There’s a mound of dirt between the third and fourth turns at the Rice Lake Speedway that has been missing one of its long time residents as the 2013 racing season has unfolded.
After more than three decades of shooting photos of racing, Doug Zimmer ended his full time gig on the speedway’s infield following the 2012 racing season.
Zimmer, a Rice Lake native, spent thirty two years as a photographer at the Rice Lake Speedway, along with shooting photos of special events at other tracks in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. His photos have regularly appeared during the racing season in the Chronotye and racing publications.
Zimmer started taking racing photos in the mid 1960’s with equipment he used from the photo club in high school. But the seed of combining photography and racing had been planted when he was about five years old, he recalls, when his parents took him to see stock car racing when the track was on the south side of Rice Lake.
“I got the bug. I got to be a dirt racing fan. And I always liked taking photos. The two kind of came together,” said Doug.
His first camera was purchased for a dollar and in 1964 his first racing photos featured Russ Laursen and his Super Modified at the Rice Lake Speedway.
In the late 1960’s Zimmer gave motorcycle racing photography a shot while stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. Always an airplane buff, Doug also took photos of air races in Reno.
Zimmer started providing Rice Lake Speedway action photos to the Chronotype about 1980 and has continued to do so ever since, moving from film to digital as the times have changed. He has also helped out as a track photographer, mostly in a volunteer capacity.
One of the highlights of the speedway racing banquet each year is the presentation of Doug’s favorite action shots to the drivers pictured.
“Zimmy” on that mound of dirt has become a common sight over the years at the track. It’s a location where photographers need to keep their eyes open as drivers throw their cars into the final corner before the checkered flag. One of Doug’s closest calls over the years to getting hit was during a “Blindman’s Race” many years ago, an event where the driver drives blindfolded and is steered by an assistant who indicates how the driver should turn by pulling on the driver’s shoulders. The car in question climbed the dirt mound and wrapped around the light pole. “I was hanging from the other side,” said Doug. Insurance companies, by the way, would probably frown on such an activity these days.
Doug is still sitting in the stands and occasionally taking photos from there. He did miss his favorite race of the year, the “Little Dream” race, for the first time this year but it was for another very important interest of his, the annual EAA convention in Oshkosh. And the speedway has already called upon him in 2013 to sub for regular photographer Chris Burback. Doug and his camera will always be welcome at Rice Lake Speedway.
Ladies and gentlemen, Hall of Famer in the Friends of the Speedway category, Doug Zimmer.