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BayCare Clinic orthopedic surgeon competes in vintage car race

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“To me, this is a lot like surgery, except it’s more calming. Once I’m in the car, it’s calming.”

That’s what Dr. Craig Olson says about racing his vintage high-performance car, a 1985 Ford Mustang. For him, racing is more than a hobby. It’s become part of who he is.

He’s been racing cars for 15 years. It started when he moved to Manitowoc to join the care team at Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic. He’s an orthopedic surgeon.

“I knew this is what I wanted to do when I moved here,” Olson says of his hobby. “I was an engineer as an undergraduate before I went into orthopedics, and orthopedics is all mechanical stuff. I worked on cars growing up. It was more street cars and never anything like this, but I knew about the cars like this growing up.”

His love of racing and vintage cars led him to Road America, a 4.048-mile, 14-turn track in the rolling hills near Elkhart Lake.

“I started coming to the races here in 1983. I knew of this stuff and just came up. Eventually, I hooked up with the right people who said it was time I stopped watching and started doing,” Olson says.

That’s why he recently competed at Road America during the WeatherTech International Challenge with Brian Redman.

The event, one of the largest vintage races in the United States, hosted more than 700 cars competing in a variety of classes.

Olson raced during two days of qualifiers and reached the finals, finishing 19th in a field of 37 competitors in the Modern GTO/Trans-AM/IMSA/NASCAR class.

“This isn’t just a show. These guys race,” Olson says. “That’s what I love about coming to this track. They’ll really race you. They’re sharp, they know what they’re doing, and most of the time, no one gets hurt.”

Olson believes the lessons he’s learned from years of racing help him to be a better orthopedic surgeon.

“When racing, I have to be mentally sharp, physically sharp, be able to react and be quick on my feet,” he says. “The things I have to do to be good at this are all the things required to be a surgeon. This makes me exercise a little more and eat a little better. As I say, it keeps me alive.”

Published: Wednesday, March 31, 2021