HARTFORD — There are hidden sports gems all over Wisconsin. Time to unveil another one: the Southeastern Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame in Hartford.
"Wisconsin is so lucky to have that history of short track racing," Southeastern Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame President Dick Melius says.
As President of the Southeastern Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame, Melius knows the rich racing heritage of the area.
"We have probably more stuff that we could display, than what's on display right now," Melius says.
From Matt Kenseth's first winning car, and last with Robbie Reiser.
"Reiser Enterprises, Robbie and his Dad John built this car," Melius says. "Matt Kenseth drove it to their first Busch race. And they donated it to the Hall of Fame after they completely rebuilt it. Displayed here exactly the way it came off the race track, as you can see by looking at it. It's got a lot of graffiti on it and everything else. The tires are all flat from the burnout. And that was Matt Kenseth's last win, as Robbie Reiser being a crew chief."
To Dick Trickle.
"He was a special guy to everybody in Wisconsin racing," Melius says. "We have a Heilig-Meyers NASCAR car of his that's owned by one of our board members. And there's a lot of Trickle memorabilia here. And people come in and have a lot of great stories to share about Dick Trickle."
To Alan Kulwicki.
"Alan raced at all of the short tracks here first," Melius says. "And we knew him when he was a teenager, some of us did, and got to know him and as he got better and better at racing, people that knew something said 'you know, he's going to be pretty good.' Never thinking that pretty good meant a NASCAR championship."
And over time, the stories just get better and bigger.
"My Dad lived to be in his mid-90's. And he quit racing in '67 so I heard his stories for a long time. And they got longer, every time he told them!" Melius says. "It was like when they said the fish was that far from shore, you know? Oh yeah, I beat him by the front straightaway and when you talk to people that were there, it was by about two inches, you know."
But the memories remain special.
"We meet so many friends by being part of racing over the years, and we continue to do so. And that's what it's all about. You know it's one happy family," Melius says.
The museum also features up-and-coming stars with a display of two current Go-Kart champs from the area.