Updated: Nov 7, 2020
Springport, MI (Wednesday, November 4, 2020) - On October 29, Michigan Motorsports Hall of Famer Russ Densmore passed away. Russ was a former driver and was the founder of the Michigan Ideal (now Springport Mid-Michigan) Speedway.
Very few people get to live their dreams. Even fewer not only live their dreams, but in doing so allow the next generations to live their dreams; that is exactly what Russ Densmore was able to do in his lifetime.
Russ Densmore treated life as an adventure, and managed to go on some of the most epic ones imaginable. Racecar driver, firefighter, and business owner, all titles Russ wore in his lifetime with great pride and to great levels of success over the years. At just 17 years old, Russ began his career racing Modifieds around the legendary Jackson Motor Speedway. He would travel the circuit racing in the formative years of the short track racing scene in Michigan. After getting married and starting a family, Russ decided to hang up his helmet, but the love for motorsports never left him.
Russ was a firefighter with the Springport Fire Department and was on the fire and rescue squad at Michigan International Speedway starting with the very first events at the track. In addition to his time at the Speedway, Russ also served as President of the Southern Michigan Fireman Association.
In addition to that, Russ was a business owner, running Springport Thermogas for 29 years before deciding to retire. For any other person, this would be a nice way to settle down and live out your golden years. But for Russ, things were just getting started. And this is where most of us know Russ and his loving wife Pat from.
The legend goes that after a disagreement with Russ Cowper, the then promoter of the Spartan Speedway, Cowper challenged Russ to run his own race track. So, that is just what Russ did. He cleared the 80 acres behind his house and along with the community around him, Russ went to work.
Through several challenges and struggles, the Michigan Ideal Speedway grew from what was before a cornfield. It was the motorsports version of the Field of Dreams. With his stubborn determination and never give up attitude, Russ and his crew withstood numerous setbacks and heartaches to build the track that would share the same never say die attitude as its builder.
After all of that, on a cold October weekend in 1989, the cars hit Russ’ track for the first time. Russ would live out yet another of his dreams, as he and Pat continued to operate the track through the 1998 season before selling it. But they never left. Russ continued to man his post, at his home right in front of the Speedway, keeping a watchful eye over his track.
“The man had a gift, and more incredibly, he shared it with us all,” said current track co-owner Curt Ainsworth.
After a challenging 2020 COVID shortened season, Russ asked Curt if he was going to hold the Michigan Cup, the marquee event Russ started at the track. Russ seemed pretty pleased to hear the event would go on, despite everything happening in the world. And it would be the biggest Michigan Cup of all time. Before he decided to say goodbye, Russ got to see close to 260 cars converge onto his race track.
On Wednesday, November 4, Russ will take his final lap at the track he invested so much blood, sweat, money, and tears into. While we will all miss seeing him in his perch over in turn three, or watching him speed around the property on his John Deere Gator, we can take peace knowing he’s watching over all of us who are lucky enough to get to play in his backyard on Saturday nights.
Story - Chris Fobbe, Horsepower Happenings
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