Famed Delavan drag racer built for speed
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DELAVAN Family and friends know where Arnie Beswick will be if he isn’t at home -- somewhere amid the fumes, noise and grease monkeys at a drag racing track in the Midwest.
However, most people would be surprised to learn that the Illinois native doesn’t sit in the stands these days -- the 81-year-old still gets behind the wheel almost every weekend, pushing his and his car’s limits at nearly 200 mph.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
“I used to race about five days a week and would travel from coast to coast,” Beswick said. “I don’t travel nearly as far these days because of the expense. I don’t have the finances to pay full-time help or to have somebody take time off from their jobs, and I don’t have the latest, greatest equipment to haul my stuff around. But I’m at some track pretty much every weekend.”
Beswick recently visited one of his favorite venues, Cordova Dragway Park, which is located near the Mississippi River not too far from his Morrison, Ill.-area farm.
“I was in a feature match race,” Beswick said of the quarter-mile track events he usually competes in. “And even though he had all of the bells and whistles and money for qualifying help, I still managed to beat him.”
Beswick will be taking next weekend off to renew acquaintances with friends and fans from Walworth County and southeastern Wisconsin when he and his famous “Tiger II” Pontiac will be first-time guests at the ninth annual Cars Time Forgot gathering.
“I used to race a lot over at Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, and was over there a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “A close friend told me that I would be a good complement to the show. I got to know a lot of people in that area, including Delavan, so it’ll be nice to catch up with them.”
This year’s Cars Time Forgot show has expanded from a four-hour event on a Sunday to a three-day celebration -- July 6 through July 8. And it’s moved from downtown Delavan to the more spacious Lake Lawn Resort (see accompanying graphic).
Several thousand racing enthusiasts will get glimpses of custom, drag and stock cars, trucks and motorcycles that roll into town -- and perhaps learn a little history along the way, especially if they get a chance to visit with Beswick, one of the racing world’s true pioneers, albeit an unsung hero in many ways.
His racing career started in 1951, and Beswick eventually competed in the stock, S/S, AF/X and Funny car ranks through the early ’70s, and most of the time without major sponsorship deals.
He switched to Pontiac in 1958 and stayed loyal to that brand ever since. Beswick gained recognition from the beginning for his mechanical, driving and showmanship talents, and his dominance in a stock car included winning his class at the first World Series of Drag Racing, a streak that reached a record 10 straight years.
For the complete story, see CSI's website HERE.
Highlights of the Cars Time Forgot celebration at Lake Lawn Resort:
July 6: Get acquainted party in the Lookout bar featuring live music.
July 7: Participants must preregister for road tours, which feature trips to a winery and craft brewery in Lake Mills. Watersport rentals; evening lakeside barbecue.
July 8: Ninth annual Cars Time Forgot car show and model car show, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.