In Memoriam: A final lap for long-time Rockford Speedway flagman Tom Powell

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

It’s been a couple of hours since I returned home from the visitation for an icon in the Midwest racing world. It’s taken me that long to formulate my thoughts. How could I write something that would honor his memory?

Tom Powell, the man affectionately known as “Pretty Boy” or just plain “T.P.” passed away last week following a heart attack. He was the flagman/starter for a host of auto racing series in and around Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

It was obvious by the number of people who took time out of their Mother’s Day Sunday to pay their last respects to Tom and his family that he was much more than just a man in the flag stand. Tom became a friend to the vast majority of the people he met. He was one of the rare breeds who had that infectious personality that people really liked, and he never took himself so seriously that he didn’t have time for the many who requested an autograph or a photo.

Tom began his career in the flag stand at the Rockford Speedway in 1985. His talent and ability to entertain the fans took him to nearly every level of stock car racing. He earned the respect of track owners throughout the Midwest. In addition to his work in Rockford, Powell spent time as a regular official at the Slinger Speedway and the Madison International Speedway in Wisconsin.

He had recently taken some time off from weekly racing. He was scheduled to return this season to both Rockford and Slinger. He worked the opening night of the 2011 season at Rockford prior to his passing. He was able to wave his final flag right where it all began for him. I’m confident that is something he was very proud of. Powell is one of the people honored in the Rockford Speedway’s Walk of Fame. He received that honor in 2001.

All his racing friends and family will sorely miss him, but I’m sure he’ll never be forgotten. I think he would have been very humble to see how many people came by today for his final lap—truly a victory lap.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at

From the May 11-17, 2011 issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!