Auto Racing

Griffin McGrath patiently races to Clash at the Downs runner-up finish

Griffin McGrath of Cedar Rapids (64) drives amongst a pack of cars during the Big 8 race during the McGrath Family of Dealership
Griffin McGrath of Cedar Rapids (64) drives amongst a pack of cars during the Big 8 race during the McGrath Family of Dealership "Clash at the Downs IV" at Hawkeye Downs Cedar Rapids on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Patience.

For a sport predicated on speed and daring, patience keeps a driver in the race.

Griffin McGrath methodically worked his way through the field from his 12th-place start to take second place behind winner Jeremy Miller in the Clash at the Downs Big 8 Series race last night at Hawkeye Downs.

“I wasn’t really trying to be patient,” said McGrath, who had the fastest qualifying time in 19.542 seconds.

“We didn’t really change anything but we’re happy with it. Second place finishes this race.”

For the first time, Clash at the Downs kicked off the Big 8 Series slate of races. The Spring Classic in Rockford, Ill., was rained out in April, bumping the Clash at the Downs into the pole position for the series.

“This is probably our best chance to win,” Alburnett teen Brody Willett said. “There are some heavy hitters out there like McGrath and Miller.

“It’s good though. It helps push me and make me a better driver.”

Willett finished seventh after qualifying with the second-fastest time in 19.634 seconds. While seventh was short of his desired finish, it was a better outcome than his 2017 race.

“Last year some things transpired that we didn’t really like,” Willett said. “But we learned from it. We were overly-aggressive, and you need to be aggressive in a series like this.

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“Some of the things we did with seven to go last year … should have been done on the last lap. So we need to be a little smarter there.”

Many hours of work went into preparing for the 48-lap event. Willett practiced early and often to get the 00 late model and himself in the best shape possible.

“Lots of time in the gym working on endurance,” Willett said. “Watching videos before getting out there and practicing. There’s an online simulator that we use that really helps too.”

Willett and McGrath competed against 21 other drivers, 15 from out of state. They squared off against familiar faces such as Brad Osborn and Brian Gibson. The hometown crew also battled perennial Big 8 Series contenders such as Miller and Jon Reynolds Jr.

“It’s always great to bring the Big 8 Series out here and give everyone a little different show than usual,” said McGrath. “What’s great about racing against guys from out of state is that you can see where you measure up on a regional level.

“They might do different set-ups or something and win a lot of races at their track. It’s just cool to see where you measure up after you put all the work in.”

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