IMCA racer Jeremiah Hurst still focused on racing amid heart issue

Dubuque driver awaiting heart valve replacement after getting out of car Friday with congestive heart failure

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DUBUQUE — While sitting in a hospital bed, admitted to the intensive care unit of Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque for congestive heart failure, IMCA Late Model racer Jeremiah Hurst didn’t ask about his heart or what tests were coming next.

He asked when he could leave.

“On Saturday, he told the main doctor and the head nurse, ‘You’ve got to finish up whatever you’re doing, because I have to be at Maquoketa before 6 o’clock tonight,’” said Roberts Motorsports team owner Ken Roberts, who fields Hurst’s racecar. “We were just laughing, saying, ‘You can’t be serious, dude.’ He was serious.”

Such is the mindset of a racer, who now is home resting while doctors from Mercy communicate with those in Iowa City to determine an exact course of treatment to install a mechanical heart valve.

Hurst was leading the IMCA Late Model main event Friday night at Farley Speedway, when he slowed on track and came to a stop just before Turn 3, climbed out and was short of breath. Roberts said he and most everyone else assumed something mechanical was wrong at first, and that by the time the team got to the car on the track, Hurst was already in the ambulance.

After being taken to the hospital in Dubuque, it was discovered the heart valve he had replaced in 2004 was leaking and caused a large amount of fluid to build up in his lungs.

Robert said to give an idea of how much fluid, Hurst weighed himself on the race scaled at the track Friday night and weighed 151 pounds. Roberts said when he was weighed after treatment to get his breathing back to normal, Hurst weighed 125 pounds.

Everyone at the track and connected to his race team marveled at Hurst’s ability to get the car stopped.

“To be able to slow himself down and keep the car straight is absolutely miraculous, especially on a track like that,” Roberts said. “It could’ve caused a lot more damage to him and even to others.”

The 41-year-old racer was rallied around by those he races with every week — and right away. Beau Busch, of Enhance Racing Images, donated a 24x36 poster featuring Hurst’s No. 58 Late Model, and it was auctioned off Sunday night at Dubuque Speedway.

Farley Speedway Promotions announcer Jerry Mackey said Curt Marks won the final bid for the photo, which brought a total of $4,100 Sunday night. Shane Heister won the initial bid for $2,400, but donated the photo back to be auctioned again. Greg Bruening — father to fellow IMCA Late Model racer Tyler — won the second bid for $1,000, and donated it back a second time. Marks’ final winning bid was $700.

Additionally, Maquoketa Speedway raised $602 on Saturday night and Quad City Speedway in East Moline raised $665 — the entire total to go toward Hurst’s medical expenses and recovery.

“It’s an astonishing amount of money to be raised in five minutes that’s for sure,” said Hurst’s crew chief and family member Jeremy Roeth. “I can’t thank those people enough for what they did last night. Those 3 men single-handedly made things a little easier when you start to worry about how you’re going to pay bills and for medications and everything. The outpouring of support everywhere has been huge.”

Hurst may have wanted back in the racecar this weekend, but it will be at least a month before he’ll be able to climb back behind the wheel. Roeth said the recovery time for the valve replacement is 4 to 6 weeks, and said Hurst wants to have surgery as soon as possible to facilitate getting back in the car.

Once he recovers, Roeth said Hurst will be on medication “for the rest of his life,” but would have no other limitations and will be able to race.

The preliminary goal depending on what doctors in Iowa City decide, according to Roberts and Roeth, is for Hurst to be back in the car for the Yankee Dirt Track Classic, from Aug. 30-Sept. 2.

Whether he’s back by then or not, Roberts said Hurst will have a ride waiting when he gets back.

“He lives to race and his motivation every day is about racing,” Roberts said. “In his mind, that’s the goal, and I think that’s important for him to have that goal. It could be realistic.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back by then. He’s that motivated. I don’t want to push him. I want him to be the best he can be. When he’s ready, we’ll go again.”

MILLER HONORS IN THE WORKS

The Eastern Iowa racing community gathered together Monday morning to celebrate the life of Karsyn’s Krusaders co-founder Jessica Miller, who died last Tuesday after being involved in a car accident in Dodge County, Wis.

Miller, of Evansdale, was killed after the pickup truck she was riding in collided with the rear of a semi. Her death’s impact was felt throughout the racing community, including Eastern Iowa, where the foundation she ran — named for her daughter, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 — raised hundreds of thousands of dollars since its beginning in 2009.

Miller was honored with a speech Saturday at Independence Motor Speedway, which has a more detailed memorial planned for this week’s races. Independence is one among several tracks — including as far away as New Mexico — to have some kind of memorial in the works.

“Doug Cue, who owns Superior Cleaning in Independence, is using his night this week to plan something out and do it right,” IMS promoter Dana Benning said. “Drivers are going to be passing helmets to collect money for the Miller family. We’ve customized trophies for the Jessica Miller Tribute.

“She had such a far reach. It wasn’t just Eastern Iowa racing. She loved all forms of dirt track racing and it took her throughout the United States.”

STAT OF THE WEEK

Benji Irvine earned his fourth straight win in the IMCA Hobby Stock division at Independence Motor Speedway on Saturday. Irvine is the only Hobby Stock driver in track history with multiple winning streaks of four or more races.

He is one win shy of the longest Hobby Stock winning streak in track history. That mark of five consecutive wins was set by Chris Wessner in 1995 and matched by Nick Wroten in 1998. With 30 Hobby Stock wins in weekly racing history in Independence, Irvine is now tied with Chris Luloff for the most all-time. Irvine is the fifth Hobby Stock driver in track history to share or hold the outright wins lead in the division since the Hobby Stocks joined the weekly program in 1989.

Ken Irvine, Rick Johnson, Wessner and Luloff are the other four.

-Ryan Clark, IMCA

 

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

 

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