Doug Wolfgang started his career working for Darryl Dawley. Dawley set him to work doing odd jobs around his shop. Dawley was a supermodified driver of some note in the Sioux Falls area. Darryl could see that Wolfgang wanted to be a racer himself. Doug started going to the races with Dawley, learning all he could.
In 1971, Dawley put together a sprint car to race at Knoxville. For some reason, Darryl made that first trip to Knoxville without two of his most devoted pitcrew members, the 18 year old Wolfgang and Doug Clark. Apparently the urge was too much, because they soon had Dawley’s supermodified loaded up and were heading Jackson, MN.
Doug Wolfgang’s debut that night, while promising, was less than successful. Starting at the back of his heat race, Wolfgang passed several cars in turns one and two, then nailed the wall in turn three of the first lap. Wolfgang and Clark spent all night fixing the wreck before Dawley got home from Knoxville, hoping he wouldn’t notice the damage. But Darryl Dawley was nobody’s fool and it didn’t take long for him to figure out what happened. Knowing how badly Woflgang wanted to race, Dawley set about helping fix the car and advising Doug on setups for the rest of the year.
In 1972 Doug built his own supermodified to race at Husets Speedway in Sioux Falls and Jackson. By 1974, he was being offered rides in other supers as well. But Wolfgang wanted to be a sprint car racer, like his mentor, Darryl Dawley, who by this time was one of the top sprint car drivers in the Midwest. Doug knew that in order to take his game to the next level, he needed to be in a sprint car hot spot. In 1975 the hottest spot in sprint car racing was Lincoln, NE. So Doug moved south.
He was hired on by the preeminent sprint car builder at that time, one Don Maxwell. Maxwell worked in concert with one of the preeminent sprint car owners of the day, one Bill Smith.
Now Bill Smith has never been one to mince words. Apparently, Doug Wolfgang never has either. While in the employ of Maxwell, Wolfgang would take his lunch break on Bill’s desk. Bill says, “Doug would sit there eating his hamburger and french fries and say ‘Hire me.’ So I’d say, Doug, I think it’s time for you to go back to work. You have to understand, at that time I had a guy named Opperman driving my car, so I wasn’t in the mood to audition any brash rookies!”
Don’t think that 1975 was a total loss for Wolfgang though. In fact, it was just the opposite. Hanging around guys like Bill Smith, Don Maxwell and Jan Opperman, provided Wolfgang with an opportunity to learn from the best, and that he did.
Wolfgang spent 1975 jumping into this car and listening very carefully to Smith, Maxwell and Opperman. Then just before the start of the 1976 season another sprint car legend came calling. Bob Trostle was in need of a driver for the season, and he liked what he saw in Wolfgang. The result was a point championship at Knoxville for Trostle and Wolfgang. But that was just the beginning. In 1977, Trostle and Woflgang set the sprint car world on its ear, with 45 feature wins. Included in that total was the 1977 Knoxville Nationals.
For 1978, Doug put together a deal with Vice-Grip Corporation and Bill Smith of Speedway Motors. Wolfgang had a great year in the Vice-Grip 4x, winning the Dirt Cup in Skagit, WA, and his second straight Knoxville Nationals. He also won 3 events with a newly formed circuit called the World of Outlaws (WoO) and finished fourth in the season points for that group behind Steve Kinser, Rick Ferkel and Bobby Allen. In addition, Doug won his first United States Auto Club (USAC) feature with a win at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, KS. For the next couple of years Doug drove for a variety of owners before settling into the seat of Doug Howells car in late 1980. In 1981 he won 20 WoO features and finished second to Sammy Swindell for the title.
By 1984 Wolfgang was again ride hoping until he found himself in the seat of Bob Weikert’s powerful “Beefmobile.” Doug didn’t get the ride until just a couple of weeks before the 1984 Knoxville Nationals. In what could only be termed, at that time, a big upset, Wolfgang won his third Nationals title in stirring fashion. It was one of the most popular wins in the history of Knoxville’s premier event.
In 1985 Wolfgang again won the Knoxville Nationals, but this time it was no upset. Doug raced Weikert’s cars primarely on the tough Central Pensylvania circuit and won an incredible 55 main events during the season.
After several seasons of ride hoping once again, Wolfgang settled into the car of Texan, Danny Peace for 1989. Many of the top WoO drivers, including, Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell and Dave Blaney had jumped to the new United Sprint Association (USA), but the WoO still had a strong group of racers led by Bobby Davis Jr., Jeff Swindell and Jac Haudenschild. Wolfgang didn’t side with either group, but was the dominant driver with both as he picked and chose his races. He won his fifth Knoxville Nationals as well that year.
Doug suffered bad burns and a broken neck in a crash at Lakeside Speedway during practice for a rare pavement WoO race in 1992. After an extended rehabilitation, he came back to sprint car racing, winning his first event back, at Jackson, MN, in 1993. After several more wins he retired for good in 1997.
Over his career, Wolfgang won races at nearly every track that holds events for sprint cars. He is still fourth on the all time WoO feature win list with 107 victories, trailing only, Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell and Mark Kinser. When the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame released it’s top 25 sprint cars in history in 1999, Doug Wolfgang was ranked as the fourth best driver of all time.
Doug Wolfgang was inducted into the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2002.