John Heisdorf was introduced to racing at an early age by his father. Barely a year went by, starting in the late '20's that they would miss attending the races at the Wisconsin State Fair Park. John would collect almost every program from the races and draw pictures of the cars so he could go home and make models of them in the garage.
Years later, when John could take time away from farming in Wisconsin, he would travel extensively throughout the Midwest to watch IMCA sprint car races. There he befriended Hector "Pappy" Honore, owner of the famed "Black Deuce." John would meet with the team at tracks like Lincoln, NE, Cedar Rapids, IA, St. Paul, MN, and Wausau, WI. He helped pit for drivers Bobby Grim, Pete Folse, Gordon Wooley, "Scratch" and "Itch" Daniels, and Bill Puterbaugh. Hector and John became good friends and he gave John the nickname "Chief." In the winter months, John would take a "race vacation" and travel to help Pappy at the Florida races.
In a Christmas card sent to Chief in 1980, Hector wrote the record of the last sprint car he ran; the record reads, 233-1st, 86-2nd, 52-3rd, 25-4th, failed to finish 10 times in 13 years due to flat tire or mechanical failure- not bad. Set 75 new tracks records!
John's other favorite drivers included Don Branson, Lee Kunzman, Jerry Richert, Jerry Blundy, and Merle Heath.
Not long after Hector decided to retire, John decided he would buy a midget to race at nearby track, Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, WI, with the Badger Midget Auto Racing Association. He purchased an old Kurtis Kraft from Ron Pfiel in 1969 and ran only a few races in 1970 and 1971. He then decided it was time for a class one operation. He approached Dennis Frings, a late model builder from Menomonee Falls, WI, and asked him if he would be interested in building a midget. He agreed to take on the task and along with Chevy II engine builder, Bill Hudson from West Bend, WI, John created the Heisdorf Racing Team. He hired Chuck Dann, a modified driver from Milwaukee, WI and in 1972, they finished 3rd in the point standings. John Hartwig took over the driving duties and won the first five features at Angell Park Speedway on his way to winning the 1973 Championship. Not bad for a brand new team, chassis, and engine builder.
John purchased a second car from Gene Willman at the end of the '72 season to use as a backup car, but in 1974 debut a 2-car team with Bob Waldan, from Zion, IL behind the wheel. It was a fierce battle between the 2 drivers for the Championship. They each won 4 features and 6 trophy dashes, Hartwig 7 heats, Waldan 6, Hartwig 3 fast times, and Waldan 4! The points battle came down to the last race at Hales Corners Speedway. Waldan hit the wall in hot laps and he had to retire the 2B car for the evening. Dave Ray, Sr., then in his second year of racing, offered to let Bob drive his car. Hartwig won the race, and Bob finished 4th in the Ralph Ray #33 to clinch the Championship by a mere 4 points over Hartwig-the closest point battle in Badger history! On top of that, the Heisdorf Team finished 1-2 in the owner standings in just their first full season of running a 2-car team.
In 1975, John bought a brand new Edmunds chassis and Madison's AL Moldenhauer would take over the driving duties and build the Chevy II engines for them. They finished 3rd and 5th in the season points. The highlight of the season being when Moldenhauer won the team's first Asphalt race in Rockford, IL.
In 1976, son-in-law, Ken Biertzer would take over the Frings car from Waldan, and Dave Ray was hired half way through the season to drive the second car. This proved to be the most potent of the Heisdorf Team drivers, as the Badger announcer named them the "Thunder and Lightning" of the "Hustlin" Heisdorf Team.
In 1977, Dave won the Championship in the new Sesco powered car to take the title over Kevin Olson and Stan Fox. The average car count was 43 cars that year.
Dave wanted to start building cars and John agreed to have him build one specifically to fit Ken, and would put a new Volkswagen engine built by Mark Ray in it. The Ray "Brand X" chassis proved itself right out of the box, winning it's first race at Beaver Dam, WI for the Badger season opener. Biertzer would go on to win the 4th Championship title for Heisdorf with the "Thunder and Lightning" duo winning 9 of 19 Badger features -5 in which they finished 1-2. Heisdorf also finished 1st and 2nd in the car owner points for the 2nd time in his short career, and the 1st Ray "Brand X" chassis won the Championship also.
The next few years, Heisdorf only ran sporadically as Biertzer again ran modifieds and Dave began to run all over the country with USAC and MARA for his father, Ralph Ray.
Heisdorf, who also served on the Badger board of directors, is one of the most successful Badger car owners, winning 4 titles with 4 different drivers in 6 short years. In two of those seasons, his 2-car team literally dominated finishing 1-2 in the standings. The famed red, white, and blue #2 "Sugar Babe" and "Sugar Daddy" cars were always some of the best appearing on the track.
John proved himself as a great mechanic also, winning titles with a Chevy II, Sesco, and Volkswagen power plant, and a Frings, Edmunds, and Brand X chassis, the Frings being the only one of it's kind, and the Brand X chassis the first one Dave ever built.
Other drivers that drove for John were George Carey, Tom Gruenwald, and Ron Pfiel.
John lived in Kewaskum, WI with his wife, Arcella, and their 11 children. In 1994 he attended his last race, the Pepsi Nationals at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, WI, and passed away just two months later.
John in the Black Deuce
1963 Cedar Rapids
John with Bill Puterbaugh and Hector Honore in Lincoln, NE
John with friends, Merle Heath, Lee Kunzman, and a racing friend
John celebrating first ever feature win
Celebrating first Championship in 1973 with John Hartwig
John with driver, Chuck Dan
John and Arcella with driver, Bob Walldan
John and Arcella with their Championship trophies
John and Arcella with Champion driver, Dave Ray
1976 with Dave Ray
Victory Lane with Al Moldenhauer
1976 Rookie of the Year Ken Biertzer