John Wilkinson, born June 16, 1930, in Hastings, NE began his racing career circa 1949 in a 1934 Ford coupe he purchased for $30. Even though he had a run-in with another driver that resulted in a wrecked car, he was hooked.
Next, John drove for Avery Pickering at Playland Park Speedway in Council Bluffs, IA and Grandview Speedway in south Omaha. Then, in 1953, Capitol Beach Speedway was built in Lincoln and John “learned his craft” racing against the likes of Lloyd Beckman, Gordie Shuck, Rex Jordan, Don Pash, Bobby Parker, Marv Sohl and others.
In 1955, John teamed with Gordy Zeller to race at David City, Columbus and Norfolk, all in Nebraska. After Winning 10 races in a row and dominating the circuit, he came back to Lincoln and Capitol Beach. More wins came with Pickering’s car; then, he decided to travel to Sedalia, MO, Sioux Falls, SD, and Knoxville, IA.
In 1963, Midwest Speedway and Eagle Raceway were Lincoln’s racing venues and with a new Greg Weld super-modified roadster, he and Beckman, two of the best, thrilled the fans.
During the 1965 season, while seventh in points, engine woes with his own car resulted in John moving over to the Charlie Williams and Gary Swenson team. Driving a CAE upright car became his home and he won three of the first four race meets against the best in the mid-states. John went on to win the circuit’s championship and quit racing to spend more time with his family. He moved to California and didn’t race for two years.
Then, Williams and Swenson called him to run a mid-season special race, which he won. Upon returning to California, he raced a few more times at Ascot Park in Los Angeles, then decided to quit.
There are very few who will reach their peak, run wheel-to-wheel with the best in the business and then walk away, but John is one who did just that. Today he says, “I think it turned out good this way.”