- Associated Press - Saturday, July 12, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Dave “Hayseed” Thomssen is 79 years old, a retired geologist, who, thanks to recent back surgery, walks with a cane.

He’s also one of Lincoln’s fastest men.

But unless you’re an aficionado of land speed racing or have lived in his north Lincoln neighborhood, where he routinely parked his incredibly fast cars outside his house, you may not know or have heard of him.

His skills at building powerful engines and driving fast cars have made him one of his sport’s most respected and well known. And last fall, it landed him in the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame.

His cars have set nearly 30 land speed records at Utah’s famed Bonneville Salt Flats, including one by legendary drag racer “Big Daddy” Don Garlits.

Using $20,000 Garlits gave him, Thomssen designed the rat-shaped black speedster to “go around” a Ford engine Thomssen “threw together out of spare parts,” including old cast pistons and a crankshaft he pulled out of a junkyard. Lincoln auto racing great and 2007 Nebraska Hall of Fame inductee Jim Schuman built the car.

In 1988 Garlits drove the “Swamp Rat” into Bonneville’s prestigious 200 mph club.

“(That engine) did indeed get Garlits into the 200-mile-per-hour club, and that’s how I got famous,” Thomssen told the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1jgTv9d ).

He’s been interested in going fast ever since his father, Bill, used to take him to circle track races when he was a kid growing up in Aurora.

Married in 1958, Thomssen spent his honeymoon at drag races in Grand Island.

Not long after that, he and his college buddy Arly Asch built a drag racer of their own. The “Hayseed Special” came together in a hog shed on Asch’s farm near Pilger.

The body was a 1923 Ford roadster that Thomssen’s father used to drive. Asch had an old Ford engine.

Thomssen admitted they had no clue as to what they were doing.

“”We read the rule book and followed the rules,” he said. “That was the extent of what we knew. But we did know something about the engine. Arly had already been driving it as a street roadster, a classic hot rod. We knew it went fast.”

They rebuilt the engine in the basement of Thomssen’s apartment.

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