BEAVER DAM, Wis. — The legacy of Richelle Struck won’t be far from Roger Lee’s heart.
After a two-month absence where he barely survived a horrific ATV crash, Lee swept the grand nationals division at Beaver Dam Raceway, winning the heat race and the 20-lap “A” main last Saturday.
It was almost too perfect for it to happen this way.
In both races, Lee was a driver on a mission, quickly slicing his way through traffic to get to the front. In the feature, Lee started 10th. He was fourth after three laps and was in the lead after six laps.
“I wish Richelle could be here to see this,” Lee said.
After taking a couple moments to collect himself, Lee drove down the front straight with the driver’s side facing the crowd. He stuck out his hand and saluted the crowd. The large crowd was on its feet and cheering. It would’ve made the world’s toughest person cry and there were some moist eyes.
“It meant a lot,” Lee said. “It was very nice to see.”
It was like he was supposed to win.
“The car felt perfect,” Lee said. “It was the best the car has ever felt.”
Lee, the defending track champion and winner of two of the past three titles, and his fiancee, Richelle Struck, were involved in a scary crash in Iron County near Saxon Harbor. According to WAOW-TV in Wausau, Lee, 44, was the driver of the ATV and Struck, 42, was the passenger. Two teenagers, who were sons of Lee and Struck, witnessed the crash and said they saw Lee and Struck come down a hill after reporting Lee said he was having trouble with the brakes. Lee was unable to slow and negotiate a sharp curve and, according to the Iron County Sheriff’s Department, Lee and Struck went over a cliff with their ATV.
Lee suffered numerous injuries, including a fractured skull, fractured sternum, fractured ribs, fractured pelvis, broken cheek bone, broken eye socket, bruised spleen, bruised lung and the list went on. He was in the hospital for five days and underwent two surgeries. Struck lost her life in the crash. She died of blunt force trauma, according to the Iron Country coroner. Lee said Struck had a torn aorta.
Saturday night was Lee’s first night back in a race car since the tragedy. He was cleared to return to work five days earlier.
“A lot of emotions,” Lee said about returning to the track Saturday night and then winning the feature.
It was almost an omen for him to return on this day. He came back Saturday the 10th because his car number is 10. Plus, his late friend, George Scheffler, died in an ATV crash in 2010 and he had the No. 10 during his racing career.
“I heard her the whole race,” Lee said. “I was talking to her while I was driving. Everything just opened for me.”
With the way Lee moved through the field, it almost looked like he had some assistance. He sought her advice on how to win the race, especially when the feature had a green-white-checkered finish.