Hawkeye Downs thrown a 'curveball' but will go on

Despite Becker's resignation, there will be racing at the speedway in 2014

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Longtime racer, announcer, promoter and track worker Mike Becker resigned his position as track promoter at Hawkeye Downs on Monday, four years after he took over the historic track in Cedar Rapids.

While Becker’s departure leaves a hole to be filled for Hawkeye Downs, the men behind the speedway said it will certainly carry on, with the season set to start on April 23.

“Any time you have a longtime employee that comes in and resigns, it’s kind of like, ‘Oh,’” said Hawkeye Downs general manager Roy Nowers. “It obviously kind of throws a curveball, but we’ll regroup and move forward. We’ll survive and things will go in the right direction.

“It’s nothing we won’t be able to get through.”

Becker, who has been a fixture in the Cedar Rapids area racing scene for decades, declined to expound upon his decision to leave Hawkeye Downs.

He did, though, express his overwhelming sentiment for the sport and the track.

“I’m no longer a part of it,” Becker said. “I’m going to miss being part of Hawkeye Downs.”

Becker’s extensive knowledge of the sport, and the people he’s met along the way are things Nowers said he’ll miss a great deal.

So much of racing is knowing people, and having a background only served to help the track, Nowers said.

“Mike Becker has a vast knowledge of racing and has a lot of racing history here,” Nowers said. “Having that gap in that knowledge is going to be an obstacle to overcome.

“It’s a loss, there’s a hole there — a lot of history. But we’ll overcome and move forward.”

Becker’s exit also sent concern through the racing community with outside projects that operate in conjunction with Hawkeye Downs and other area tracks.

One such non-profit is the Lil Racer Car Club, which Becker was instrumental in bringing to Hawkeye Downs. The club, run by Mitch Swinton, offers kids fun activities to take part in at the races — such as candy grabs, sack races and other promotions — and gets people out to the track to have some fun.

Swinton said he was told his club, which also operates at Cedar County Raceway in Tipton, West Liberty Raceway and Benton County Raceway in Vinton, is welcome back at Hawkeye Downs going forward, and hopes things at the speedway can improve.

“Hawkeye Downs is very important (to my club),” Swinton said. “Mike invited me to come up to Hawkeye Downs right after he got the promotion four years ago. He was the one who saw what we did and West Liberty, saw how important kids are to racing’s future and invited us up.

“I’m happy doing what I do at Hawkeye Downs. We have a lot of kids signed up (and) I have a lot of good sponsors there that believe in what we do. I hope they get things set up and get a new promoter. I know they’ve got a strong fair board in line. There’s a lot of guys on the fair board I believe in, and I know they’ll work out something.”

Going forward, both Nowers and Hawkeye Downs Fair Board President Bob Bruce said racing will go on as scheduled.

With things being so new, and Nowers’ job running the whole Hawkeye Downs grounds — with trade shows, bingo and all the other events held there — there hasn’t been a great deal of thought put into a replacement just yet. For now, Nowers and Bruce said it will be a “tag team approach” and that they’re excited for the season despite the setback.

“When they ask me, ‘Are you going to hire somebody tomorrow?’ it’s like, ‘We haven’t even gotten to that point yet,’” Nowers said. “We’re just kind of moving forward. Eventually we’ll hire somebody and someone will take the position, but we’ve got to evaluate where we are (first) and move the ball forward.”

Hawkeye Downs opens its season with a Test and Tune event on April 19, with regular weekly racing starting on April 23.

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