a helicopter circling overhead. Proctor Speedway president Crash Carlson said cars were three wide as they converged on the ticket booth, and he heard of stop-and-go traffic all the way to Interstate 35, more than a mile away.

"That's as many people as I've ever seen at Proctor Speedway," Fleischer said.

This year, Proctor Speedway is better prepared to handle the crowd. There will be more seating and additional people to sell tickets and beverages, with a large supply of pop and beer in reserve. People can bring their lawn chairs and sit along the back straightaway, and no cars will be allowed inside the track except for handicapped drivers.

The event was a money maker for the track, even after vandals looted the buses for copper this past winter. Despite extensive damage, Carlson said the speedway is furnishing seven buses for tonight's show, and he expects as many as 15 to race. The speedway brought the buses out for a teaser heat race earlier this season, and the night drew 500 more people than usual.

"What do yellow school buses do in the summer?" Carlson quipped. "They race!"

At first, Carlson thought about having the buses compete in a demolition derby, and other shows have them race on a figure eight track, adding to the excitement. But Proctor Speedway officials ultimately decided that racing the buses was best for the long term.

"It all depends upon where you start, or at least a lot of it does, because all the buses pretty much go the same speed," Fleischer said. "We thought some people might try to modify their buses, but nobody really did. They were all stock. They knock all the windows out, but they are pretty much the way they were when they delivering kids at one point."

Fleischer estimated the buses topped out between 45 and 50 mph last year.


"But it seemed a lot faster," Fleischer said. "When you go into those turns, you forget about how long that rear end is, or when someone hits you, that's a long ways back. But if you can get your nose in there, you can kind of use the other person to help you around the corners."

Since Fleischer will be racing tonight, his brother, Mike, will handle the announcing. For the second straight year, Fleischer plans on giving lessons.

"I don't think any of the racing people actually thought I'd do this, so that was part of it," Fleischer said. "I used to do those media races when they had them back in the day. I don't know if you'd call this real racing, but it's something I've thought about since I was a little kid, going to the Alexandria (Minn.) race track where I grew up. It's just fun getting out there."

Jon Nowacki is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune
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