Phil Prusak’s storied career in the dirt track auto racing arena appears to have had its origins in a long standing rivalry between two neighboring communities in northwestern Wisconsin.
The Clayton Bears and the Clear Lake Warriors have long been rivals on the gridiron and the basketball court and every other area where comparisons can be drawn, so when Phil, a 1958 graduate of Clayton High School, and his friends saw the level of success the neighboring Clear Lake drivers were having at the Rice Lake Speed Pit, they felt they could do as well or better, and thus a Hall of Fame racing career began.
Interestingly, tonight’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony again brings the two communities into the forefront with Prusak, a Clayton graduate joining Dick Briesemeister, a Clear Lake alumni, also joining the Hall tonight.
Phil began racing in 1959, at the age of eighteen, driving a 1939 Ford two door in the Stock Class. In 1960 Phil moved up and raced both a Stock Class car as well as a Late Model. In 1960 his brother Joe also began racing as the Clayton delegation at the track continued to grow.
Phil raced for eight years at the Rice Lake Speed Pit before moving on to different venues. Phil is credited with seven feature wins in the Stock class, driving cars numbered U15 and 95. He is also credited with six wins in the Late Model class. Veteran race fans will recognize the car numbers of winning cars during this period. Wins driving #57, #6 and #66 all represent some of the strongest racing teams in the state during that era, most based out of the Eau Claire area.
Phil was the 1960 Stock class champion at the Speed Pit.
In the late 1960’s, philosophical differences saw Phil move on and start racing at a variety of other tracks, both in the area and as one of the top Late Model drivers in the Midwest, traveling to tracks near and far.
Phil won point championships at seven different race tracks and won at least one feature race at twenty different race tracks. He is considered to be one of the top three in total feature wins at the Cedar Lake Speedway in the Late Model class and had the most feature wins at the New Richmond track in 1968,’69,’70 and ’71.
Phil’s last full year of racing was in 1982 although he raced part time in both 1984 and ’85.
Phil and his wife now reside in Eau Claire. An interesting story that reflects the changes that racing has undergone involve Phil’s residence. It seems that Phil selected the location where he lives as his race shop many years ago because it is just around the corner of the location of the old, Eau Claire Speedway and if he was running late getting the car prepped for the evening’s racing, they wouldn’t bother to load the car on the trailer, they simply drove down state highway 37, around the corner and up the drive way right into the race track! Try that on highway 48 these days and see what happens!
Ladies and gentlemen, Hall of Famer in the driver category, Phil Prusak.