Beloved local race car driver Kevin Olson died in Rock County crash, authorities confirm | crime



Kevin Olson, a 70-year-old race car driver from Evansville who was well known in the local racing community, died last week in a head-on collision near Janesville.

Olson’s family and racers from across the country — and world — have been morning his loss, remembering him as a champion and a family man with a silly sense of humor and a vibrant personality.

Olson’s daughter, Katie Landon, said her dad was “very bright and just funny, witty — a lot would say crazy.

“He definitely was crazy,” she said. “You’d have to know him to just understand. KO was KO.”

The Rock County Medical Examiner’s Officer on Wednesday identified Olson as the man who died in a Friday crash in the 3400 block of Highway 14 in the town of Janesville.

A 30-year-old Sun Prairie man crossed over the center line of the highway and drove head-on into Olson’s vehicle around 7:40 pm, according to the Rock County Sheriff’s Office. Olson died at the hospital. His companion, Nancy Nelson, was in critical condition after the crash but has been improving over the last few days, Landon said.

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The Sun Prairie man has been identified as Justin C. Archer. Information on any possible charges against Archer will be released at a later date, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Landon said she found it “ironic” that out of all the outlandish and dangerous things her father did, that he would die in a car crash. She said it would have been easier to come to terms with his death if he died in a racecar because he would have died doing what he loves.

“I have talked to hundreds of people in these last few days,” Landon said. “Every single person says, ‘I just can’t even process it. This isn’t how Kevin Olson was supposed to go.”

In his more than 50 years of racing, Olson was a five-time champion with the local Badger Midget Auto Racing Association, a nonprofit racing group based in Sun Prairie that specialized in racing “midget cars,” which are miniature, high-powered racing vehicles.

70-year-old man dies in head-on collision in Rock County, Sheriff's Office says

He also won two national awards as a midget auto racer, earning the distinction of United States Auto Club National Midget champion twice, Landon said.

At a young age, Olson would go to races with his father, Landon said. Around 18, he had his first race at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie. He ended up getting some pretty big sponsors, including STP Motor Oil and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

He worked several years at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway doing reporting from the pit and “off the wall” interviews with celebrity racers, Landon said. Olson also traveled to Australia and New Zealand for racing when the weather was cold in the US, gaining fans there.

“As proud as he was of those accomplishments, what made him happiest was his connection to family and friends, most of whom had probably come to believe that he was invincible,” Landon and other Olson family members wrote in a joint statement.

The National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame said Olson was talented, outgoing and “one of the most unique individuals in midget racing.”

“When you saw Kevin coming you always knew he was going to say something or do something to make you laugh,” the group said. “The racing world will really miss Kevin.”


Kevil Olson races in a midget auto racing event at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie in 2021. Olson died last week at 70 in a highway crash.


Olson would tell silly and sarcastic stories where he claimed to be a lightbulb repairman or said he planned to open a shoelace re-tipping business, Landon said. He would sometimes carry around a fake wooden snake and once did a race in a bathroom outhouse.

People across the country would send him lightbulbs because of the lightbulb repairman bit, Landon said.

Droz Andrews, a writer for the Badger Midget Auto Racing Association, said Olson had a charm and silliness that always drew people to him.

“Olson, known for his silly antics, quick wit, and eccentric humor found his way into the hearts of motorsports fans around the world,” Andrews wrote.

Andrews said Olson had a “once-in-a-generation personality.”

Landon said Olson was not only a friend to all, but an amazing father who went the extra mile to make his children feel special. She said he would have skipped the Indy 500 if he needed to be home with his family.

“Imagine having a superhero for a father. We did. That was our entire life,” Landon said. “He truly was like a hero. He wasn’t just a hero to us kids. He’s a mentor. Somebody that children have looked up to as a role model and hero for 50 years.”

Olson survived by five children. In a statement, family members said the loss of their father and brother is “devastating,” but that the outpouring of support they have gotten from the community has helped keep them going.

Landon encouraged friends and fellow racers to send her photos and memories of Olson on Facebook or via email at

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