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CEDAR RAPIDS — There long has been a clear connection between sports and honoring military, law enforcement and firefighters — and auto racing has been right at the forefront of that nationally.
Locally, Hawkeye Downs Speedway has been as well. Friday night marks the third straight year an INEX Legends Regional Qualifying race also will serve as the annual Racing for a Cause Night, benefiting Concerns of Police Survivors.
Legends racer and dealer Warren Ropp developed his Racing for a Cause series — which, including Friday, pays $1,000 to the winner of four events — specifically with C.O.P.S. in mind, and it’s been one among several similar events at the Cedar Rapids track. Ropp, whose son is a police officer in Ames, has a deep connection to C.O.P.S. and has worked year-round growing the event at Hawkeye Downs.
“It’s big because a lot of people and organizations are all about the money on their end — and you’ve got to have the money to make the doors stay open and operate — but (Hawkeye Downs) sees the big picture of what’s happening in the communities,” Ropp said. “It helps pull communities together. Whether it’s Military Night or Iowa Donor Network Night or my C.O.P.S. night, it’s big. The only way you get that message across is to keep putting it out in front of people.”
Last year, Ropp’s Racing for a Cause event coupled with Van Meter Night and featured police chase demonstrations and other displays. That came on the heels of four Iowa law enforcement officers being killed in the line of duty, as well as other officer killings that demanded social and traditional media attention.
Those circumstances made Ropp’s events timelier for people not connected to officers. This year, only one officer has been killed in the line of duty in Iowa — Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Burbridge, who was shot while transporting an inmate — and the national stories are not as prevalent.
Ropp said that just means his races and the awareness he’s trying to bring are that much more important.
“If you look at the statistics, we’re still losing 140 to 160 officers nationally every year,” Ropp said. “I’m the outsider who has an interest in it, and I got involved in this after a good friend of mine who was a police officer was killed during a domestic abuse call. We got this started after that.
“We’re passionate about what C.O.P.S. does and we want to help.”
Friday’s race at Hawkeye Downs is the first of four Racing for a Cause events benefiting C.O.P.S. within a week. Hawkeye Downs is followed by Independence Motor Speedway on July 5, Kossuth County Speedway on July 6 and Hancock County Speedway on July 7. Each Legends main event pays $1,000 to win and Ropp said 25-30 racecars are expected at all of them.
Ropp races weekly at Hawkeye Downs and is the go-to for Legends racers around here for parts and cars through Bulltown Legends of Iowa in Kalona, but Racing for a Cause and C.O.P.S. are his passion.
Hawkeye Downs promoter Kevin Korsmo said before Military Night two weeks ago how much he admires Ropp for his dedication to making the event happen and succeed, and that was reflected in Ropp’s comments Monday. Planning for next year begins in earnest as soon as the checkered flag falls Friday — with bits and pieces already in the works.
“I always try to schedule my stuff so it doesn’t interfere with other tracks’ schedules and I like to get it tied in with special events,” Ropp said. “I want it to be something with a bigger crowd because our whole goal is to create awareness for the C.O.P.S. foundation. I’ll start now already talking to people and fellow awareness for next year.”
$10,000 ON THE LINE AT AFTERMARKET NATIONALS
Farley Speedway is set for the fifth annual Aftermarket Nationals, Wednesday through Friday, with $10,000 on the line for IMCA-type Modifieds and $2,000 for Sport Mods.
In the wake of Farley’s Modified Super Weekend, which saw Kyle Strickler win $50,000 in Modified and Jared Baumeester take $20,000 in Sport Mod, the second big-money Modified show continues Farley Speedway Promotions’ big event lineup for this season.
Last week, with pre-entries lower than desired, FSP promoter Ed White announced the event was opened up to Crate engines, which had not been allowed in the first four events. The event was born out of a desire to promote Open motor engine shops and racers, but White said “car counts equates to people in the stands. It adds a lot.”
When FSP announced June 19 that Crates would be allowed this year, it also announced no spoilers would be allowed for any engine package in either division, but amended that Monday. Both Open and Crate engine Sport Mods will run spoilers in the two-night event, while Modifieds still will run without, regardless of engine.
The four previous winners of the Aftermarket Nationals — Shawn Kilgore (2013), Troy Cordes (2014), Kelly Shryock (2015) and Jesse Dennis (2016) — are expected to attend. Racing begins at 6:30 p.m., starting with practice Wednesday and the racing programs Thursday and Friday. The top-12 in passing points out of the heats lock in Thursday with B-mains and main events on Friday.
HOGAN MEMORIAL SET FOR SUNDAT IN VINTON
Benton County Speedway’s biggest yearly event is back this weekend.
The 23rd annual Hogan Memorial offers a potential $5,000 payday to the IMCA Modified winner with all the added bonuses. Sunday’s Modified main event pays a minimum $2,333 to win, while $50 will be paid to the leader of each of the main event’s 50 laps. There also is a $250 bonus, plus a new Hoosier G-60 tire given to the leader at the halfway break.
Additionally, IMCA Stock Cars pay $1,000 to win and Sport Mods and Hobby Stocks both pay $750 to win, with halfway bonuses to those classes as well.
At least seven of the 15 drivers who have won the event are expected to race Sunday night, including four-time winner Scott Hogan. Hot laps are set for 6 p.m. with racing to follow.
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