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CEDAR RAPIDS — When you’re an Olympic-level athlete and an NCAA champion, competitiveness is a trait that’s ingrained in you.
So it should come as no surprise that after struggling and learning for much of his first full season racing Legends cars at Hawkeye Downs Speedway, former Iowa wrestler Mark Ironside has improved by leaps and bounds in 2014.
A year under his belt and that competitive fire have him running better than he ever has, and led to his career-best finish of third on May 9.
“Obviously the biggest difference would just be track time, experience,” Ironside said. “But then I’ve also started learning what I can and cannot do with the car. I’ve found small ways to shave a couple tenths (of a second) here, a tenth off there. And in this world of Legends cars, when you’re out there on a quarter-mile track, a tenth of a second makes a big difference on a consistent basis.”
Consistent is the key word for Ironside in 2014.
In 2013, his average finish was 8.7, with two top-five finish, his best being a fourth midway through last season. Fast forward to 2014, and his average finish has jumped to 4.8.
He already has more top-fives than all of last season, starting the season with three straight top-fives, including that third.
A competitor like Ironside would never enter into competition without the goal being a win. To that end, he’s happy with his progress, but gave a wry smile when saying there’s work left to be done.
“We still haven’t had complete success by any means,” Ironside said. “We’re in there, we’re getting better. If I take my work ethic over from the wrestling world to this, just the drive and wanting to improve and get better — that’s, luckily for me, instilled in me by nature.”
As a hometown guy and a former Hawkeye, Ironside was an instant fan-favorite at Hawkeye Downs.
Not just that, but he’s also brought fans from the wrestling world out to the racetrack. Iowa wrestling head coach Tom Brands often comes out to the track to support his friend, and was on hand Friday night along with a few thousand others for Fan Night.
Hawkeye Downs Fair Board member, co-race promoter and fellow Legends competitor Kevin Korsmo has seen Ironside improve on the track — “he has the mentality of a wrestler; they don’t quit,” – and have an influence in the fan base and track sponsorships.
“He absolutely brings new people in,” said Korsmo, who finished second in the Legends main event. “Last week we had a sponsor out here, Iowa Donor Network … a big sponsor we were hoping to get involved at Hawkeye Downs, and (the representative) brought his young son. The first car they came to inside the gate was, guess who, Mark Ironside. And guess what? We got the sponsorship. That’s what Mark brings to the table.”
The Cedar Rapids Jefferson grad and two-time NCAA wrestling champion caught some bad luck Friday night, getting caught up in a wreck during a restart that ended his race early and relegated him to a 14th-place finish — his first this season outside the top 10.
Despite the frustration from a damaged racecar, he remains confident in his season so far and what the rest of the season holds.
“I just love competing, bottom line,” Ironside said. “Any time you get out there, you want to find a way to improve and get better and win. A lot of it is on me, just getting better driving the car on a consistent basis.”
Tim Goettsch won the Legends main event, his third this season. Kurt Bohnsack (Hornets), Matt Petrzelka (Hobby Stock), Tom Burke (Sportsmen) and Tim Plummer (Late Models) were the other winners on Fan Night at Hawkeye Downs.
1. Kurt Bohnsack, Iowa City; 2. Brad Schmidt, Cedar Rapids; 3. Troy Scott, Cedar Rapids; 4. Jeff Dvorak, Lisbon; 5. Steve Woodrow, Cedar Rapids; 6. Todd Ness, Cedar Rapids; 7. Kaden Reynolds; 8. Aaron Moffett, Cedar Rapids.
1. Matt Petrzelka, Norway; 2. Jim Hanson, Cedar Rapids; 3. Kandi Floyd, Cedar Rapids; 4. Nate Ballard, Marengo; 5. Matt Lacoursiere, Cedar Rapids; 6. Adam Petrzelka, Norway; 7. Kurt Bohnsack, Iowa City; 8. Jason Sherman, Marengo; 9. Jacob Floyd, Cedar Rapids; 10. Brandon Herb, Marion; 11. Bryce Bailey, Cedar Rapids; 12. Malena Clement, Cedar Rapids; 13. Sonny Parker, Cedar Rapids.
1. Tom Burke, Ames; 2. Jim Hanson, Cedar Rapids; 3. Greg Hentrick, Hiawatha; 4. John Johnston, Victor.
1. Tim Plummer, Norway; 2. Brad Osborn, Janesville; 3. Brian Allen, Hiawatha; 4. Scott Siems, Cedar Rapids; 5. Chad Siems, Shellsburg.
1. Tim Goettsch, Bettendorf; 2. Kevin Korsmo, Atkins; 3. Matt Blake, Cedar Rapids; 4. Brody Willett, Cedar Rapids; 5. Dennis Diercks, Eldridge; 6. Austin Kunnert, Batavia, Ill.; 7. Al Diercks, Davenport; 8. Cole O’Brien, Cedar Rapids; 9. CJ Van Horn, Marion; 10. Gary Dyer, Blue Grass; 11. Trent Jochinsen; 12. Bryce Bailey, Cedar Rapids; 13. Mark Greb, Coralville; 14. Mark Ironside, Swisher; 15. Ross Davisson, Coralville; 16. TJ Aimers, Cedar Rapids.
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