Catching Up With: Lisbon Racing Announcing Legend Roger 'Pokey' Lukes
If you’ve followed racing in the Lisbon area over the past four decades or so — there’s a very good chance you know Roger “Pokey” Likes. He announced at Sheyenne River/Sheyenne Speedway from 1981-2012 and is known as the track’s historian. He wrote newspaper articles, and even promoted the speedway in 2014. And, for the past seven years, the Lisbon resident has raced himself, starting his driving career at age 60 in 2013. “It’s been rewarding. I’ve enjoyed the people and getting to know more people,” said Lukes. “It’s kept me busy over the years.” “Pokey’s impact on Sheyenne Speedway is truly unmeasurable,” Sheyenne Speedway co-promoter Benji Froemke said. “When I hear the Racer’s Prayer or think about being at the races as a kid I hear Pokey in my head and it makes me happy. He knows everyone, everything about the speedway, makes friends with everyone and he is everything a person should want to become. There would be no Sheyenne Speedway without Pokey Lukes.” Lukes, now 67, pilots the No. 28 Mini Stock at Sheyenne every week. But to many in the Lisbon area, Pokey — who got the nickname from his mother’s uncle when he was five years old — was the man behind the mic at Sheyenne. After being a race fan for several years and running some demolition derbies, the announcing position came open at Sheyenne River Speedway in Lisbon in 1981. That was in the days when the track was a half-mile and faced north and south; soon after the current 1/4-mile track was built. “I’d been to West Fargo and listened to Rod Miller and he sounded like he was having a good time,” Lukes said. “I thought I’d give it a whirl.” Even in recent years, Lukes has done some victory lane interviews — when he isn’t racing himself — and last year interviewed long-time drivers Tom Corcoran and Jerry Lamb at intermission at Sheyenne as both were honored for 50 years behind the wheel of a race car. He worked for 37 years for the railroad and retired in 2012, and decided to give up announcing then. Then, he decided, it was time to hop behind the wheel himself. In 2013, at age 60, he bought a Wissota Street Stock and raced at Sheyenne Speedway and in Wishek. “I figured if I don’t do it then, it ain’t going to happen,” Lukes said. He bought a mini stock car that his daughter, Natalie Sjolin, piloted a few years ago. She finished fifth in the points. He jumped into the mini stock class himself after buying a Mustang in 2018. “I love it,” Lukes said. “Even when I was in the street class, I wasn’t competitive with the likes of Jonny Carter or Duffy Froemke. In the mini stock, I found myself having more fun because I was competitive. I could win once in a while. And everybody helps everybody out.” Even though he’s retired, Lukes remains active in Lisbon. Likes is the treasurer of the local food pantry, and also has acted in plays at the Lisbon Opera House. He and his wife, Valerie — who runs the concession stand on Sundays at Sheyenne — are active gardeners and last year, made 750 jars of pickles and canned goods. Those are either given away to people or donated for silent auctions. “We have fun doing that,” Lukes said. “It’s something the Good Lord blessed us with that we can do and people appreciate.” He has many memories behind the microphone. One that stands out is when Fargo-area driver Matt Greseth, who was seriously injured in a snowmobile crash in the offseason, made his return to victory lane at Sheyenne. Later, he’d win the Wissota Mod 4 national champion. “He got back into his Mod 4 and the first race he was after that was at Lisbon,” Lukes said. “I was glad to know the back story. Things like that were always special.” He plans to race his Mini Stock this summer at Sheyenne. Last year, he won a feature (pictured below) in the class and finished third in points. But to many, Pokey is known as the man behind the mic in Lisbon, and as a fixture at the racetrack. “There’s a lot of memories and a lot of good times and a lot of great races,” Lukes said.