Raceway's familiar #03 Madsen puts it in park for keeps.
By J. HEATHCOTE
It's been a bittersweet year for fans of racing. NASCAR tragically lost its legendary number 3, Dale Earnhardt, and now Buena Vista Raceway's number 03 - fresh off his postseason award as Most Popular Racer - will park his familiar blue-and-white machine for good.
Storm Lake's Darin Madsen has been circling dirt track ovals for 12 years. And during those years, the joy of racing has included turning the wrench, swapping paint and sacrificing weekends to spend time in a garage. But this spring the fans at BVR in Alta will have to make do without the howling number 03 stock car for the first time in five seasons.
"Five years ago I couldn't imagine quitting," says the man who was recently voted the most popular stock car racer on the BVR circuit, an honor issued by the fans who attend the Wednesday night racing action through the year. "I'm going to miss racing a lot, but I'm not going to miss the long hours it takes to work on the car."
The decision to retire came as the rest of the pieces in Madsen's life began to fall into perspective. Madsen has worked for NAPA for the past 19 years, but this year he and his wife, Gina, and their two children, Robbie, 8, and Abby, 5, will relocate to Van Meter. The couple grew up in Audubon and married in 1987. Madsen's career brought the family to Storm Lake five years ago to manage NAPAs auto supply store.
"It's a good time in my life to give it up," Madsen said of racing. "I'll have more time to spend with my family."
Madsen is starting work as a manufacturer's rep for one of NAPA's supply companies, a move that will allow the family to be closer to home.
So the track in Alta has seen the last of one of its favorite drivers. Madsen was a steady competitor in the 2000 season, notching just one feature victory but piling up enough points for a second place finish in a tight points championship. In his third consecutive second place season, Madsen finished behind "Flyin'" Brian Blessington of Breda, who is quickly becoming a legend on the dirt ovals in his own right.
Read the rest of this story in the 3/3 Pilot Tribune.