FORT WAYNE – Tom Isch, who oversaw major improvements at Baer Field Speedway during his 20 years as track promoter, died Tuesday at home surrounded by family. He was 74.
When Isch retired from Baer Field at the end of the 2012 season, he did so after having overseen the construction of an alternate Turns 1 and 2 at the south end of the track, to allow the option of lower-cost three-eighths-of-a-mile racing along with the traditional half-mile track; a one-tenth-mile pavement go-kart track in the Speedway infield and a motocross track (now converted to a one-eighth-mile dirt track) on the west end of the Speedway parking lot.
Isch also saw the formation of the Baer Field Speedway Hall of Fame in 1993; was instrumental in developing both the current class of open-wheel modifieds as well as pavement winged sprint car racing; and partnered with international Trucks to create the Gold Cup racing programs.
I’d like to thank all the racers, fans, sponsors, family members, vendors, friends, media, and my wonderful staff for being there all these years, Isch said upon retiring. Without every single one of them, 20 years wouldn’t have been possible.
After a successful career in the automotive industry and as a race car owner, Isch sold his dealerships and cars and bought the Capitol Speedway in Plymouth in 1989. A few years later, Isch took over as promoter of the Avilla Motor Speedway and began leasing Baer Field Speedway from the Lipkey family in 1993.
Over the next two seasons, Isch simultaneously managed Baer Field on Friday nights; Avilla on Saturdays; and Plymouth on Sundays plus a pair of traveling series (AVSS Sprints and IMSS Modifieds) he created. Isch’s tenure at Plymouth ended with the sale of the facility after the 1994 season and Avilla closed its gates after the 1995 season. After a few more years, Isch sold both traveling series to focus solely on Baer Field.
Isch will be inducted to the Baer Field Speedway Hall of Fame on May 10, the opening night of the season.
Isch is survived by his wife, Peggy; his children; grandchildren; and family and friends.
Funeral services are pending.