SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. – Brandon Waelti has attended every Badger Midget Auto Racing Ass’n race at Wisconsin’s Angell Park Speedway since he was six years old. He always wanted to race a midget car.
He started with go-karts when he was 11, and worked his way up to midgets by the time he was 16. Waelti and his father, LeRoy, worked on the No. 3 crew for family friend Mike Fell during Fell’s rookie year in 1995. A year later, Waelti hopped in the No. 35 car that his dad owned and accomplished a goal he set in his rookie year in 1996: Win a C-main race.
“I can’t even tell you how big of a deal that was for me,” Waelti said. “I think most people thought I’d be shy about it because I was just a kid, but I loved being interviewed by Dennis Thompson. It was and still is an honor to stand at Victory Lane where some of my childhood heroes have been, (like) Dan Boorse, Kevin Doty, Kevin Olson, just to name a few.”
Waelti’s early success paved the way for a long career of racing at Angell Park. It came to an end on Aug. 31, when Waelti stepped out of a midget car for the final time at the one-third-mile dirt track. The 34-year-old racer believes it’s time to try other things in life, but he’s not completely finished with driving. Waelti will make his last start in next year’s Chili Bowl.
Until then, the Sun Prairie, Wis. native has time to look back on an impressive career that spanned parts of three decades.
Not everything was positive, though. Waelti kept racing after Mike Fell passed away following a serious accident at Angell Park on May 27, 1997. In 1998, the owner of the No. 3 car, Kevin Fillner, offered Waelti his car. It was a break he needed and a great opportunity to prove himself.
Waelti took full advantage.
“I couldn’t think of a bigger honor,” he said. “Racing the No. 3 car was so much fun. Lots of good times.” He stayed in the same No. 3 car until 2010, when Fillner and Waelti sold it because of rising costs. Waelti could’ve called it quits at that point, but he stuck it out.
John Jones offered his No. 41 car to Waelti soon after. Waelti took the job. However, Jones sold everything at the Chili Bowl in 2011, leaving Waelti without a ride again.