Punky Manor was the dominate driver in the Late Model class in Rice Lake in 1978-79. Punky died in a November 1979 car accident. The following is a tribute to Punky written by Mary Weinfurtner:
Neil D. “Punky” Manor was only 26 when he was killed in a tragic automobile accident on Hwy 37 about six miles south of Eau Claire. In his short life time he had managed Neil’s Scorpion Sales for 3 years until he bought a tavern which he remodeled and opened, naming it the Winner’s Circle. Besides owning and operating the tavern, he was a full time late model stock car driver.
Punky started racing at the age of 19 in the street stock class but soon advanced to hobby stock and then went on to the late model class. He was always interested in automobiles and the car business was a natural for him. Through his Dad’s dealership he had the opportunity to find himself and his true love — cars.
Winning the street stock & hobby stock championships at the Eau Claire Speedway as a beginner, he then moved on to the late model class with his popular Camaro, #57. He was point champion his last 3 years at the Rice Lake Speedway, and 2 of his last 3 years at Red Cedar Speedway, Menomonie. In one of his last races he took second at Riverview Raceways, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. He was also a popular winner at such places as Rice Lake, Menomonie, Eau Claire, Superior, the Green Bay area, Iowa and Minnesota.
At the end of his last season of racing Punky had cleaned his tools with the idea of starting the work on his car for next years racing season. He was in the process of buying a new car and had planned on taking it to Florida in February to race on the dirt tracks in the Daytona area. Punky Manor never made the trip. He was killed, ironically enough, in that auto mishap south of Eau Claire. There were many who believed, including his Dad, that the car, not Punky, was to blame. Considering his track record it makes sense.
That however makes no difference; Punky and old #57 are gone forever. But he did not go without leaving something behind. Fact is he probably left more from his 26 years than most do in a lifetime. He left the legacy of a competitor, a champion and most of all a sportsman. The memory of Punky and his Dad, Neil Manor Sr., who was killed in an automobile accident a week after his son, will never be forgotten. They were exceptional men that will live on forever in the hearts of many people.