October 29, 2022 | Last updated Apr 13, 2023

Start Your Engines – Harold Mauck’s dirt-track racing photos

1950s photo of man and woman atop race car

Harold Mauck lived life in the fast lane. The Plainview photographer and race car driver left a collection of photos documenting northeastern Nebraska’s post-World War II culture of stock car racing. In 2018-2019 his work was featured in an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Start Your Engines: Nebraska Stock Car Racing Photographs by the Harold Mauck Studio was also the basis for a photo essay in Nebraska History Magazine, excerpted and linked below.

Mauck (shown above) was born on his family’s farm west of Plainview in Pierce County in 1921. After serving in the Army Air Force during WWII, he returned to Plainview and opened in a photography studio in his aunt’s home. The business thrived.

Luckily for us, Harold took his work home while he explored his hobbies. On weekends, Harold raced stock cars, flew airplanes, and pursued adventure. His passion for racing and love of photography blended to create a collection of photographs unlike anything in the Midwest. Harold operated Mauck Studio with his wife, Tina, for thirty-nine years, retiring in 1986. The collection came to History Nebraska shortly after Harold’s death in 2010. Since then History Nebraska has digitized the collection of more than a thousand prints and negatives (browse them here).

Magazine spread for "Start Your Engines"

Opening spread from the Nebraska History Magazine article. Read the complete article here (PDF).


Here are a few of Harold Mauck’s photos, with captions written by Bob Mays of Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed:

two stock cars moving toward camera

The US auto industry stopped building private vehicles during World War II, but wartime technological advances transformed the postwar auto industry. The new automobiles made prewar cars seem hopelessly out of date, no matter their condition. By the 1950s, prewar autos were being sent to junkyards by the millions. These cars fueled the new sport of stock car racing. RG5705-7-30


race car propped up on stump

The driver may have received most of the credit for what happens on the track, but each car needed a team of people in order to perform at its best. A good mechanic and a dedicated helper with a strong back were just about mandatory.

Cars needed regular service during the week. In stock car racing’s heyday, just about every service station had a race car to maintain. Brakes, front spindles, axle shafts, and the engine took up most of the mechanic’s time. A few dents might get pounded out if there was time to spare. Most mechanics had all the basic tools they needed, especially if the car was housed at a service station. Here, jack stands were needed for customer cars, so this race car was left with an old stump for support during maintenance. Possibly Holmes Garage in Plainview, circa 1951. RG5705-29-18


cars racing on dusty track

Track conditions were not always optimum. Many tracks lacked the budget to put up lights for night racing, and hot summers baked the race tracks. The dusty conditions did not deter the competition and may have enhanced it. Depending on the direction of the breeze, many fans wore the race track home with them. Yankton, SD, circa 1951. RG5705-9-12

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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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