PARK CITY, Kan. — This April, the stars of the United States Modified Touring Series descend on the 81 Speedway for three nights to honor racing legend Ed Gressel.
Gressel’s impact on the USMTS, 81 Speedway and modified racing throughout the Midwest remains largely unmatched. What began as a hobby working on cars in the pit area of 81 Speedway during the 1970s morphed into a top-tier modified team pounding the pavement on the USMTS trail.
Along with his wife, Cinde, he was a supporter of the series since its infancy and was instrumental in the series growth as it’s seen today.
“Ed meant a lot to my family and everybody at the USMTS, as well as countless racers and race teams,” said USMTS President Todd Staley shortly after Ed Gressel’s passing in May. “He was a big part of our growth. A huge supporter—both financially and personally—and a great friend to many. We’ll never forget him.”
The list of drivers who have piloted the gold and blue for Gressel Racing is impressive. Local hot shoes have gotten the chance to cut their teeth, regional superstars found victory lane and others blossomed into national stardom behind the wheel for Ed Gressel.
None of those drivers were more prolific than Ryan Gustin and the No. 19R Hughes Racing Chassis. “The Reaper” collected two USMTS championships, a $40,000 payday at the USRA Modified Nationals and 72 of his 103 career USMTS victories while racing for Gressel.
The last of his victories driving for Ed Gressel happened at the 81 Speedway.
Before Gustin it was Scott Green steering the wheel for Gressel, and after came names like R.C. Whitwell, Ricky Thornton Jr. and Tanner Mullens, all finding success steering the blue and gold machine. Then, in 2018, entered Wichita native Brandon Givens.
“I will never be able to repay both Ed and Cinde for everything they’ve done for me, my wife and my family,” said Givens. “What he’s done for us… I can never tell you how much I owe that man. The day after his funeral my wife, Dani, looked at me and told me we needed to do something for Ed. We needed to race for him and remember him. I took the idea to (81 Speedway owner J.R. Sartain) and (Todd Staley), and we got the ball rolling. We don’t want this to be just another race. We want this to be a marquee event for the USMTS and 81 Speedway, but more importantly for Ed. He deserves that.”
“Getting to know Ed the last couple of years after purchasing 81 Speedway, it was so neat to see the guy he really was,” commented Sartain. “Ed was genuine, straight to the point, but more importantly a fierce friend. If you were lucky enough to be welcomed in by Ed, you were blessed. It’s an honor to hold this race right here at 81. We’re working hard to make this something special, and we hope to see the grandstands packed in honor of Ed.”
“Ed Gressel was a long-time supporter of mine and a great friend,” added track promoter John Allen. “I don’t know what I would have done without Ed at times. It’s going to be tough to race without him here, but we’re going to bust our butts to put on the best show we can for him. And after is all said and done, we’ll gather as friends and drink a beer for him too.”
The Ed Gressel Memorial kicks off April 20, paying $3,000-to-win the Summit USMTS National Championship presented by RacinDirt main event. Following a $5,000-to-win contest on April 21, the event reaches a final crescendo paying a $10,000 top prize on April 22.
Alongside the USMTS stars on Thursday night will be the United Rebel Sprint Series. The JLR Property Management 316 A-Mods and AutoTech Service Super Stocks join the fun on Friday before the Heyglassman.com Stock Cars complete the under card for Saturday night.