The Leader Card Racers / Wilke Family racing heritage spans over 70 years and now includes four generations of participants. In the late 1930’s Bob Wilke was the Midwest distributor for Offenhauser engines and Kurtis Kraft Midget Chassis. He also fielded a multi-car midget team scoring countless victories throughout the Midwest and the East Coast. Sadly, little record keeping and statistics were recorded, so an exact victory count is unavailable, but sources say that the Leader Card midget team scored more than 200 feature victories during this time.
After several seasons of sponsoring Indianapolis cars, Bob started his own Indy Car team in 1959. The team’s rookie season saw them capture their first of three Indianapolis 500 victories with Roger Ward, and a National Championship. The team also competed in USAC’s Sprint Car, Midgets, and Road Racing series over the next ten years. During this time under the watchful eyes of chief mechanics A.J. Watson and Jud Phillips the Leader Card Indy Car team captured 34 races, six car owner championships and two additional Indy 500 wins with Ward in 1962 and six years later with Bobby Unser 1968.
Bob Wilke died after the 1970 season. Bob’s son Ralph who was President of Leader Cards Inc. also fielded a part-time midget team since the 1959 season, scoring 26 victories. Under Ralph’s leadership they captured the first ever USAC Dirt Track Championship (now Silver Crown) in 1971, with driver George Snider. Ralph continued to field entries for the Indianapolis 500 and the entire USAC, and later CART series until the conclusion of the 1994 season. After retiring from Leader Paper Products as President and CEO. Ralph returned to fielding a midget car team, scoring the 2003 Badger Midget Series Championship, and more than 30 feature victories in 12 years.
In 1979 Ralph’s two son’s Greg and Mark fielded Midgets separately before joining forces in 1983. since then the Wilke midget team has won 8 Car Owners Championships along with 176 feature wins, including victories in some of the most prestigious midget races: Chili Bowl (2005), Hut Hundred (four times), Turkey Night (1983), Fireman’s Pepsi Nationals (ten times), Copper World Classic (three times) and the Belleville Midget Nationals (2007). A fourth generation Wilke is now involved with the team, Greg’s son Chris is a mechanic and fabricator. On July 22, 2010 Kody Swanson scored the 134th USAC victory for the Wilke Family giving them the all-time feature victory’s in UASC history.