Auto Racing

Decorah driver Tyler Bruening wants to step up his racing

He hopes to be on a full-time professional series next summer

Decorah’s Tyler Bruening prepares for a heat race during a World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Models event at Volusia Speedway in De Leon Springs, Fla., in 2016. Bruening continues to test the waters on the national circuits while also racing at local tracks. (The Gazette)
Decorah’s Tyler Bruening prepares for a heat race during a World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Models event at Volusia Speedway in De Leon Springs, Fla., in 2016. Bruening continues to test the waters on the national circuits while also racing at local tracks. (The Gazette)

Tyler Bruening was born into auto racing.

So testing himself against some of the best in his sport only seems natural.

“If we want to continue to better ourselves, we have to step up the competition and challenge ourselves,” Bruening said.

Bruening has won multiple championships at local tracks and won the IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series two years ago. He considers Farley Speedway, Independence Motor Speedway and Dubuque Fairgrounds Speedway his “home tracks.” He’ll continue to race there when he can, but wants to branch out and test himself against professional teams in the World of Outlaws and Lucas Oil series — the “NASCAR of dirt.”

“That’s the point of a goal,” he said.

The 2018 season started for Bruening and his team — which consists of his father, Greg (team owner and crew chief) and Zeb Holkesvik (crew) — during the “Speed Weeks” in Daytona, Fla., in February. They made three of the five features in the weeklong World of Outlaw events.

That may not sound all that great to some, but Bruening said it was an impressive showing against full-time professional drivers who show up with bigger budgets, larger teams and race full-time on these professional circuits.

Bruening finished seventh in one of the features.

“I’m not trying to brag or anything, but we were kind of the talk of the pits,” he said. “It’s a little intimidating, but in the same sense it makes it that much more rewarding.”

He said a small team from Iowa used to raise a few eyebrows among the regulars, but that has changed in the last year.

“As you mix it up with the guys, you gain their respect,” he said. “It means a lot to me to be accepted into that group.”

Bruening, 32, hasn’t always focused solely on racing, although the sport is in his blood. His grandfather was “involved with a team that raced in Daytona” and his father started racing later in life, but “shares that same passion.”

Tyler got behind the wheel of a racecar about the same time his father decided to retire from the sport, but also was playing football at Loras, where he was a four-year letterwinner.

“We’ve always been involved,” he said. “It’s gotten to be a little bit more than a hobby.”

Bruening said his team will enter at least 50 races a year, sometimes closer to 60. He works full time for the family business — Bruening Rock Products, Inc., in Decorah — but said he spends a little time every night on racing. Holkesvik, he said, works on the cars almost every day.

“I couldn’t begin to fathom the hours ... it’s kind of an every night thing,” he said.

And his dad still is very involved.

“We don’t turn a wheel without him,” Tyler said.

The plan is to continue to mix national events with local races. He finished third in the FSP Late Model race at Farley last Friday and will be competing in a pair of Lucas Oil Midwest Late Model Racing Association events this weekend — Thursday at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson and Friday at Davenport Speedway.

Next year, he hopes, will be full-time on one of the national tours.

“We’re geared up,” he said. “We have the equipment and the resources to do it.

“If you’re going to be in our sport, this is definitely the goal.”

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

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