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Former Badger Midget Driver, The Ironman, Dean Billings Passes at Age 68

Former Badger Midget Driver, The Ironman, Dean Billings Passes at Age 68

The Badger Midget Auto Racing Association family lost popular Greenfield, Wisconsin driver Dean Billings, Wednesday, July 10. It was almost twenty-five years to the day, that he was critically injured in a midget crash at Angell Park Speedway. Billings suffered a traumatic brain injury in the incident. In the years after the crash, he was non-verbal but communicated with a nod or thumbs up. He could also write a bit. He enjoyed watching TV, seeing his children and grandchildren and on occasion attending the races at Angell Park with assistance from his family. His daughter, Stacy Billings-Hughes also noted that her dad, “still enjoyed joking around.” Due to balance issues, he tended to use a wheelchair. During this time his family took care of him until the managed care of a nursing home was required.

Badger Midget Auto Racing Association President Quinn McCabe, who competed with Billings, had these memories, “What a character, what a great man. He was a true midget racer. He was an ambassador to midget racing. He raced all over the United States and in Australia.
When the people he met over there came to the U.S. they stayed with him. Dean knew everyone.

He was an innovator, who didn’t like the midget rear end that was common at the time, so he built his own. His business, QCS, was really taking off prior to his crash.” Of the Quick Change Specialists rear end, Billings-Hughes, noted, “Dad was very proud of that. He designed it himself and had a patent on it.”

Billings started out driving stock cars in the early 1970’s at Slinger and Hales Corners Speedways. After moving to midgets, he could often be found running with groups such as USAC and UMARA along with Badger. His best point finish with USAC was seventh in 1988. He scored two wins in a midget with that group.

He first cracked Badger’s top 20 for points in1986, following in the midget racing tracks of his brother Dick. From 1988 to 1994, he was always in the top-five in Badger points. From 1988 to 1995 he is credited with 149 consecutive starts, perhaps the longest streak in Badger history.

One proud moment behind the wheel was a win in 1988 at Eagle Raceway in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was billed as “The Pepsi Mid-Summer Midget Classic,” a runup show to the famed Belleville Nationals. Here Billings beat the likes of Rich Vogler and Sleepy Tripp.

Billings was the 1986 and 1987 Dairyland Midget Association champion, a sanctioning body which only allowed steel block engines. He was also the Wilmot Midget track champion in 1986.

Billings drove USAC sprint and Silver Crown cars too, running nine and two times respectively. In all of the genres of racing he participated in, some of his owners included Keith and Rusty Kunz, Mike King, Bryan Gapinski, Mike Watson, Ken Lebal and John Lothe (who’s car is pictured).

Billings was also a “Race Dad,” spending many Sunday afternoons at the Badger Kart Club with his son Bryan racing. After a long day of karting they would head west to Sun Prairie for Dad’s racing at Angell Park. Some fans might recall seeing Dean sprint across the infield, fire extinguisher in hand, to the aid of his son, during an exhibition at the track, where Bryan’s quarter-midget went up in flames on the backstretch.

At the time of his passing, Dean Billings, The Ironman, was 68 years old.

While arrangements are still pending, the BMARA offers their condolences to the family of Dean Billings during this difficult time. We will share arrangements as they come available.

Article by: Bill Blumer Jr. (Badger Media Representative)
Photo credit: Bill Blumer Jr.
Statistics from: Loren Olson’s book, “Midgets of Wisconsin,” and USAC records.

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