Race to remember: Don Gumke Racers' memorial Saturday
Don Gumke wasn’t a connoisseur of fine wines.
In fact, it’s likely the former Jamestown Speedway owner and modified driver had never heard of the “Five S’s” of wine tasting -- see, swirl, sniff, sip and savor -- because those steps are reserved for the likes of an aged Cabernet Sauvignon and not for Gumke’s much cheaper libation of choice: Boone’s Farm.
“He loved it,” said Mark Schumacher, friend and owner of Xtreme Transmission & Auto in Jamestown. “Loved the Boone’s Farm.”
Schumacher and local racing veteran John Corell Sr. are teaming up tomorrow (Saturday) to provide every modified driver in attendance for the Don Gumke Racers’ Memorial at Jamestown Speedway a bottle of Boone’s Farm wine. It’s one of a host of contingency prizes for a night of racing in which organizers have earmarked to become an annual event.
Schumacher, who’s built transmissions for numerous drivers and has piloted a bomber car in the past, learned of Gumke’s appreciation for the inexpensive spirit with Corell following a Fourth of July modified feature rainout in 2017.
“He brings that Boone’s Farm to me, ‘Buddy, buddy, you gotta try this,'" Schumacher said. "It's like eating a bag of sugar."
Schumacher said his taste buds largely rejected the experience, but he couldn’t think of a more lighthearted and fitting tribute for his friend. Gumke passed away in January at the age of 66 while working on his race car in Gold Canyon, Arizona.
“Johnny (Corell) and I were gonna pitch in more money for the mod drivers, but a friend of mine -- Andy Kapp -- brought it up to me,” Schumacher said. “‘I know how much you hate Boone’s Farm,’ he says. ‘Why don’t you do something with Boone’s Farm for Don’s memorial?’
“I was like, ‘That’s not a bad idea. No. 1, you’re right. I hate Boone’s Farm.’”
After losing the entire month of May to COVID-19, Jamestown Speedway co-owner Tim Baldwin is thankful this weekend’s racers’ memorial was able to come together. Gumke’s untimely death came after the passing of local drivers Jeff Carpenter, 61, in May of 2019, and Keith Hermanson, 53, last July, all of whom will be recognized.
“It’s been a roller coaster last few months, to say the least, and this was one of the toughest parts,” Baldwin said. “There’s a lot of plans that went into this and there’s a lot of people making plans from a long ways away.”
Saturday’s event is being limited to IMCA Modifieds, WISSOTA Street Stocks and bombers to keep the show tight and will commemorate Gumke’s No. 2 modified with winning payouts of $2,222, $1,222 and $222, respectively. Baldwin said a $1,037-to-win Midwest modified feature race honoring Carpenter and his No. 37 B-mod is being planned for later this summer.
Hermanson’s daughters will be performing the national anthem prior to Saturday's 7 p.m. green flag. Baldwin explained an annual Don Gumke Racers’ Memorial event would take time to honor all who made a difference in local racing.
“The racers’ part is plural, meaning we want to include everybody. Workers, volunteers, sponsors and fans,” Baldwin said. “We wanted it to be inclusive so we can take a minute to appreciate everybody … whether you’re a name people recognize or somebody in the background who was always there helping out.”
Saturday is also the second stop for the summer-long, 16-date Steffes Street Stock Tour, adding to what should be a solid showing of modifieds. The tour opened Friday night in Mandan.
Jamestown’s Trackside EMS and MidMach are sponsoring $222 contingency prizes to modified drivers for the longest tow, hard charger, and the leaders of Lap 2 and Lap 22. Lucky fans will also win $222 if they are holding the frisbee of the driver leading on both those laps, sponsored by Dakota Engine Builders. The event’s title sponsors are Don Wilhelm Inc., S&R Truck Plaza, I-29 Trailer Sales and I-94 Trailer Sales.
Baldwin says he’s expecting cars from as far away as Wyoming and Wisconsin.
“It keeps getting to be more special and more meaningful as we get closer, just with the different groups, businesses and individuals wanting to be a part of it,” Baldwin said. “We’re expecting a lot of the bigger name IMCA drivers and street stock drivers.”
Jamestown Speedway held its season opener last weekend, with Corell (modifieds), Jonny Carter (streets), Cody Lee (Midwest mods), Tye Wilke (legends) and Dylan Steele (bombers) taking home the feature wins. The car count was 109.
Baldwin said while pandemic restrictions have eased to 50% grandstand capacity, the speedway will be adding additional plexiglass barriers in concession areas and will continue to suggest folks spread out and bring their own hand sanitizer to complement what the track is able to provide. The track’s grandstand seats approximately 2,200.
“The first race went really well last week,” Baldwin said. “The turnout we had was great and we were really thankful for those who came out and supported it. I think that’s a good sign for this weekend.
“We’re expecting a larger crowd, but we don’t think it’s going to be to the point where we have to worry about that 50% capacity.”
Those who do attend will be afforded an insight into what Gumke, Hermanson and Carpenter meant to Jamestown Speedway and dirt-track racing.
“Clearly, there’s a lot of people older than me who knew Don very, very well,” said the 47-year-old Schumacher. “But I got to know Don, I’ve always liked Don and had a lot of respect for Don.
“Don had respect for me, and that meant the world to me.”