Large purse, crowd expected at second annual Tom Rosebrugh Memorial race
WHITTEMORE — Extra winnings will be on the line in front of a capacity crowd at Whittemore Speedway when drivers hit the track for the second annual Tom Rosebrugh Memorial July 6.
Tom’s son, Tony Rosebrugh, a driver who races regularly at Whittemore, said last year during the first memorial race there was not an empty seat in the stands.
“The stands were absolutely packed, and there was a lot of people that don’t go on a weekly basis, that went just for this specific event,” he said.
“There was over 1,000 people last year, and I think our grandstands will hold about 1,200,” said Whittemore Racing Club President Andy Hess, adding that with coolers and other things carried into the stands taking up space, 1,000 people is probably more accurate.
A purse of $3,000 for the winner and $500 for cars starting in the feature is also on the line, which Tony said attracts more racers to the speedway.
“This will be easily Whittemore’s biggest purse of the year,” he said. “It’ll get cars out of Indiana, southern Michigan and northwestern Ohio.”
According to Hess, large sponsors, small businesses, individuals and friends of Tom’s all chipped in to help sweeten the pot for drivers.
Tony said faster cars are allowed at the memorial race, and that the cars run 100 laps, compared to the 30 normally run during a feature race at Whittemore.
“Whittemore, on a weekly basis, runs a limited late model, which is restricted on horsepower,” he said. “This will be a super late model race, which will be bigger tires and bigger motors.”
“The times will be roughly a half a second to three-quarters of a second quicker than a normal night,” Tony added.
Hess said the club is hoping to attract more cars this year for the event. He said last year there were 18 cars in the feature.
“We’re hoping we’ll get in the 30 range,” he said. “I don’t quite see that this year, because we are in the building process. We are up north. People know where we are, but it’s kind of out of the way.”
Tony said last year’s inaugural event was amazing to be a part of.
“It definitely was something special,” he said. “What’s more amazing, and why we want to keep this memorial race as an annual event, is when you still, two years after his passing, run into people that still talk about his racing career. And these are random people as far away as Flint, Grand Rapids. People still talk about his career, which basically started at Whittemore.”
“It was nice to see in the first annual — or last year’s race — it was nice to see the old mechanics that helped him, and all the old fans that used to go week in and week out to watch him race, back at the track,” he added.
Tony’s brother, Todd Rosebrugh, won the memorial race last year. He said winning an event that was established to honor his father was a great feeling.
“It’s pretty huge to win the race in memory of your dad,” he said.
Todd added seeing so many people at the race demonstrated his father’s impact on racing in the area.
“It was overwhelming to see so many people come out for that deal,” he said. “And it’s going to be bigger this year.”
Tom Rosebrugh was killed in a logging accident in 2011. He raced at Whittemore Speedway from the mid ’60s at the age of 15, all the way up to 2008.
“He started out racing at Whittemore and the American Legion Speedway in West Branch, which is gone now,” Tony said.
Over the years, Tom caught the eye of racing fans, drivers and mechanics, Tony added.
“His early cars were very primitive, and then in ’73, or ’74 a builder from Sand Lake actually built a car from the ground up for Dad to race,” he said. “It was just somebody that had the funding to build the expensive car. He had the funding to build a premium car and wanted to put Tom in it.”
Tom’s cars continued to evolve, Tony said. And over the years he won championships and large invitational races at Whittemore, he added.
“He won several big event races, as well as several championships,” he said. “He won them at Meritt. He won them at Standish, too.”
Todd said Tom helped him and Tony grow as drivers.
“He’s helped us along the way, showed us the dos and don’ts,” he said.
There will be practice for drivers July 5, and on race day at 3 p.m. Qualifying begins at 5 p.m. and the memorial race starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, and $8 for children 6-16 and senior citizens.