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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Beating the heat on the track
CEDAR RAPIDS - The heat of competition could take a backseat to only the forecasted heat Friday.
But, race car drivers at Hawkeye Downs Speedway have been conditioned to handle both.
With helmets, gloves and firesuits, drivers will take the track in six classes for weekly points races under temperatures that could near triple digits Friday. Union Night at the races will begin with hot laps at 6:35 p.m. with pre-race ceremonies at 7:15 and heat races starting at 7:30.
Track officials have already taken some measures to combat temperature effects, canceling practice last Wednesday and eliminating a second late model feature scheduled to be made up Friday.
"I'm definitely concerned about the heat element inside those cars," Hawkeye Downs race promoter Mike Becker said. "They're warmer than normal to begin with. They come out of there sweating like crazy on a decent night when the weather is more tolerable."
Veteran race car driver and Wall of Fame member, who currently leads the legends car division, said hydration is the most important method to handle the heat. Many drivers take appropriate steps, but they will be aided at the races.
"We'll have water available for people," said Korsmo, who has four feature wins this year. "We'll have people watching hydration levels. In our drivers meeting that will be something we address."
Tricks of the trade include cool suits, something more common on higher levels of racing, hoses that blow air on drivers during the race and even an old-fashion towel soaked in ice water, a favorite of Wall of Fame driver Arlo Becker, who still competes in his 70's.
Korsmo said drivers notice the heat less during the race. The time drivers are idle in their cars before taking the track is a different story.
"Once you're racing you don't think about the heat," Korsmo said. "When you're in the lineup, they call you and you're sitting with your helmet, gloves and everything waiting for the race, that's when it gets you."
Korsmo mentioned late model and some other various drivers have it worse since they actually have windows, but many others have more ventilation being free of windows. The conditions might affect the track - lack of rain hasn't washed old rubber off the asphalt - but it won't change approaches to the race.
"The drivers are going to give it their all," Korsmo said. "It does extremely affect how the car handles.
"I haven't seen much of it this year, but in the past we've had some (engine) overheating problems but these guys have it figured out."
Mike Becker compared race car drivers dealing with high temperatures to football players staring down a 300-pound lineman. It could be intimidating to most but they are prepared for that aspect of the sport. Controlling a fast-paced car under extreme heat shatters the stereotype that drivers are not athletes, according to Mike Becker.
"They're conditioned and trained for that," Mike Becker said. "They've don it enough and condition themselves. They've learned over the years how to prepare for this. The end result is we need to go racing because this is what we do."