The southeastern racing community suffered a huge loss with the passing of writer, promoter and motorsports historian Bryan Gapinski over the weekend. A regular at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie and contributor to the DeForest Times-Tribune and the Sun Prairie Star, Gapinski lost his courageous battle with cancer on Sunday. He was 56.
Many who either knew Gapinski or crossed paths with him knew of his passion for all motorsports.
Gapinski handled media duties and was the announcer for the Wisconsin-based Badger Midget Auto Racing Association. He was a familiar face at Badger’s “home track” Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, but not this year because of Dane County’s ban on gatherings due to COVID-19.
Angell Park Speedway President Erin Yeargin called Bryan Gapinski a walking encyclopedia.
“He knew literally every single moment in racing that has happened at Angell Park,” he said. “The stuff that he could remember was amazing, stuff that even the older guys couldn’t.”
Gapinski not only wrote stories about races at Angell Park Speedway, but was the track announcer.
“Bryan’s voice was very iconic with Angell Park; his voice had become synonymous with the Badger Midgets Racing Series in particular. To hear somebody else announcing now after the passing of Bryan will be a huge change,” Yeargin said.
“This is tough, said BMRA President Quinn McCabe in a statement on the BMRA website. “Bryan was a historian. He knew all the history of Badger. He knew everything and everyone in midget racing.
“It seemed like he was around forever. He was our PR guy and announcer. Bryan was a true race fan. He loved to go to the track. He did a lot for midget racing; I think you’ll never find another one like him.”
Gapinski both covered and worked with Jeff Wesell, a BMRA driver and host of “The Driver’s Meeting” on WTKM radio in Hartford/West Bend. The two had been friends for nearly 30 years, according to Wesell.
“I grew closer to Bryan in the mid-2000s as I was announcing race events, and several times through those years Bryan and I would co-announce race events together,” said Wesell. “There is no one else that walks this earth that has or will have had the knowledge of midget racing than Bryan had. It was just remarkable.”
Wesell did not know Gapinski was battling cancer until late this race season, one that was abbreviated by COVID-19.
“It was more toward the fall when he did get out and go to the last races of the season; that’s when I and most others found out,” Wesell said.
“Any track that had ties with Bryan, and that included Angell Park, and pretty much anyone involved in motorsports in southeastern Wisconsin knew of Bryan and what he contributed to the sport,”said Wesell. “Knowing that he won’t be around is going to be a huge void to fill. It’s a huge loss.”
Racing go-karts for a while, Gapinski was a young photographer for the Midwest Racing News in the 1970s. He began to contribute stories to MRN and other auto racing publications, including National Speed Sport News.
Gapinski was a midget car owner for a number of years. He represented Hoosier Tire and National Halibrand, the manufacturer of open-wheel drive-train components.
Retired motorsports writer John Close and Gapinski both were writers for Midwest Racing News during the late 1980s and early 90s.
“If I would go to Angell Park I would run into him; we both (wrote about) the same thing, just with different types of cars; he was the go-to guy at Angell Park,” said Close. “I always respected his passion for racing and his dedication to preserving its history. His passing was a big loss for Wisconsin racing, especially the open-wheel community.”
For 20 years, Gapinski oversaw the National Midget Driver of the Year, an award determining the top national midget driver which used a unique point system based on several factors including car count, purse and event prestige. Tanner Thorson and the late Bryan Clauson were the only three-time winners of the award.
Gapinski is survived by his wife of almost 22 years, Jenna, and two children, daughter, Kailey, and son, Tyler.