Kulwicki Driver Development

-Veteran Motorsports Photographer Thrilled with Selection; Looking Forward to Attending Induction-

CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 25, 2018) – Russ Lake first photographed Alan Kulwicki racing at the old Hales Corners Speedway during Kulwicki’s 1973 rookie season on the Milwaukee area third-mile dirt oval. Some 45 years later, it is one of legendary lensman Lake’s prized images that has been selected to serve as Kulwicki’s primary photo for his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Photo A: Alan Kulwicki in deep thought. Taken by Russ Lake during 1993 Speed Weeks at Daytona International Speedway and selected for official use in Kulwicki’s 2019 induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Photos B & C: Alan Kulwicki in his racing roots. Taken by Russ Lake at Hales Corners Speedway in 1973. Photo D: Alan and Gerry Kulwicki, father & son. Taken by Russ Lake in 1980 at the Milwaukee Mile. Photo E: Myron Fohr rolling over his Studebaker race car. Taken by then 15-year-old Russ Lake on Aug. 23, 1951 at the Milwaukee Mile. First published photo by Lake, as it appeared in the Aug. 24, 1951 edition of the Milwaukee Sentinel. Photo F: Legendary racing photographer Russ Lake.

            “I’m thrilled that one of my shots of Alan was chosen,” said Lake, now 82 years old and recuperating from shoulder surgery done earlier this year. “I took that image of Alan in the garage area at Daytona during the 1993 Speedweeks. It’s special, not only because it was selected, but because it was one of the last shots I was ever able to take of him.”

            “We are so pleased that our friends at the NASCAR Hall of Fame will be utilizing Russ’s photo as the key image in the activities associated with Alan’s induction this winter,” said Tom Roberts, Kulwicki’s longtime publicist who now heads the Kulwicki Driver Development Program. “We think Russ’s image captures the intensity instilled in Alan, not only at that moment in time but also throughout his remarkable career.”

“Living in the Milwaukee area, I was very familiar with the Kulwicki family and their racing,” offered Lake. “I knew Alan’s dad, Gerry, from his involvement in USAC, building engines for Norm Nelson and others. The first time I ever saw Alan race was in 1973, racing his stock car on dirt at Hales Corners.”

When asked about his thoughts of seeing Alan racing for the first time, Lake chuckled and said, “I thought he was a good race car driver and I thought I was a pretty good photographer. Seriously, I recognized his talent and dedication from the very beginning. It was so much fun following his career as he moved over to asphalt and started racing at Slinger and Kaukauna.”

Lake could be categorized as a “second generation racer” as his father, Ted, was a noted promoter and official. The elder Lake began his career in race promotion at the Milwaukee Mile in 1929. He served as a Deputy Chief Observer with USAC. Ted Lake was a fixture at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, working in numerous capacities from 1936 through 1996.

Russ Lake credits his father for getting him interested in racing photography. “As a young fellow, I had the opportunity to travel with my dad to race tracks all over the country,” said Lake, who resides in North Prairie, in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. “I went to my first Indianapolis 500 in 1952. Through my dad, I was introduced to Armin Krueger, who was the most famous racing photographer back in those days. I learned a lot from Armin.

“My racing photography was never a fulltime occupation,” said Lake, who carried the title of “official photographer” for the Milwaukee Mile for years. “I was able to get into the restaurant business (owned and operated George Webb locations in Oconomowoc and Watertown for many years) and that subsidized my racing habit through all the years. That’s one of the reasons I enjoyed following Alan through his career. He was from our area and followed his dream and passion all the way to the top.

“My photography was also a huge passion of mine and I’ll never forget getting my first photo published,” offered Lake. “I was only 15 years old back in 1951. I did all kinds of odd jobs at the Milwaukee Mile, including helping clean out the animal barns during the (Wisconsin) State Fair. I’d take photos of the racing when I had finished all my other duties. I took a shot of Myron Fohr rolling over a Studebaker. It was on a Kodak camera at 800 shutter speed. I shot it on August 23 and it appeared in the August 24 edition of the Milwaukee Sentinel. They sent me a check for seven dollars and fifty cents. Being such a young kid and seeing my photo and credit in the morning newspaper, my head swelled up really big, I can tell you that. Wow, I sure wish I’d kept that check and I still had it today.”

When asked about his personal favorite image that he has taken through all the years, Lake pondered the question for several moments and said, “There are quite a few of them. But when I’m looking back right now, I realize how special the shot is that I took of Alan and Gerry working together under the hood of Alan’s car in 1980 at the Milwaukee Mile. It’s a great photo of a father and son pouring their hearts into their racing.”

While Lake may best be known for his photographic contributions through the years, he certainly deserves accolades for giving back to his community. He founded the Wisconsin Motorsports Charities, Inc., in 1991. For 16 years, Lake and racer/broadcaster David Hobbs organized and hosted the Wisconsin Charities Recognition Dinner which featured icons from all walks of motorsports. The annual dinner raised more than $450,000 for the Ranch Community Services. For more than a decade, Lake’s late special needs son, Douglas, was a client of the Menomonee Falls-based organization that works with individuals with disabilities.

Lake is scheduled to be a special guest of the KDDP during the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction activities this winter in Charlotte.

“We are really looking forward to having Russ there with us celebrating Alan’s induction into the Hall,” said Roberts. “Russ has captured so much of Alan’s career in his photography and it will be available forever for future generations to enjoy and appreciate. We know how delighted Alan would be in having Russ there to witness this special occasion.”

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