LeMay Jr. bucks racing superstitions, enjoys successful racing career
By Joe Verdegan
Full Throttle Magazine Contributor
Eddie LeMay Jr. wasn’t afraid to turn the tables on one of racing’s oldest superstitions.
It’s a well known fact that there are three things that are strictly “taboo” and therefore deemed very unlucky in terms of stock car racing. These superstitions date back to the early 1900s.
First off – the color green. It’s often known that drivers who sport the color green on their cars be cursed
with bad luck.
Secondly, sprinkling peanut shells on the hood of a fellow competitor’s race car is bad news and another big no, no.
The third one – the number 13. It’s considered by many unlucky in several ways, including being slapped on the door of a race car.
LeMay, from Milwaukee, was racing in the sportsman division at the now defunct Hales Corners Speedway in Franklin in the mid 1990s.
“We were having a streak of some real bad luck,” recalls LeMay. “We’d be leading and we’d crash out. Blow a motor. Stuff like that.”
So out of utter sarcasm, LeMay threw a number 13 on the car.
The next week, he won the feature.
“I had been trying hard, leading the feature three weeks in a row,” LeMay says. “So for that, I’ll always stick with the number 13. I’m stuck with it. My wife even has that number tattooed on her.”
The 46-year-old from Milwaukee is one of the top guns on the Custom Windows Plus Badger Mod Tour presented by Gandrud Chevrolet. LeMay sports the number 13 on his Slick chassis, owned by Don and Stacey Uhreka of Beaver Dam. The team has a reputation for coming to the race track each week on sharp looking equipment.
“Don does such a great job keeping up with all of that stuff,” LeMay says. “I’m pretty much a hired gun. It works out great. Between he and his wife Stacey, and Ralph (Higgins) they make it all possible. If those guys ever decide to hang it up I’ll for sure hang it up, too.”
It was a high school graduation present that got LeMay involved in racing.
“It was 1985, and my present was a race car,” LeMay says.
The car was a division of old taxi cabs affectionately known as the Hales Whales.
“The Hales Whales project only lasted a few weeks because we blew it up,” LeMay says with a laugh. “That’s when we moved into the Sportsman class. It was pretty tough back then.”
LeMay scored some heat wins in the late 1980s, but took some time off from 1990 to 1996 to get away from racing.
“I came back in 1997 and we ran in the Sportsman class again,” LeMay says. “We traveled a little bit then, too. We started to branch out. We’d run Chilton some Friday nights. We’d hit Big Beaver, Little Beaver, just running all over the place and having fun.”
The fendered class suited LeMay just fine until 2000.
“That’s when I first went Modified racing,” LeMay says. “It was different but we had fun.”
It was fun and LeMay again ran some Beaver Dam and Hales Corners, and a rare trip to Shawano Speedway’s half mile ended up destroying a Bob Pierce modified.
“That was a bad wreck, and it was a brand new car, too,” LeMay says.
LeMay switched back to the Sportsman class for a couple of years and as fate would have it, he would wind becoming a hired gun for Don Uhreka.
“We meet at the half mile in Beaver Dam (Dodge County Fairgrounds),” Don Uhreka recalls. “I was working with Andy Voigt and it was the year the half mile had the open class cars. Eddie came up from Hales Corners and raced Big Beaver.”
The two met after the races over a few cold ones nearly 15 years ago at The Roost near the track and the rest as they say, is history.
“We’ve been friends ever since,” Don says. In 2004 LeMay bought a Modified and Don was helping Nick Woods and would drive down to Milwaukee and set LeMay’s car as well.
“Then it was in 2005 when Nick quit and I told Eddie I wanted to house the car and I took over the operation,” Don says.
In 2012, LeMay and Uhreka hit the road with the Badger Mod Tour, competing against the toughest Modified drivers in Wisconsin.
“It’s the best of the best in Wisconsin really,” says LeMay, who qualified for all of the BMT features except the final night at 141 Speedway. He wound up 10th in the final point standings.
“It’s challenging running with those guys from up north — it keeps me going actually,” LeMay says. “It took me a long time to win in a Sportsman car. Now we’ve got this challenge running with the BMT. If we can get in the front and just compete and win a feature I’ll be happy.”
The team’s plans include the full BMT and Oshkosh Speedzone schedules, and visits to Beaver Dam Raceway — schedule permitting.
The 2013 BMT schedule includes some tracks LeMay has never been to before.
“I’ve never been to Eagle River or Seymour,” says LeMay, who prefers the shorter tracks.
“Honestly, I hate half miles, I like third miles. There is a different kind of finesse running the short track. They all make you a better racer, though.”
LeMay runs a Slick chassis built by fellow BMT competitor Russ Reinwald.
“We like it, but we’re still figuring it out,” LeMay says. “We ran Pro cars for years. We’d struggle at tracks were there was a lot of bite, like Beaver Dam. A lot of the BMT shows the track slicks up, which I actually prefer. We’ve just got to find a happy medium is all.”
Who’s his favorite driver to race against?
“Without question Jared Siefert,” LeMay says. “I’ve raced against Jared on and off over the years, and last year with the BMT. He’s as clean of a racer as you’ll find. I really like running side-by-side with Jared.”
When he’s not pitchin’ it sideways LeMay has another hobby.
“Camping,” LeMay says. “A lot of times wherever we’re racing at I’ll leave the track and I’ll meet the family back wherever we are camping.”
LeMay’s team of sponsors includes Marvins Manor Assisted Living of Waupun, Horicon, Fox Lake and Brandon, Charlie Browns Bar, Federal Mogul sintered products of Waupun, Craig Wheeler’s Race Engines, DW Motorsports, Tim Paitrick Transmissions, Jims Countyline Bar, JJ’s Bar, Keevins, Mr. Madisons Bar, United Auto Parts of Waupun, Falbe Auto Painting, Voigt Racing Specialties, Motorgraphics and WiDirtRacin.com.
His pit crew consists of Don and Stacey Uhreka and “right hand man” Ralph Higgins. Craig Wheeler builds the engines and kids Don and Kristen Uhreka lend a hand in the shop during the week.
What does the future hold for LeMay?
“I could race another ten years or could be done after this year,” LeMay says. “It’s all up to Don and his wife. The day they decide to pull the pin, I’ll likely do the same. I couldn’t do it without those two, no doubt.”
(This article first appeared in the May 2014 issue of Full Throttle magazine.)