Friends, Family Remember Scott Semmelmann
by Nicholas Dettmann
HARTFORD, Wis. — Normally a fiery and hot-tempered bunch, race car drivers, plus fans and crew members have proven there is a kind heart inside the rugged exterior.
On Wednesday night, Brian Semmelmann, the older brother of Scott Semmelmann who died Saturday in a sprint car crash at Beaver Dam (Wis.) Raceway, spoke to onlookers and radio listeners during 92.5 WBWI FM’s “The Drivers Meeting” program at the Mineshaft Restaurant.
It was one of the first public appearances a family member has made since Saturday’s tragedy. It was the first time in days Semmelmann was able to smile, albeit a small one. There were also tears.
Semmelmann thanked all who have supported the family in its time of need.
“I have no idea how to respond properly to the race family, I like to call it, for the gratitude that happened that night,” Brian Semmelmann said. “It was the worst evening of my life.”
The interview lasted almost 15 minutes. At the end of the segment, Beaver Dam Raceway General Manager Carolyn Mueller presented a check to Semmelmann and the family for more than $9,000, which came from donations by drivers, fans, crew members and others at the track Saturday and in the days since the tragic accident.
The moment was touching.
Mueller, with tears falling out of her eyes, shared a long hug with Semmelmann. More hugs were shared as Semmelmann made his way off the stage and through a crowd of about 100 people.
Mueller said earlier Wednesday the events of Saturday’s tragedy are still hard.
“I don’t know if you can move on from this,” she said. Saturday was the last race of the season for the track, a .33-mile clay oval about 75 minutes northwest of Milwaukee.
Mueller said at her first opportunity, she hopes to take some time away from racing and regroup.
Scott Semmelmann of Brookfield, Wis., died when his winged sprint car made contact with another car during a practice session for the Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprint Car Series, a Midwest touring series. Semmelmann flipped a couple times and crashed into the concrete wall. Police said he died instantly from his injuries.
He was 47.
Semmelmann left behind a wife, Jeri, and three children, Austen, Carley and Dillon, all of whom were at the track when the accident happened.
Semmelmann was the first driver to lose his life on a Wisconsin race track because of injuries suffered in a race since Bill Grant on July 19, 2009, while racing a go-kart at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
It was the first time Semmelmann, a longtime automotive technician, had competed with the Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprint Car Series this season and the first time since July 20, 2013, at Wilmot Raceway in southern Wisconsin.
The series has announced it plans to race its final two events, with the first coming Friday at Luxemburg (Wis.) Speedway near Green Bay. The final event of the season will be Saturday at the Dodge County Fairgrounds, three miles east of Beaver Dam Raceway.
Tributes are planned for both nights as drivers during pace laps will hold up three fingers to honor Semmelmann, who drove with the number 3X on his car.
Since Semmelmann’s death, a memorial fund has been established in his honor. In just days, the fund has received more than $10,000 in donations, not counting the $9,000 Beaver Dam donated Wednesday or the in-house donations taken Wednesday.
“There was people I don’t know who they are, who they were, there’s somebody I know, there’s somebody I never talked to before that have reached out,” Brian Semmelmann said. “My phone hasn’t stopped ringing in days.
Mueller said while race car drivers can have a hot temper from time to time, they still have a good heart and they look out for each other and that’s what being a member of the racing family is all about.
Other drivers and crew members helped keep the family calm in the pit area as everything unfolded.
Brian Semmelmann said he couldn’t have been more grateful for the people who helped the family that evening.
“I would never ask anyone to stand by me through this,” he said.
Brian Semmelmann drove his brother’s truck and trailer home that night, despite pleas and offers by others to do it for him. He said he
had to do it.
“It was the longest ride home I’ve ever had,” he added. “I couldn’t have gotten that far without all these people.”
When asked about what kind of person his brother was, Semmelmann called him a talented race car driver without a bad bone in his body.
“It’ll really bother me if they don’t know how grateful I am to help my family through this,” Brian Semmelmann said about the support.
Scott Semmelmann’s funeral is Thursday with visitation 4-7:30 p.m. at Becker-Ritter Funeral Home
in Brookfield, Wis., followed by a private final rest service.
“He was my champion,” Brian Semmelmann said.
To donate to The Scott Semmelmann Memorial Fund, visit www.giveforward.com.