CEDAR RAPIDS - Soccer took Drew Russell halfway around the world and back.
The Mount Vernon native chose an unorthodox professional soccer path by leaving home a decade ago at age 16 and pursuing his athletic dreams in Europe.
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Welcome to the Inside Track's Eastern Iowa Driver Rankings. Each week of the racing season, the Gazette's Jeremiah Davis will rank the area's top 10 drivers across all divisions.
New this week: Hunter Marriott
Dropped out: Chris Simpson
Others considered (in no order): Troy Cordes, Matt Ryan, Zach Less, Bryce Garnhart, Rob Toland, Jeff Aikey, Mark Schulte, Chris Zogg, Tyler Bruening, Dan Hovden, Leah Wroten, Kyle Olson, Cayden Carter, Sam Wieben, Johnny Spaw, Jim Hanson, Troy Hovey, Joel Rust, Ronn Lauritzen, Daniel Wauters, Brian Irvine, J.D. Auringer, Jeremiah Hurst, Dalton Simonsen, Jenae Gustin, Corey Dripps, Ben Chapman, Richie Gustin, Kyle Brown, Mitch Morris, Troy Bauer, Joel Callahan, David Brandies
|1||+1||Tyler Soppe||Sport Mod||With just one more rankings to go after this for this season, it's down to the nitty gritty for our top two drivers. Soppe takes the top spot this week after a pair of wins gets him to win No. 23 and kept him within striking distance for the IMCA national title, too. He won at Dubuque Speedway on Sunday and Maquoketa Speedway on Saturday night. He's finishing strong, and is one of two finalists to be The Gazette Eastern Iowa Driver of the Year.|
|2||-1||Tony Olson||Sport Mod||This is the other finalist for Driver of the Year. Olson has had a fairly rough go of it - by his standards, at least - over the last several weeks, but he got another win this weekend at Independence Motor Speedway, then backed it up with a third at Vinton in what was a wild main event, from what I'm told. One more week to jump back up to the top of the rankings, but a reminder: the driver who finishes the year atop these rankings isn't necessarily a lock for Driver of the Year.|
|3||--||Damon Murty||Stock Car||Murty made the trip to Hancock County Speedway in Britt for the pair of big nights over the weekend, and had a mixed bag of results. He was 11th on the Night of 1,000 Stars, a frustrating night for him. Then he was third on the Night of 10,000 Stars, coming up short behind Western Iowa stalwart David Smith. Solid result, but obviously not what he wanted or expects.|
|4||--||Justin Kay||Late Model/Modified||Kay only raced on Tuesday for the IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series for Late Models show at Dubuque Speedway, and had opposite runs in Modified and Late Model. He was out early with mechanical issues in his new Late Model - after dominating his heat race - but that came after a brilliant run in Modified. He was fifth with 10 laps to go, made a three-wide pass for second at one point, and pulled even for the lead on the final lap before getting beat to the line by Mark Schulte.|
|5||--||Tyler Droste||Late Model/Modified||Droste was fourth at Independence Motor Speedway on Saturday night, fourth again at Dubuque Speedway on Sunday and looked poised to race for the win at the Deery show on Tuesday. Only issue was, he didn't get the full chance. Droste was running third behind eventual winner Matt Ryan and Tyler Bruening, but jumped the cushion and hit the wall. A promising run turned into a DNF.|
|6||+4||Luke Goedert||Late Model||I know a big jump like this usually comes with at least one - and usually multiple - wins, but Goedert gets the boost because he's turned in the most consistent Late Model performance in Eastern Iowa the last month and a half. He was third at Maquoketa on Saturday, fifth at Quad City Speedway, then was third again in the Deery Bros show at Dubuque. His backing up his strong Deery run from Maquoketa was enough for me.|
|7||NR||Hunter Marriott||Modified||Marriott carried the flag for Eastern Iowa this past week-plus with Iowa Modified Speedweek taking the IMCA guys across northwest and north central Iowa. (And yes, he's an Eastern Iowa guy. He races out of West Union all summer. Let's please just accept this.) He won three times, including the Hawkeye Dirt Tour finale at Buena Vista Raceway (shoutout to my home track) last Wednesday, then took home his biggest career check of $7,000 by winning the Night of $10,000 at Britt.|
|8||+1||Nathan Ballard||Hobby Stock||Ballard got win No. 10 this weekend, once again racing at Benton County Speedway in Vinton. His year hasn't been quite like last year, but he also hasn't raced as much.|
|9||-2||Benji Irvine||Hobby Stock||Irvine was 14th in his only race this weekend, at Independence Motor Speedway. I guess I was a jinx from last week with my whole "I'm sure he's finished outside the top 2 there this year, but I don't remember" line. Sorry, Irvine fans. I'll take the blame for that one.|
|10||-4||Mitch Hovden||Stock Car||Hovden only got to race once this weekend with Friday night being a washout everywhere in Eastern Iowa, and was an uncharacteristic 10th at Upper Iowa Speedway. He stays in because that's been an outlier for his season up there, but Matt Ryan, Joel Rust, J.D. Auringer and a few others were right there on the edge of cracking the top 10.|
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