Tom “The Bomb” Nesbitt
Rice Lake (WI) Speedways Hall of Fame
#LSN_Sports RL Speedway HOF class Sat., August 11. Eighth class. L to R; Tom Nesbitt, Todd Madsen, Rod Hensel and Dave Greschner
RICE LAKE, WISCONISN - August 12, 2018 (LSN) After 50 years working, some are honoured with a gold watch. When you haul a race car all over North America, win hundreds of Feature races, 30 season championships over 50 years, you get inducted into several Halls of Fame. Tom was honored this past weekend, August 11with his induction into Rice Lake (WI) Speedways Hall of Fame. Tom was a regular in the Late Model class at Rice Lake Speedway in the late 60’s, winning 14 features 1968-2002 and, the season points twice.
Tom was previously inducted in the Hall of Fame at, Hibbing MN, Superior WI, Menominee WI, Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame and, the only Canadian inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in Florence Kentucky.
Tom began his career in 1959 at the CLE (Canadian Lakehead Exhibition) Fairgrounds half mile dirt track in the Hobby class in a 1948 Mercury. In 1962 Tom, and Richard Foreman built a 1950 Dodge and started winning races until the motor blew, then went pitting for Dave Reagan for a while. Midway through the season he built a 1951 Olds from Boots Waugh and raced the balance of the season using #555 and, won the 15 lap Hobby Stock race at the 1962 Championships at the CLE. Tom ran the Olds again in 1963 but wins were hard to come by. Tom made the step up to Late Model in 1964, building a 1955 Chevy and started to race south of the border, running Hibbing MN Saturday nights and at Proctor Speedway outside Duluth, MN on Sundays. In 1965 Tom continued racing at Hibbing and Proctor and raced occasionally at Superior WI Fridays. Tom won Sportsman of the year at Hibbing, and Best International Contender at Proctor. In 1966 he'd run the same tracks as well. Tom quit his job in 1967, built a 1960 Studebaker and became a full-time racer
1968 would find Tom racing the same Studebaker and winning the first of numerous track championships, winning the title at Rice Lake WI, Superior and Riverview where he won an incredible 19 of 21 Late Model features. 1969 and another Studebaker, this one a 1966 which he raced to titles at Riverview, tied with Johnny Johnson for first at Superior and, at Rice Lake WI. 1970, the same Stude and, another title at Riverview. 1971 and the Studebaker was retired for a Chevy Nova, carrying him to yet another Riverview title and second in the Wisconsin State Dirt Track Championship. From 1972-75 Riverview did not race weekly but Tom would still tear up the tracks down south, in 1972 he won the Wisconsin State Dirt Track Championship. Tom added numerous other track titles in the seventies, Stillwater MN in 1973, 1974 at Cedar Lake Speedway, in Somerset, WI, Northstar Speedway in Blaine, MN and Stillwater, MN. In 1975 Tom won his third straight at Stillwater, repeated at Northstar. In 1976 Tom took his second Late Model title at Cedar Lake and won his first Invitational Championship feature at home at Riverview considering it one of his biggest thrills.
In the years 1976-82, a list, compiled from some 20 racing trade papers, had Tom 19th in Feature wins, with 119! Riverview’s results were only in the local papers, so it’s uncertain if they were included. Over that period, Tom won over 30 at Riverview, which would bring his total to over 150 and 10th overall for all North America!!!
38 of those Late Model Feature wins came in the 1980 season alone!!!
In the early 90's Tom would pick and choose his races and not chase point titles, big wins would come at Aberdeen SD, Battle Ground Speedway in Houston TX, Baton Rouge LA, Brownstown IN and I-90 in Hartford SD. When Tom ran with the big guns they had to work for it if they wanted to beat him in his back yard (if they could),hot shoe Billy Meyer chased Nesbitt all race in a big Late Model race at Cedar Lake waiting for an opening, Tom never gave him one.
During his career Tom won over 600 feature races on a number of different race tracks all over North America. Big wins in SUPR & Hav-A-Tampa races, in Louisiana & Texas! Winning 157, 43% of all the Late Model features at Riverview, the most in the tracks history as well as being the winningest driver at Superior WI. Add those feature wins to the 30 Late Model track championships at several different tracks, including 13 at Riverview, seven at Cedar Lake and, track bounties on him at several tracks.
