Drengler completes milestone in racing

Shawano man is first to race in all 50 states
Kevin Passon

Jasper Drengler, of Shawano, has done what no other race car driver has done before — he has raced on tracks in all 50 states.

In late April, Drengler raced in West Virginia to mark the end of a goal about eight years in the planning.

Drengler has been racing since 2000, but it was only around 2016 or 2017 that he decided to try to race in every state.

“We’ve checked off a whole bunch; let’s go for all of them,” he recalled thinking at the time.

He didn’t place any time restraints on when he wanted to reach that goal, so he said it never felt like a work project that had to be completed. But, after COVID-19 limitations were lifted in 2022, he said he became more determined.

“This spring, we finished off the last state, which was West Virginia,” he said. “The last track was Tyler County Speedway.”

Over the years, Drengler has built, bought and rented the race cars that he’s used. Entering and racing on some tracks was as simple as registering and showing up; others were more of a challenge. Among the challenges were the races in Hawaii and Alaska.

“In Hawaii, I couldn’t find anyone that would reply to me and think that I was serious about renting a car,” he said. “Finally, a track promoter reached out to me.”

With the track promoter’s help, he bought a car, sight unseen.

“When I get to the track, the car has a lot of more dents than the picture showed,” Drengler said. “It wasn’t quite as immaculate, but … it was going to start and get around the track. I spent half a day in a Walmart parking lot working on it.”

He finished in third place. After the race, he left the car with the promoter. A week later, the car was sold, and he received a check for more than he paid for the car.

He had trouble finding a car to race in Alaska as well but eventually connected with one.

“The car looks great. There was no deceiving, but it didn’t have any power. And again, it was a car that never finished very well,” Drengler said.

He finished in third place on the first day of a two-day event and has since been invited to return.

Among his greatest thrills behind the wheel was the first time he raced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he finished sixth.

“I got goosebumps driving across the yard of bricks,” Drengler said. “I’ve been to the Indianapolis 500 17 times and never thought I’d race there.”

Drengler has raced on dirt tracks, asphalt tracks, road courses, 24-hour endurance tracks and more. He’s raced a regular weekly schedule with heats and features.

Once, on the East Coast, he showed up to discover his car was too powerful for all the classes of cars that were racing that day. Track promoters gave him his own expo race at the end of the night to take on anyone who wanted race against him.

His personal record in a 24-hour endurance race was set in Indiana, where he was behind the wheel for seven continuous hours. Most tracks require drivers to switch after two hours behind the wheel, but this track had no such limits.

“Sebring (Florida) is my nemesis,” Drengler said. “I love and I hate that place. I had a lot of second-place finishes there. I’ve been in contention to win a lot of races, but bad stuff happens.”

Drengler grew up watching the races in Slinger and Shawano, often from the front row. He sold popcorn at the Shawano Speedway and spent a lot of time hanging out and watching local driver Tom Naeyaert on a weekly basis.

“My very first race was at Slinger Speedway,” Drengler said of his 2000 debut. “I started out doing Spectator Eliminator racing.”

He said he rented a a car at the track, won a few races and decided to build his own car for the Spectator 200. The car barely finished the race, he recalled. The track promoter in Beaver Dam said that track was going to feature those cars on a weekly basis and encouraged Drengler to build another and compete there.

“I won the very first race in Slinger with that car, and then I won a couple of races my very first year, and then I was hooked,” he said.

At one time, Drengler owned upwards of 50 cars. That number is closer to 20 today, with plans to trim it back to about five or so.

“The majority of the racing I’ve done has been in cars that I’ve owned,” he said.

Drengler started racing Chevys and then switched to Hondas. Today, the majority of his stable is made up of Hondas, Acuras and BMWs.

Drengler considers himself a workaholic, so racing provides him the opportunity to take vacation. It also gives him an excuse to travel the country, which he enjoys.

“It gave me a reason to actually take off from work … and gave me an excuse to go and see all 50 states,” he said.

Former NASCAR driver Kenny Schrader has raced in 49 states, the closest anyone has come to Drengler’s mark. He has yet to compete in Rhode Island, and Drengler said he may enter the race with him.

“Making it a passive thing made it enjoyable,” Drengler said. “I think if I was in a hurry to do it, it wouldn’t have been as fun.”

Drengler raced Aug. 12 in Shawano. Competing against him was his son, Ryan, a 16-year-old junior at Wolf River Lutheran High School. It would mark the first time father and son were on the track together. In the feature race of the Mighty 4’s, Jasper Drengler started 1oth and won the checkered flag. Ryan Drengler started in the 15th spot and ended one position better, crossing the finish line in 14th place.

Prior to Aug. 12, Drengler hadn’t been on the Shawano Speedway for a year.

“My favorite track is the next one,” he said. “I got bored doing weekly racing, going to the same tracks every single night, same people. There was one year in Shawano where I won 10 of 14 races for the year. Nobody likes it when the same guy wins every single week.”

Having completed the goal of racing in all 50 states, Drengler has set his sites overseas. He’s already competed in a few countries and said he would like to add a few more to his list.