In Search Of…The Keys to Racing

LA CROSSE, Wis. — There is a young man in La Crosse who is currently making a name for himself in two totally different fields.

Viterbo University junior Dustin Bagstad has a sort of kinship with the piano dating all the way back to when he was just 5 years old.

“Took lessons for a few years, then took a break because the attention span of someone that age gets a little short. But even though I wasn’t going to lessons, I was still playing at home. Then when I went back to taking lessons, it took off and I haven’t stopped playing since,” said Dustin Bagstad.

Today this La Crosse native can regularly be seen tickling the ivories for various choirs and musical theater performances.

It seems there’s just something about the piano that after all these years, still moves him. “I love the sounds and I really love people’s reactions to the piano. Cause for me, I take it for granted because I’ve played it my whole life; I don’t have any memories of not being able to play the piano. But for other people, they’ve come up after I’ve played something and they’re amazed and just like the joy and excitement that it can bring other people when I sit down and play something.”

And while this in itself is impressive, we’re going to take this story up another octave. Because Dustin has another passion, one that requires us to completely shift gears.

Come to the La Crosse Speedway on race night and you will most likely find 27-year-old Bagstad at the wheel of thuderstock car. “My interest in racing really started with my dad. As far back as I can remember, we were coming here.”

But it wasn’t until two years ago that his ‘wheels’ started spinning. “I finally got the bug and wondered what it was like.”


“I thought we’d give it a try. When he was younger we went to go cart racing and honestly, he wasn’t very good. So we put a stop to that before he hurt himself and all these years later he wants to go racing,” said Dustin’s father, Jeff Bagstad.

“So we went out and took some laps and I was hooked,” said Dustin.

“So I made him start out back. First night, he passed a car. He showed promise and getting better and better and I’m like ‘oh look at that! This might be fun!” said Jeff.

Dustin has been cruising his way to the top of the leader board this season and currently sits 6th in points. “This summer, I got my first feature win, which was really nice to get that first checkered flag in a feature race.”

“It’s been a blast and I’ve been in the pits and jumped up and fist pumped at my age when he has passed for first place. It’s been very exciting,” said Jeff.

“There have been some Saturdays when I have been completely unmotivated to go to the race track. But as soon as we get here and I get that smell of racing fuel and burning rubber, it just trips all the endorphins and I’m ready to go,” said Dustin.

Now from the outside looking in, these two worlds seem polar opposites. “There’s not too many Budweiser t-shirts at a piano recital.”

But according to Dustin, they’re not a different as you might think. “The focus you have on both is a huge similarity. Cause if you lose focus on stage, you’re going to lose what you’re doing, that’s when you get into trouble. And same thing on the race track. If you look away for one second or stop concentrating, you’re gonna run into the person in front of you or run into something. Which does typically not end well…The hand eye coordination. You’ve got your feet going at all times. You have to put in the time to practice to get good at what you’re doing.”

So where will Dustin Bagstad be down the road? “That question you could answer just as well as I could. I could be teaching choir, I could be off pursuing a racing career, I could join the seminary. Who knows!”

“There’s 100 different directions I could go. I like looking to the future, but I don’t like nailing down plans because you don’t know what’s going to come up.”

He may not know where he going, but you can probably bet that with every turn he’ll be hitting all the right notes.

Interesting thing to note, despite his talent on the piano, Dustin is actually a vocal music major. In fact, this weekend he can be seen in the Viterbo opera ‘The Night Bell.’ And Friday night, he will be racing at the Oktoberfest races out at the speedway.