As the Feature victories started to become tougher, Tom never gave up, and in the Northern Nationals at Superior WI in September 2005, Tom won what was perhaps his most popular victory. In both admiration, and gratitude for decades of thrills, the crowd gave him a five minute ovation. 2008 marked Tom Nesbitt's 50th season of racing, truly an incredible feat, and won a few heat races to round out his career, and finishing in the top 10 in several of the fall championship races. At Ashland WI Red Clay Classic, Tom was honored in a pre-race ceremony, paced the field in the 4 abreast salute to the crowd. Another ceremony at Antigo WI, another top ten, and 50 years of a glorious racing career came to a close. Thanks for the Memories Tom!
Visit the “100 Years of Thunder Bay Racing” , and Dave Cano’s “Hot Rods and Jalopies” in the CLE Coliseum this weekend, August 18-19 as part of “Thunder at The Bay” Car Show at the CLE Fairgrounds!
Photo By Stan Meissner
Story By Jeff Caldwell
From: "Ed Reichert"
No one enshrined in the Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Fame probably has higher name recognition among race fans across the country and loftier credentials than those presented by Tom Nesbitt.
Fifty consecutive years of racing spread across six decades and an estimated five hundred to six hundred feature wins are among the achievements recorded by Tom, the first Canadian racer to ever enter the Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Fame.
One hundred and fifty seven feature wins alone at Riverview Raceway, the now shuttered track in Thunder Bay Ontario plus being the highest winning driver in Gondik Law Speedway history are just a small portion of the honors that Nesbitt has recorded.
Nesbitt earned fourteen feature wins over his career at the Rice Lake Speedway with his first win coming during the 1969 racing season and the last win being in 2002, and these were during the most colorful early days of Late Model racing when rules were minimal and personalities larger than life. To veteran race fans from this area, Tom is best remembered for driving his Chevrolet powered Studebaker (with the illegally set back motor that was finally admitted to years later), and his iconic sponsor, Half way Motors. He won Season Championships in 1969 and 1983 along with the point title and Mid-Season Championship that same year, the Firecracker special in 1970 and the Late Model Invitational in 1982.
Tom started racing in 1959 when he and some buddies put a 1948 Ford together and they raced it at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition (CLE) Fairgrounds half mile track. A 1950 Dodge soon followed and what turned out to be a lifetime changing pattern had taken hold.
But there wasn't enough racing in Canada to suit Tom who soon took his race car on the road to visit U.S. Tracks with an early circuit that included Superior on Fridays, Hibbing on Saturdays and then back up to Thunder Bay on Sundays. A dispute with the Hibbing management team and Nesbitt switched his Saturday night racing to the Rice Lake Speedway.
Just imagine the dedication it took to drive down what was then a very rustic highway 61 to Superior on Fridays, race then in Rice Lake on Saturdays and then drive all night back up that tote road to Thunder Bay to race on Sunday afternoons. But he did it year after year. And successfully so. In 1967 he quit his job and became a full time racer, perhaps the first ever in this area to do so as he relied on his race earnings to support himself and keep his car on the track.
Asked to comment on Nesbitt, Rice Lake Speedway co-owner Dave Adams, a supplier of Nesbitt's racing engines for most of his career answered, “Hell, he lived in my back yard for twenty two Summers. That should about say it all!”
“Colorful” was a good way to describe Nesbitt, both on and off the track. Commitment, determination and dedication were personified in him as he towed up and down the highways of America, always pulling his car on an open trailer and always sporting the #1, a number he settled on for his first car because it was an easy number to put on the car. Whether he was beating the local hero, arguing to the death with the track promoter or perhaps wrestling in the dirt with another driver or tow truck operator, you either loved him or hated him, but above all, you respected him. He raced in nearly every state in the Midwest and South over his storied career which finally ended in 2008.
Among the high honors he has received in recognition of his profound achievements is membership in the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame headquartered in Florence Kentucky, the Northwest Ontario Hall of Fame and numerous track Halls of Fame.
Along the way he racked up honors and feature wins too numerous to mention, picked up the nickname “The Bomb” and somehow made wearing bib overalls a fashion statement.
Tom now enjoys his retirement from the sport, traveling to races to visit with fans and former
competitors and watch the new breed of racers develop. He is also mentoring his twin grandsons, Lukas and Matt Koski, as they race their #1 Super Stock, colored and lettered just as Tom had his cars.
Ladies and gentlemen, Rice Lake Speedway Hall of Famer, Thomas Anthony Tom “The Bomb” Nesbitt.