Auto Racing

Darrick Knutsen has passion for family, racing

That's why Urbana 5 Memorial race means so much to Cedar Rapids driver

Sunday night’s Urbana 5 Memorial races at Benton County Speedway combined two of Darrick Knutsen’s passions — racing and family.

That’s why the Cedar Rapids driver/mechanic donates two children’s bicycles to the event each year.

“It’s always a fun event and it’s for the kids,” Knutsen said outside his auto repair shop in southwest Cedar Rapids on Saturday. “That’s what the main thing is, is the kids.”

The Urbana 5 Memorial celebrates the lives of five young people killed in an automobile accident near Urbana in April 2015 — Quentin Ary, Nicole Jacobsen, Hunter Tuttle and Zoey Tuttle of Vinton, and Triston Randall of Urbana.

“We need to keep that memory alive,” said Mick Trier, promoter at the Vinton racetrack. “This is really heartfelt ... It’s a community deal ... it’s a big event.”

Knutsen is so passionate about the family aspect of racing he quit competing at Independence Motor Speedway this summer after the track implemented a rule, he said, keeping children out of the pits.

“The sport is not going to grow if we don’t involve the kids,” said the 45-year-old father of two teenage girls.

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The sport is his other passion. He and identical twin brother, Erick, have been involved in racing since they graduated from Griswold High School more than 25 years ago. Erick was the driver, Darrick “turned the wrenches for him.”

But a few years ago, Erick wanted out. Racing the “big cars” was too expensive and took too much time away from work and family.

“I’d never driven,” Darrick said.

But Don Erger, a MicroMod regular at Benton County Speedway, asked him one night if he’d like to drive one of his cars.

“It took me about three weeks and I won my first feature in his car,” Knutsen said.

He ended up buying that car and has added three more to his fleet since. One is for brother Erick — identical to Darrick’s, of course — the other two for anyone wanting to give it a go.

“I give people the opportunity like Donnie gave me ... to see what it’s like and to get the feel of it,” he said. “We’ve got to grow the class, grow the sport.”

There’s nothing quite like racing a car around a track, Knutsen said.

“If I could get all the people who are on drugs in a racecar, I guarantee you they’d quit the drugs,” he said. “When you go into a corner, you can’t even move off your seat. You can’t move your head.

“What a rush.”

While the Knutsen twins weren’t running in Sunday night’s main events — the IMCA SportMods and Modifieds both paid $1,000 to win — Darrick loves the simplicity and cost of the MicroMod division.

“We did the big cars for 20 years,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. We could have bought $200,000 to $300,000 houses and paid them off already” with the money they spent.

“What does that tell you?”

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He works on the MicroMods a few hours before Sunday’s races, “nut and bolt ’em and put them back in the trailer and go racing.

“I don’t have to work on them all week long like I did the big cars.”

That’s a good thing. Knutsen has a full-time job that keeps him busy and, often, out of town. And he has his own repair shop.

“Many weeks, it feels like I work 100 hours,” he said with a laugh.

And, of course, there is family. Those two young daughters are very important to him.

“My youngest would love to get behind the wheel,” he said. “Maybe someday.”

They obviously share their father’s passion.

“It’s a hobby,” he said. “I do it for the fun of it.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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