Caleb Adrian wins opening night at Hawkeye Downs

After 11 months on the sidelines, Walcott driver makes his return to the 1/2-mile count

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CEDAR RAPIDS — When you’re a racer, having to sit on the sidelines and watch as your friends and competitors race is a kind of torture.

Walcott driver Caleb Adrian felt that last season, only racing once — at Hawkeye Downs Speedway for the Big 8 Series Clash at the Downs event — in a Late Model. A change in circumstances, he said, made it 11 months between the last time his No. 29 saw the historic half-mile and Friday night’s season opener.

He made his return count.

Adrian started fourth, powered to the lead on Lap 2 and didn’t face a challenger again as he took the Late Model win to kick off Hawkeye Downs’ 92nd racing season.

“Oh man, I was anxious,” Adrian said. “It’s just awesome to unload here and have the same amount of speed we have in the past. We unloaded and right out of the gate it was fast. This is icing on the cake.”

Adrian took the win ahead of Griffin McGrath, Brad Osborn and Brian Gibson.

With a field of 12 cars, the Late Models had as big a group for the opener as at almost any point last season, and what’s more, Adrian highlighted in Victory Lane how stout the group is. The opening laps saw all the top five finishers, plus Brody Willett, battling side by side for position. Willett raced his way to third before a mechanical issue took him out of the race.

Beating competition that has the amount of wins as guys like McGrath, Osborn and Gibson have at Hawkeye Downs was enough to put a wide smile on Adrian’s face. It’s especially true in regards to McGrath, who Adrian said he’d needle a bit for beating.

“Griffin McGrath is the top guy here, he’s been racing here a long time and has a lot of speed,” Adrian said. “To beat him is awesome. He’s one of my buddies, so I’ve got some bragging rights on him now. Once I get back to the pits, I’ll go make sure he knows I won.”

Adrian’s year off is a thing of the past now, as far as he’s concerned. He said he’s taking a more hands-on approach to this season, and his plan is to be at Hawkeye Downs weekly.

While he’s been fast on the Big 8 tour in the past — he won the first Clash at the Downs in 2015 — any series races will be on a “we’ll see” kind of basis.

“I’ll be here every Friday night now,” Adrian said. “I’m not in the situation I was a few years ago, but I’m so happy to be back. … I’d like to run some Big 8 Series stuff, but it just depends. If we can fit it in to run more, we will.”

Elsewhere in racing action Friday night, last-lap passes and close finishes were plentiful.

Cory Houdek took the win in Sportsmen with a last-lap pass of C.J. Van Horn, sneaking by after some slight contact coming to the white flag and finishing off the pass through lapped traffic. Kurt Bohnsack took the win in Hobby Stock, holding off Jim Hanson, who was right on his bumper the final five laps. Derek Parrott won in Hornets, sneaking past Lucas Foster in lapped traffic, and holding off Foster and Dallas Chandler in a frantic final few laps. Sammy Smith started the year win a win in INEX Legends as well, leading every lap from the pole.

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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