SLINGER, Wis. – A rough estimation indicates Dan Margetta has attended nearly, if not more than, a thousand races in his lifetime.
The run started when he was three years old, in 1973 at the Milwaukee Mile. His journey started with a phone call in the late 1980s from someone he least expected: Steve Byrnes.
At that time, Byrnes hosted a television show called “Inside Winston Cup Racing” on The Nashville Network. Margetta wrote a letter to the show asking how to get involved with racing and media.
Margetta remembers the moment the call came in.
“He called my house,” he recalled. “It was weird. We were having dinner and my dad answered the phone. He said, ‘It’s for you.’ I was like, ‘Who’s calling me?’”
Looking back on it today, Margetta can’t help but be impressed with what Byrnes did. That was an era where there wasn’t the Internet, thus it made looking up phone numbers difficult, arguably impossible, especially for out-of-state numbers.
“He took the time to find my number,” Margetta said, adding Byrnes advised him to try and get a job at a local MRN (Motor Racing Network) affiliate.
That’s what he did. He wrote to Todd Behling, the owner and founder of Let’s Talk NASCAR Radio.
Byrnes died of cancer in 2015. When he passed away, Margetta was sad but also grateful for the influence Byrnes had on his life.
“He was the guy that took the time to help you out,” Margetta said of Byrnes. “It was always in the back of my mind.”
Margetta started at LTN in 1989 where he screened phone calls for the show. As he hung around, opportunities opened up for Margetta, an eager and passionate race fan.
By the mid-1990s, he was contributing to LTN full-time and started a new venture that got him an international following.
Margetta began videotaping races he’d attend, mostly short tracks in southeastern Wisconsin. He did it initially for fun and to put together highlights, but word quickly spread he was doing it and was approached by people to see what he had on tape.
They’d watch the footage in the pits on his VHS camera. When he didn’t bring it, people wondered where his camera was. Then he was invited by tracks to record. It kept growing and growing and growing.
In 2006, Margetta started a YouTube channel where he uploads highlight reels of races from throughout Wisconsin and some from out of state. Today, his channel has more than 3,550 subscribers and more than 3.5 million views.
Margetta said he’s heard from some in Europe who have watched his videos.
“It blows me away,” Margetta said of his following.
At Slinger, he has footage from every race since 2001. His highlight reel archive from all tracks he’s recorded at goes back to 1994.
“When you go to these tracks, you meet people and it’s fun going to these places because it’s like friends you haven’t seen in a while,” Margetta said. “It’s just worked out from there.”
These days, Margetta attends, on average, 60 races per year. In 1993, he started going to as many as 30 races per year. The most he’s gone to in one year is 82.
Margetta is in what he labeled his “Summer Vacation.” It started July 3 at Jefferson Speedway and it will end July 12 at Slinger. In between are 13 races at seven tracks.
Among the events are the 41st SUPERSEAL Slinger Nationals, the IndyCar doubleheader at Road America, the World of Outlaw Late Model Series at Seymour (Wis.) and Plymouth (Wis.) and the “White” race of the Red-White-Blue series at Wisconsin Int’l Raceway.
Also in there are three radio programs.
Being at a race track is where Margetta said he is “most comfortable.” But that wasn’t the case at the start.
Margetta, as the story was told to him years later by his parents, went to his first race when he was two or three years old in the early 1970s. He and the family attended a USAC race at the Milwaukee Mile. Margetta was told he complained while he was there and wanted to go home.
But, when he got home, his attitude shifted. He wanted to go back. From then on, he attended the weekly program every Saturday at Hales Corners Speedway on the southwest side of Milwaukee. Margetta also remembers going to an IndyCar race at the Milwaukee Mile when he was 5 years old.
At Hales Corners, Margetta and his dad sat in the same spot in the grandstands each week and they made sure to mark that. They placed a Dave Watson AMSOIL sticker on the grandstand.
“When that track closed in 2003, I made sure to check and those stickers were still there,” Margetta said.
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