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CEDAR RAPIDS — Large-scale rule changes are rarely popular among racers.
Because it usually means time, effort and — most importantly — money to swap out parts and pieces, drivers and teams typically resist.
But headed into 2014, it was the drivers and teams in the late model division at Hawkeye Downs Speedway who welcomed a change from super late model rules to Big 8 Series rules.
“It’s exciting to have a new learning curve thrown at us,” said defending late model track champion Tim Plummer, who dominated en route to the late model victory in the season opener last night. “Pretty much most of the late model drivers were all in favor of trying to come up with a rules package that was a lot more affordable.”
The major changes from the old ruleset to the current set are tires, shocks and under the hood.
Cars had to switch from 10-inch wide tires to 8-inch, and from open shocks to a simpler mandated versions with limited adjustments. Some said in years past, teams would spend upward of $1,500 per shock for all four corners of the car. The new, mandated shocks cost around $200 per shock, significantly decreasing spending.
As for the engines, Big 8 Series rules mandate a crate motor, but because of the amount of money tied up in engines left over from last year among competitors, Hawkeye Downs is allowing a grace period. Teams who aren’t running the GM crate motors must add extra weight to offset the power advantage.
The idea, race officials said, was to make it easier for more drivers to compete in the premier class offered at Hawkeye Downs.
“The whole intent was to try to build the class,” said head technical inspector Mike Frieden. “This class (under this rule package) has taken off at some of the other tracks in the Midwest. So hopefully bringing this set of rules in will give guys opportunities to go to specials at other places, to do some traveling, and then open it up to where we can have some specials here also.”
Lowering costs also brings with it a more even playing field competition-wise.
Under the super late model rules, teams with more money and resources were the ones to beat every night out. Underfunded teams came less and less, or stopped coming all together.
Now, though, things are more in the driver’s hands, and those underdog teams have some new life.
“We’re going to be competitive now, there’s no doubt about it,” said team owner Stan Siems, whose sons Chad and Scott race weekly. “In reducing the cost, you’re evening the playing field, because then everyone is the same.
“I think it’s going to make it feasible to where people can come out and race. The way it was, we never came down here ever anticipating to win, and I think that keeps a lot of people from racing. If they can see the field is leveled out, and they have a chance and can do pretty good, I think we’re going to see more cars.”
The new setups made their debut last night, and even though the handling on the cars — much different from before, drivers said — took some getting used to, it was met with praise from those in attendance.
Plummer, who picked up right where he left off last season with a flag-to-flag win from the pole, said last night was mostly about getting a feel for the new tires and getting some data for future setups.
“I liked it; I though the car was pretty drivable once I got it situated around,” Plummer said. “Now we just need three, four, five more cars and we’ll have some pretty good racing.
“I think all of us are a little timid trying to pass around each other because the cars move around a lot more. It’s a work in progress. If you asked everyone here, they probably have five or six adjustments they need to make. A couple weeks from now, everyone will probably be running a half-second faster than they are now.”
Hawkeye Downs resumes racing next week, with hot laps at 6:30.
1. Kurt Bohnsack (Iowa City); 2. Brad Schmidt (Cedar Rapids); 3. Troy Scott (Cedar Rapids); 4. Kaden Reynolds; 5. Trent Jochimsen; 6. CJ VanHorn
1. Matt Petrezelka (Norway); 2. Nathan Bolland; 3. Kandi Floyd (Cedar Rapids); 4. Matt Lacoursiere (Cedar Rapids); 5. Adam Petrezelka (Norway); 6. Jason Sherman (Marengo); 7. Jacob Floyd (Cedar Rapids); 8. Malena Clement (Cedar Rapids); 9. Drew Nickell (Cedar Rapids); 10. Brandon Herb (Marion); 11. John Ness
1. Brian Gibson (Walford); 2. Jake Griffin (Quincy, Ill.); 3. Ryan Luedtke (Norway)
1. Tim Plummer (Norway); 2. Scott Siems (Ackley); 3. Brad Osborn (Janesville); 4. Chad Siems (Ackley); 5. Brian Allen (Hiawatha); 6. Curt Tillman
1. Jim Hanson; 2. Cody Houdek (Marion); 3. Dave Ballstaedt (Marion); 4. Greg Hentrich (Hiawatha)
1. Bryce Bailey (Cedar Rapids); 2. Kyle Diercks (Eldridge); 3. Johnny Kringas; 4. Mark Ironside (Swisher); 5. Tim Goettsch (Bettendorf); 6. Kevin Korsmo (Atkins); 7. Austin Kunnert (Batavia, Ill.); 8. Al Diercks (Davenport); 9. Warren Ropp (Kalona); 10. Brody Willett (Alburnett); 11. Cole O’Brien; 12. Tyler Kingery (Prior Lake, Minn.); 13. Trenton Aimers (Cedar Rapids)
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