Competing with resort owner – Rager lived a full life – Pine and Lakes Echo Journal

PEQUOT LAKES — The life of Roger Rager would make an interesting movie script.

Rager, who passed away at age 73 on Feb. 17, 2022, was known to longtime visitors as the owner of the Rager’s Acres seasonal RV park on Loon Lake, just southwest of Pequot Lakes, since 1988.

I will always remember him as an innovator, who was very good with his hands. He didn’t think of things the same way as other people when it came to finding a solution. He was a jack of all trades.

randy rager

But where Rager garnered national attention was his success behind the wheel as a veteran oval-track racer, especially in Sprint Cars.

And the story that would have been worthy of the silver screen came in 1980 when Rager surprised many by qualifying for the greatest racing spectacle: the Indianapolis 500.

Rager Indy Race Car.jpg

Roger Rager, owner of the Rager’s Acres trailer park near Pequot Lakes, not only qualified for the 1980 Indianapolis 500, he led the race for two laps before crashing and finishing 23rd overall.

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Despite having a race budget of around $55,000 and competing against million dollar teams, Rager shocked by qualifying 10th for the Indianapolis 500 in May 1980. The plot became even more shocking on lap 16 when Rager edged out eventual winner Johnny Rutherford and held the lead. for two laps.

That’s quite an achievement against a field that included Auto Club of America legends like AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti and Al Unser.

Rager continued to race near the front of the field until on lap 55 he crashed while trying to avoid another rider. He finished 23rd out of 33 runners, but what he accomplished that weekend at the brickyard using an original block Chevrolet engine from a junkyard school bus will be remembered for years to come.

“That was a unique story,” Rager’s son Randy recalled. “Years later we went back (to Indianapolis) when they celebrated the 100th anniversary (in 2009). The track owner personally called dad and invited him to come back. That was the last time we all went back.”

Rager never qualified for the Indy 500 again, but he had many other racing accomplishments as a veteran Sprint Car driver. During his five decades of drag racing, Rager competed with eventual NASCAR drivers like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

“He talked about racing all the time and had a lot of stories,” Randy said of his father, who retired from racing in 2009. “I will always remember him as an innovator, who was very good with his hands. He didn’t think of things the same way as other people when it came to finding a solution. He was a jack of all trades. He also had a great sense of humor, but you had to know him.”

Rager’s sports career began as a teenager in Nebraska. He later competed on the dirt track in Knoxville, Iowa, which was a mecca for Sprint Car competition. He became the only driver to win races at Knoxville in each of the five decades from 1960 to 2000.

“He was very well known as a sprint car driver,” Randy said of his father. “Winning the points championship at Knoxville in 1975 was one of his greatest achievements. He was one of the best runners, especially on dirt. My father-in-law was once in a bar in California and started talking about racing with the bartender. People in the bar remember seeing Dad run.”

Randy also remembers seeing his father run while growing up and living in Mound.

“We had an RV and we would go to one Sprint Car track on Friday and another on Saturday,” he said. “My sisters, Wendy and Ginger, and I grew up on the race track. I was 4 years old when dad raced in the Indy 500. I remember going to the pits and pushing my Tonka jeep, and riding a golf cart.”

Randy eventually spent less time attending races as he was becoming an accomplished fighter. The family eventually moved to Pequot Lakes, where Randy became a state qualifier three times before graduating in 1996.

Dad wanted to keep Rager’s Acres in the family.

randy rager

Rager’s racing career also began to slow as the family focused on the trailer park, including expanding the facility to allow for more trailer hookups.

“I still raced some weekends and my mom (Gail) ran the resort,” Randy said of his dad, who retired from racing in 2009.

Randy moved from Pequot Lakes to attend college and continue his wrestling career at the University of Minnesota-Morris. He later coached wrestling at Rochester Community College, where he still teaches.

“Dad wanted to keep Rager’s Acres in the family,” Randy said. “I’m no longer the head coach at Rochester (CC), so that gives me more flexibility to get up north. I also won’t be teaching college in the summers, so I can be in the trailer park.”

Rager’s highlights in the IndyCar series were being USAC Rookie of the Year in 1980 and having six top-10 finishes in 23 races in either USAC or CART events. As a Sprint Car driver, Rager was a Masters champion three times in six years at Knoxville.

A celebration of the life of Rager and his mother, Dolores Rager, who passed away on December 31, 2021, will be at 10 a.m. June 11 at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Pequot Lakes. A meeting at the Pequot Lakes American Legion will follow.

Pete Mohs, editor, can be reached at 218-855-5855 or

[email protected]

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