Tom Nesbitt Tribute by Jeff Caldwell
Tom "The Bomb" Nesbitt story by Jeff Caldwell
Photos by Jeff Caldwell, Brian Skedgel, Ken Kelley and Jack Cummings
Tom Nesbitt began his career in 1959 at the CLE(Canadian Lakehead Exhibition) Fairgrounds half mile dirt track in the Hobby class in a 1948 Ford,in 1962 Tom and Richard Foreman built a 1950 Dodge and started winning races until the motor blew and he went pitting for Dave Reagan for a while. Midway through the season he built a 1951 Olds and raced the balance of the season using #555 and won the 15 lap Hobby Stock race at the 1962 Championships at the CLE. Tom ran the Olds again in 1963 but win's were hard to come by. Tom made the step up to Late Model in 1964 building a 1955 Chevy and would start to race south of the border running Hibbing MN Saturday nights and at Proctor Speedway outside Duluth, MN on Sundays. In 1965 Tom continued racing at Hibbing and Proctor and race ocassionally at
Superior Wisconsin,Tom would win Sportsman of the year in Hibbing and Best International Contender at Proctor,in 1966 he'd run the same tracks as well. In 1967 Tom would quit his job,build a 1960 Studebaker and become a full time racer,racing at Superior on Friday,Rice Lake WI on Saturday then home to race Riverview Sunday afternoon. 1968 would find Tom racing the same Studebaker and start winning the first of his numerous track championships,winning the title at Superior and
Riverview where he won an incredible 19 of 21 Late Model features. 1969 and another Studebaker,this one a 1965 which he raced to titles at Riverview, Superior and Rice Lake WI. 1970,the same Stude and another title at Riverview ,mechanical troubles else where dropped him to second at Rice Lake and tied with Johnny Johnson for first at Superior. 1971 and the Studebaker was retired for a Chevy Nova,carrying him to yet another Riverview title and second in the Wisconsin State Dirt Track Championship. From 1972-75 Riverview did not race weekly but Tom would still tear up the tracks down south,in 1972 he won the Wisconsin State Dirt Track Championship. Tom would add numerous other track titles in the seventies ,Stillwater MN in 1973,in 1974 at Cedar Lake Speedway,in Somerset,WI, Northstar Speedway in Blaine,MN and Stillwater,MN. In 1975 Tom would win his third straight at Stillwater, repeat at Northstar. In 1976 Tom took his second Late Model title at Cedar Lake and won his first Invitational Championship feature at home at Riverview and considered it one of his biggest thrills. Cedar Lake in 1977 and yet another point championship for Tom. In 1981 Tom would again pull off a triple winning point titles at Cedar Lake,Red Cedar Speedway in Menominee WI. and again at Riverview with a total of 38 feature wins for the season. In 1982 his lone title came at Riverview but he won the preliminary feature in a rare Late Model race at the famed Knoxville Raceway in Iowa. 1984 and another Riverview title followed up with another in 1985 as well as 1986 and 1987. In 1988 he would win another championship at both Cedar Lake and Menominee and a feature total of 25. 1989 its another Riverview and Cedar Lake title,repeating both in 1990 as well as another Superior WI title and overall Wisota Champion for Late Models. In the early 90's Tom would pick and choose his races and not chase point titles,big wins would come at Aberdeen SD,Battle Ground Speedway in Houston TX,Baton Rouge LA, Brownstown IN and I-90 in Hartford SD. When Tom run with the big guns they had to work for it if they wanted to beat him in his back yard (if they could),hot shoe Billy Meyer chased Nesbitt all race in a big Late Model race at Cedar Lake waiting for an opening,Tom never gave him one. In the late 90's the wins were becoming harder to come by but Tom wasn't ready to pack it in yet,celebrating his 40th year of racing in 1998. 1999 would be the most trying year of Tom's career,health problems would keep him out of the car from mid-season on. In August 2005,Tom became the first and only Canadian inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in Florence KY,a well desreved honor. The lure of the race track certainly becomes something hard to shake,especially when you're as good as Tom. As the Feature victories started to become tougher,Tom never gave up,and in the Northern Nationals at Superior WI in September 2005,Tom won what was perhaps his most popular victory. In both admiration,and gratitude for decades of thrills,the crowd gave him a five minute ovation. 2008 marked Tom Nesbitt's 50th season of racing,truly an incedible feat,and won a few races to round out his career,and finishing in the top 10 in several of the fall championship races. At Ashland WI Red Clay Classic,Tom was honored by the track and fans in a pre race ceremony,and paced the field in the 4 abreast salute to the crowd. Another ceremony at Antigo WI,another top ten,and 50 years of a glorious racing career came to a close.During his career Tom would win over 600 feature races on a number of different race tracks all over North America beating all challengers,winning 157 at Riverview ,43% of all the Late Model features at Riverview,the most in the tracks history as well as being the winningest driver at Superior WI. Add those feature wins with the over thirty Late Model track championships on several different tracks,including 13 at Riverview ,seven at Cedar Lake,track bounties on him . Whether you were a fan or not,he always put on a show
Tom "The Bomb"Nesbitt has had a career that would make many a seasoned racer quite envious and I'm glad I got to watch him race. Thanks for the Memories Tom!
In spite of his accomplishments,and though having been nominated, Tom has yet to be inducted into The Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in Thunder Bay, or a deserved place in the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame. Drop them a line and let them know how shamefull this is.
Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame firstname.lastname@example.org
Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame email@example.com
Photos from the Jeff Caldwell collection