Sam Widger, a fixture on the Chicago racing circuit for the past two decades, posted his 4,000th career driving victory on Friday night at Maywood Park as he guided the aptly-named Polar Bear to a neck victory in the 12th race of the night.
With temperatures hovering in the single digits and a wind chill factor of nearly 10 below zero, Widger remained red-hot finishing up the evening with seven victories while continuing to dominate the driver standings at the half-mile oval.
The 47-year-old Beecher, Illinois resident has been on quite a roll this season also posting a five win night last week at Maywood. He also leads the driver standings at Balmoral Park heading into Saturday’s action.
Growing up in Canton, Illinois the athletic Widger competed in baseball, football and wrestling despite weighing less than 100 pounds until his junior year of high school.
Widger, who worked his way up from the bottom, got his introduction to the harness racing world back in the mid 1980’s at Quad City Downs.
“My dad was building some barns right down the road from Quad City Downs and I had dropped out of college because it just wasn’t my thing,” explained Widger. “I like to be a hands on type of guy. I met a trainer at Quad Cities and he put me to work cleaning stalls and the rest is history. I guess I’ve done pretty well for a guy who never thought he’d be in this sport while growing up in a small town.”
Widger also topped $3 million in purse earnings last season for the second time in his career (2006) is zeroing in on $30 million in lifetime purses.
A self-confessed adrenaline junkie Widger, who has a 10 acre farm in Beecher that he shares with his wife of 18 years, Nancy, and his five children loves to hunt and fish in his spare time and really enjoys helping out the family on the farm. He is also planning another full time assault on the Indiana circuit once they begin racing later this year.
“It was a very tough decision to go to Indiana but you’ve got to make the bills somehow and the money just isn’t good enough to do that here in Illinois,” he explained. “It was stressful from a personal standpoint because I love to be with my family and being in Indiana meant that I was away from them three or four nights a week. It really helped that some others from Illinois went down there as well and I’ve built up some really strong bonds with trainers there. I’m very thankful to those folks who gave me a chance and I couldn’t have accomplished this feat without their help.” (Maywood Park)