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Viking Speedway: Gustafson, Klug enter Hall of Fame

Viking Speedway participants (from left) Bob Geris, Pete Peterson, Jery Geris, Mark Gustafson, Gordy Rachel and Jim Feeks stand in front of Geris' car in 1975. Gustafson is a member of the 2018 Viking Speedway Hall of Fame class that was honored at the Alexandria races on Aug. 4. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Richard Klug (right) and his wife, Marilyn, smile for a photo. Klug is a member of the 2018 Viking Speedway Hall of Fame class. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

Over half a century ago, a 13-year-old Mark Gustafson showed up for the first race at the brand new Viking Speedway in Alexandria.

"I remember going to that first race in '65, going to the gate and having to pay a buck and a half to get in," he said.

Fifty-three years later, the investment has never been worth more.

Gustafson and Richard Klug were both honored on Saturday, Aug. 4, during the Viking Speedway's Hall of Fame Night as new inductees of the 2018 class.

"If you race there long enough, you're going to get qualified into the Hall of Fame," said Klug. "It was just my lucky day, I guess."

Gustafson spent a lifetime at the track, finding racing as a top option for entertainment. His family often attended races in Alexandria and Fergus Falls. He also hung around the garages and pitched in as he was able, providing an expanding helping hand as he grew up.

His career in racing spanned from 1967 to 2007.

Klug, meanwhile, raced and also kept busy with engine building. He began at the age of 8, and he said he's built more than 6,000 engines that are now all over the country and that helped power thousands of feature wins.

Klug founded Klug's Service Clinic in Eagle Bend, where he built race engines, and then he moved the business to Alexandria in 1982 under the name Home Run Engines. Klug also built motors for his son, Jesse, who joined in on the family affair of racing.

"I raced there for quite a bit," Klug said of his Viking Speedway career, which spanned from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. "My son, then he took over the wheel. He was a good racer, also."

And while racing DNA can pass down through generations, it's not the blood that determines family.

"It's almost like a brotherhood. Once you get into it, you establish a close group of friends," Gustafson said. "I've met a lot of really, really great people. You can be in a fraternal organization, but this racing thing is something else."

Now, the two joined the ranks of other Viking Speedway greats.

"It was somewhat of a surprise," Klug said of his induction.

Gustafson added that he's particularly proud of helping the sport grow.

"Helping it evolve I think is the single biggest thing," he said. "It's totally different from today. It has evolved from the Wright brothers to going to the moon."

"It (felt like it) happened yesterday," added Klug. "That's how time flies."

And while both racers certainly had to earn their spots in the Hall of Fame, the old competition they're joining was also much more than that.

"You fought like dogs when you're on the track," Gustafson said. "When the racing's done, that's over."

Micah Friez

Micah Friez covers Bemidji State basketball and BSU for the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Beaver basketball updates.

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