OCONOMOWOC, Wis. — Veteran Midwest automobile racing photographer Russ Lake passed away Friday at an area hospital at the age of 85.
Lake’s career as a nationally recognized auto racing photographer began through his father Ted Lake’s involvement with auto racing. Ted Lake was affiliated with racing at speedways such as the Milwaukee Mile and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as racing associations including AAA and USAC. Russ Lake traveled to many races with his father.
With the help of legendary auto racing photographer Armin Krueger, Russ Lake embarked on a career as a photographer in 1950 at the age of 14. Russ Lake would tell the story about his first published photo in a daily newspaper in 1951 as he received $7.50 for his crash shot of Milwaukee area racer Myron Fohr at the Mile”
Annual trips to Indianapolis and Daytona Beach, Fla., were part of Russ Lake’s yearly schedule. He first went to Indianapolis in 1952 and received press credentials there for the first time 1963. In 1971, Russ Lake was seriously injured at Indianapolis at the start of the 500 when the pace car came down pit lane out of control and hit the photographers’ stand.
The Daytona 500 was an annual winter pilgrimage for Russ Lake, who first attended the Florida speedweeks in 1992.
For many years, Russ Lake headed up the annual Wisconsin Motorsports Charities annual recognition dinner which saw numerous racing stars from both national and local levels attend to raise money for the charitable organization.
Russ Lake had photos published in many racing publications, books, daily newspapers and websites. Russ Lake was a regular contributor to the old Midwest Racing News newspaper. He was a familiar sight at numerous local Midwest race tracks during his long career, and had also covered the action at many other speed plants including those sanctioned by NASCAR, USAC, CART, the Indy Racing League, ASA and ARTGO.
In his 70s, Russ Lake talked about putting together a book highlighting some of his best work from a million or so photo negatives and digital images of racing that Russ Lake had captured through the years. Unfortunately, the project was never completed. In failing health in recent years, Russ Lake sadly saw his companion of many years, Mary Champion, pass away in October of 2020. After photographing race cars for almost 70 years, Russ Lake put away his camera last year.