Mackesy carries on successful racing traditions
By Bert Lehman
Editor, Full Throttle Magazine
It was the summer of 1987 when Mark Mackesy’s dad, who raced Late Models at State Park Speedway in Wausau, hurt his back and couldn’t race for awhile. Mackesy, who was 17 years old at the time, told his dad, “Why don’t you let me see if I can drive it.”
Mackesy’s dad responded, “Well, we’ll see how it goes.”
“We came to the track in the afternoon and hot lapped and he thought I did alright and he said, “Go ahead, giver a spin,” Mackesy recalls.
It wasn’t one of Mackesy’s finest racing moments, as he says he was extremely nervous. He was shaking and felt sick.
“I think I was last in the heat and last in the semi. I ended up going over the sandbank in the semi the last time,” Mackesy says with a laugh. “That was before they put the walls up and around the track.”
Even though his first racing experience wasn’t one of the highlights of his career, he continued racing the rest of that season and then raced the following season at the newly opened Golden Sands Speedway. In 1989, with his dad healthy again, Mackesy continued to race the car at Golden Sands Speedway, while his dad raced the car at State Park Speedway.
Mackesy eventually took over the wheel of the car on his own and raced at a variety of asphalt tracks throughout Wisconsin. He currently races at only State Park Speedway, a track he won the track championship at in the Late Model division in 2008 and 2009. He has also won the Larry Detjens Memorial race in 1999 and 2006 at State Park Speedway.
On June 23 Mackesy shocked the ASA Midwest Tour drivers by winning the Flip Merwin Memorial race at State Park Speedway. He says that was the biggest win in his career because it was an ASA Midwest Tour Series race in which some big named drivers were present, and the $3,000 first place prize was the most money he had ever won in one race.
“I felt pretty confident,” Mackesy says about how he felt leading up to that race. “We had won a feature before that. We hot lapped pretty good. We qualified good and the car felt comfortable, and I thought we’d be around all night. I figured we’d be up there.”
After starting the racing around the eighth starting position, Mackesy says the outside groove was working well and he moved up to fourth place.
“I was riding around in fourth and I picked off the guy in fourth and started catching the first and second place car and then just kind of sat there until the halfway break,” Mackesy recalls. “We were a little loose so we tightened the car up at the halfway break and then we made a run at the lead. We got around second place and then we were hounding Bryan Reffner for probably 20-25 laps until I got around him.”
The win was special to Mackesy in other ways, as he was friends with Merwin.
“I was choked up. It was surreal in a lot of way,” Mackesy says. “I really didn’t believe it happened. I mean, with a small operation like we have to actually win it was pretty cool. It really hasn’t settled in yet.”
Up until that point, Mackesy says there were only two other drivers to win an ASA race who weren’t touring drivers. One of the drivers was Kyle Busch.
In late July, Mackesy was vying to become a three-time winner of the Larry Detjens Memorial race at State Park Speedway. A victory in that race would have been extra special as Mackesy is engaged to Margo Detjens, who is Larry Detjens’ daughter. Mackesy came up short in his bid to win a third Larry Detjens Memorial race as he finished fourth in the 150-lap event.
He says the Larry Detjens Memorial race is probably the biggest race of the year at State Park Speedway.
“They always say when Buddy Holly crashed that was the day the music died. Around here it was kind of the day racing died [when Larry Detjens died in a racing accident],” Mackesy says. “At that point we were getting awesome crowds and everything was going good. It kind of tailed off after that.
“It is finally starting to come back. A lot of people will come out now and say, ‘I haven’t been out there since the Detjens, Trickle, Reffner days.”
Mackesy is currently on top of the Super Late Model point standings at State Park Speedway. He says he owes his success to crew member Tommy Ress and having Margo Detjens being supportive in his racing efforts. Also, the help of his parents and sponsors has been beneficial.
He is also grateful that the Wimmer family bought State Park Speedway and has kept racing alive in Wausau.
“It’s hard to believe what they’ve done to it,” Mackesy says. “When I was a kid, it’s back to what it was like in the 1970s with the crowd and fan enthusiasm. They’re not just humdrum, they are actually excited. It kind of reminds me of when you go to Shawano [Speedway]. The fans there are almost rabid to a point. That’s how it used to be here, but it wasn’t for a long time. Now it’s back to that where people are really into it. They have their guys that they root for. It’s really neat.”
(This article first appeared in the August 2011 issue of Full Throttle Magazine.)