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In early May, first-year Maquoketa Speedway promoter Scott Schurbon took stock of his racetrack and what needed improved. By his own estimation, the track was not in good shape. Spring rain had decimated the racing surface, and he and his staff couldn’t get it smooth enough for their or their racers’ liking.
So he made a decision that many promoters would’ve been afraid to make: he postponed a scheduled IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series for Late Models event nearly three weeks in advance, with the hope he and his staff could get things turned around and Maquoketa Speedway in better shape.
From that decision on May 1 to Monday, Schurbon said he stands 100 percent firm in that decision, and that the track is in the best shape it’s been all year. The rough surface is much improved, and brand new Musco Lighting has been installed ahead of Wednesday’s Summer Series race.
“Without a doubt we’re in a better place,” Schurbon said. “The racetrack has come around amazingly in the last three weeks. We turned the corners over and have had a really good racetrack the last three weeks. It’s a lot better, and we’ve had great, three-wide racing.
“With me being a first-timer at this, everyone has their doubts about what’s the right thing to do. It’s been very positive (since all the work has been done). I have the best racers.”
Schurbon is quick to address what he sees as his shortcomings as a promoter, but has felt bolstered by feedback from racers and IMCA in the decision to take a few weeks off at the time and move the Summer Series race to another date.
The former engine builder was grateful to IMCA for being so flexible in finding the new date and allowing the track time to put on the best show possible.
From IMCA’s perspective, it was a no-brainer. The Summer Series has had plenty of bumps this season dealing with weather cancellations, but rescheduling Maquoketa’s date was never seen as an issue.
Series Director Kevin Yoder told The Gazette Monday he admired Schurbon’s decision to get the track right, and appreciated the effort to have the facility in its best possible shape when the series made its visit.
“I think it was a good decision for them at the time and I think it remains a good decision from everything I’ve heard recently,” Yoder said. “I’m excited to see how it shakes out Wednesday.
“I never worried about it, based on the circumstances. We’ve always had good races at Maquoketa, and if they felt the racetrack wasn’t ready, we agreed we’d go to a different date. We’re confident going there Wednesday.”
The work Schurbon has done this year has resulted in slow but steady progress for the track, which has fought perception issues for the last several years.
He didn’t really even want this job to begin with, but deep caring for the track he’s spent so many Saturdays at pushed him into the role. Schurbon described being a race director and promoter as “like being married,” both in good and bad ways.
But even after the worst nights – like the one in which he had to make the call to reschedule the Summer Series show – he comes back because of the love he has for racing and the racers who keep coming back.
“Everybody needs to do this job for one night, and they might understand why you made this call or that call,” Schurbon said. “It can be the worst, but on the other hand it’s amazing when you’re watching a three-wide, flag-to-flag race, that’s the biggest rush. Yet, it’s heartwrenching and pure anguish when you’re fighting with your racetrack.
“Somebody’s got to do it. We can’t give up on racing in Maquoketa. We just need to keep this going.”
Pit gates and grandstands open at 4 p.m., with hot laps at 6, on Wednesday at Maquoketa Speedway. The Summer Series main event pays $2,000 to win, with a $200 bonus to the winner if they’ve had perfect attendance on tour this season. IMCA Sport Mods and Hobby Stocks are running as well.
WILLETT GETS FIRST LATE MODEL WIN
Brody Willett isn’t even in high school yet, and he’s a Late Model winner.
The 14-year-old racer from Alburnett added to his already long list of feature wins on Friday night at Hawkeye Downs Speedway, but did so in a Late Model for the first time. A multi-time go-kart national champ and INEX Legends winner beat Griffin McGrath and Brad Osborn to get the victory and check a pretty big item off his racing bucket list.
He got help from some unexpected places to get the win, too.
“To have Griffin there, and he had a bunch of laps to run us down – and he did a little bit; if he got a caution, he might’ve gotten us – but it was a very neat win; very fun. I can’t even explain it. It was a great experience.” Willett said. “A lot of people had to work really hard this week – people who usually wouldn’t be working on it, if that makes sense. Johnny Spaw welded our rear bumper because Thursday we backed it into the wall. So for him to help out, and Troy and Kyle Shear up in Wisconsin to put in all the work they have.
“Everyone has worked so hard on this thing. Getting that win was just a small way to repay them.”
Willett became the youngest Late Model winner in Hawkeye Downs history, and joins only Cedar Rapids native and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Landon Cassill as 14-year-olds to win at the 91-year-old 1/2-mile in Cedar Rapids.
“Lil Smoke” as he’s called by his sizable fan contingent – all of whom went bonkers from their section of the grandstands on Friday night – said before this season a win was a hope for this season, but not necessarily an expectation because of his relatively short time behind the wheel of the Big 8-style Late Model.
But now with the biggest hurdle out of the way, he and his team, led by his dad, Chad, and crew chief Curtis Van Der Wal, can focus on new goals.
“It’s a big goal, and we don’t necessarily need to win a Big 8 race, but we want to win on the road,” Willett said. “Somewhere away from home. I don’t know if we’re going down there to win, just more for the experience, but we’re talking about going down to New Smyrna over the winter.”
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