EVANSVILLE, Wis. — Kevin Olson, a two-time USAC National Midget Series champion, contributor to Sprint Car & Midget Magazine and one of the most colorful personalities in all of open-wheel racing, has died. He was 70 years old.
Olson was killed in a car accident Friday evening in Janesville, Wis.
The resident of Evansville, Wis., competed against some of the best dirt racers in the world over the last five decades and on several occasions, beat them.
Perhaps, Olson’s biggest victory came during the 1983 Turkey Night Grand Prix, which at the time was still being held at California’s Ascot Park. He was also a five-time Pepsi Midget Nationals victor at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis.
He enjoyed most of his success in the Badger Midget Series, where he captured five championships in the 1970s and ’80s. His first title came in 1976 and he added three straight series championships from 1987 to ’89. His last championship came in 1997.
His success wasn’t limited to the Badger Midget Series. He was one of the most successful USAC National Midget Series competitors of the 1980s, capturing championships in 1982 and ’87. His first series triumph came in 1983 at Wisconsin’s Hales Corners Speedway.
His final USAC National Midget Series victory was perhaps one of his finest. In 1996, eight years after his last series victory at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, Olson won the Hut Hundred at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track.
Olson won 23 USAC Midget features, was inducted into the USAC Hall of Fame in 2016 and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1997.
Olson continued to race well into his 60s despite mounting injuries making it more difficult for him to compete. In 2019, Olson won for the final time at Angell Park Speedway, scoring a surprise win in a Badger Midget Series feature. It was his 47th victory at Angell Park, his first at the track since 1998 and first Badger Midget Series win since 2000.
Last year he nearly won again with the Badger Midget Series, finishing second to Chase McDermand at Illinois’ Sycamore Speedway. Olson ran the entire Badger Midget Series schedule last year, finishing the season sixth in the standings.
Olson, who began his speed career in the Road Runner division at his hometown track – the Rockford Speedway, had been a contributing columnist for Sprint Car & Midget magazine for nearly two decades.
His columns, tongue-in-cheek and filled with humor, mainly showed his love for the sport of auto racing and his many speedway heroes of the past. Accounts of his racing exploits and his travels in his’63 Chevy station wagon definitely made one laugh.
Olson had worked for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network in addition to his so-called light bulb repair business, shoestring tip installation company and his top-secret KO Research & Development Center.
In 2021, Olson was involved in getting the Indiana Racing Memorial Ass’n to erect one of its memorial plagues in honor of midget racing great Bob Tattersall in his hometown of Streator, Ill. On a hot weekday afternoon last August, the racing community gathered in Streator to see the IRMA Tattersall plague unveiled.
Olson was in attendance at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals last month in Tulsa, Okla., selling his shirts and told SPEED SPORT he hoped to continue racing this year once he recovered from an injury he suffered after he fell out of a tree.
Olson ended his columns with variations of “For Cages are for Monkeys books, emails, phone calls, secrets interpreted, insults, contact me … .”