National Dirt
Saturday, 12 February 2022


1982 & 1987 USAC National Midget champion, Kevin Olson. 1982 & 1987 USAC National Midget champion, Kevin Olson. Gene Crucean Photo


By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Speedway, Indiana (February 12, 2022)………Kevin Olson, the one-of-a-kind racecar driver and one-of-a-kind personality who raced to two USAC National Midget championships in 1982 and 1987, passed away following a car accident on Friday night, February 11, 2022, in Janesville, Wis.  He was 70 years old.

On the track, he was a serious competitor who ultimately earned induction into both the USAC Hall of Fame and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame.  In a career that spanned a half-century, the Rockford, Illinois racer made his first USAC National Midget start in 1972 at Springfield (Ill.) Speedway and made his 266th and final series appearance at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis. in 2014.

His first historic achievement with USAC’s National Midget series came in 1982 with car owner Lee Carey when he became the first ever series champion to win the title despite not winning a single feature throughout the year.  In fact, his first title came before he ever set foot in USAC victory lane, the only driver ever to pull off that feat.

Among the most notable of his 23 career USAC National Midget victories (22nd all-time) was his first, at Hales Corners (Wis.) Speedway in 1983.  He finished up the season with a dramatic victory in the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ascot Park in Gardena, Calif.

Olson ran off a late-season four-race winning streak en route to the 1987 title at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Santa Fe Speedway in Illinois, plus Wisconsin’s Impact Speedway and Angell Park Speedway.

He added a victory in the marathon 500-lap feature at the Indianapolis (Ind.) Speedrome in 1988, and perhaps his most memorable of them all came in his last career USAC victory when he seemingly came out of nowhere with a late-race pass to score the Hut 100 victory live on ESPN at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in 1996.

Seventeen of his victories came while driving for the Wilke Racers, two each for Fitchburg Racing and Burns Racing, and one apiece for Mark Ray and Denny Lamers.

Additionally, he made Angell Park Speedway his personal ATM with five triumphs in the prestigious Pepsi Firemen’s Nationals in 1983, 1986, 1987, 1997 and 1998, while earning the Badger Midget Auto Racing Association title on another five occasions in 1976, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1997.  In fact, the final Badger Midget win of his illustrious career came just a short while ago, at age 68, in 2019 at Angell Park.

Outside of USAC, KO’s success was paramount, tallying a pair of Northwest Midget Association championships in 1973 and 1977, as well as a 1975 championship in the National Alliance of Midget Auto Racing division.

Olson maintained a presence at racing events even as his on-track exploits became fewer in recent seasons.  For several years, he penned a monthly column for Sprint Car & Midget Magazine and authored a book on his life and times in auto racing, entitled, “Cages Are For Monkeys.”

Olson, the self-proclaimed light bulb repairman, an occupation that was delivered in a deadpan delivery that made you believe it was entirely true – or was it – had everyone in stitches throughout his five decade career in midget racing.  He was also possibly the last driver who’ll ever compete in a midget event with an open face helmet, doing so in recent years at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.

A statement released by the Olson family on Saturday afternoons reads as follows:

On behalf of the entire Olson family, it is with our deepest sadness to report some devastating news at this time. Kevin Olson, our father and brother, and everybody’s friend, was killed on Friday night in a highway crash. His dear companion, Nancy, is in critical condition.

Most of Kevin’s friends knew him through racing; he was a two-time United States Auto Club National Midget champion, and a five-time champion with the Badger Midget Auto Racing Association. But as proud as he was of those accomplishments, what made him happiest was his connection to family and friends, most of whom had probably come to believe that he was invincible.

Right now, we are just dealing with the shock of this news. Arrangements are pending and will be made available in the coming days. Please respect our family’s privacy at this time.