Column By: STEPHEN DURHAM / RPW – WEST DEPTFORD, NJ – Last Monday, an extremely successful part of the history of Dirt Modified racing passed away.
Legendary chassis builder Doug Olsen died on February 28th at the age of 75.
Doug was the son of late legendary Budd Olsen, together they built Budd Olsen Speed Supplies, where many came to buy the Budd Olsen dirt Modified chassis back starting in the 1960s and continuing into the late 1990s.
One driver that did own a Budd Olsen racecar is Lebanon Valley regular, Eddie Marshall. Doug Olsen wasn’t just a car builder to Marshall, Doug was a best friend to Eddie before he got into a racecar.
“We had a lot of fun together through the years, him and his dad were great to me over the last 40 plus years, starting in 1983 with racing ,” Eddie explains, “they showed me a lot of guidance, insight, help, and direction was tremendous for a long time.”
To Eddie, the Olsen family wasn’t just his Modified chassis builder, they had a lot of fun away from the track together.
“They weren’t just great to me racing wise, they were great friends, I had a lot fun with him through the years, he was actually the best man in my wedding, and I was in his wedding party,” Marshall said.
Eddie started his career off at Lebanon Valley in a Tobias cars, but in 1983, is when he moved up to the Modified class from the 320-Modified class and made the chassis change.
“My father was friends with Budd Olsen and knew each other pretty well and I had met Doug prior to ever racing at all,” Marshall says, “and knew him from being at the races and talked to him quite a bit, so when it was time to go Modified racing, it was just a natural fit to get a car from the Olsen’s. And that was our first Modified, and we ran pretty good right away.”
Eddie said they had great times together, even when things weren’t going his way racing wise.
“Sometimes we’d hurt a frame and need a repair, Id leave with a suitcase and go there, and at the beginning Id stay at Budd or Doug Olsen’s house, work on the car a couple days and have some fun with them.
Doug Olsen and his help would even bust Eddie’s chops at times.
“His guys in the shop used to tease me at different times when we’d go down there for a clip, spend a couple of days, then come back and win the following, and I bet we did that 4 or 5 times,” Marshall explains, “they’d be like ‘jeez every time we do this, you win!’
“It took the bad week of the car being torn up, turning it into having a lot of fun with Doug and a lot of times turning it into success for some reason.” Eddie says.
Eddie has two wins that were his favorite, both coming at the Syracuse Mile at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, New York.
“The New York State Fair Championship races Labor Day at Syracuse in 1990 and 1999 were Olsen cars, and those were fun memories and success,” and elated Marshall says, “ I remember one year in 92, Billy Decker and I battled all season long, both of us in Olsen cars, and I think for the most part of the year were within a couple points of each other, those were just a couple of moment that stand out to me pretty good. “
Over the last four decades, the build, engineering, style, suspension, and technology of Dirt Modifieds have come a long day.
“I know Dick Tobias was probably one of the first people to do that kind of business, but I know in the 70s, when the Olsen’s started, they were a huge impact on the sports,” Eddie explained, “they kind of took that car preparation to the next step as far as customer service, preparation, and complete cars, they were both meticulous people about fabricating and building their business.”
Eddie believed all that hard work paid off for the Olsen business.
“They were the type of dot their I’s kind of guys and that led to that really thorough race cars and service and they certainly had a great following with drivers in their cars, like Brett Hearn, Decker, Jack Johnson, Jimmy Horton, and Billy Pauch, all those guys had tremendous success,” Marshall said.
The Olsen family has always meant a lot to Eddie and his family.
“They are just a tremendous family, Doug, his parents, Henry, and Doug’s kids, they all are great people,” Marshall says, “and just been a big shock to everyone around him, just miss him terribly already.”