116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Hawkeye Downs revving to get 2023 racing season started
Officials hope new partnership with NASCAR will boost attendance and car count
CEDAR RAPIDS — Brian Gibson didn’t want to call it a “pivotal” season for racing at Hawkeye Downs Speedway.
“But it could be pivotal,” said the race director at the 98-year-old facility.
Attendance and car counts have been down over the last several years, but a new partnership with NASCAR in the Advanced Auto Parts Racing Series, along with new track ownership, has Gibson excited to get the 2023 racing season started.
“If I can’t hit the ball out of the park, I need to put my bat down,” Gibson said.
Local car dealer Roger Cassill recently purchased the facility and is “going to town out here,” Gibson said. There already have been several cosmetic improvements and more are planned.
“He’s all in on this,” Gibson said.
That’s good news with the season kicking off Friday night with weekly points races, plus the Mid-Am Racing Series. There are 25 drivers listed in the featured event, including Cedar Rapids NASCAR driver and owner Joey Gase.
Gase won last year’s Mid-Am stop in Cedar Rapids after battling two other drivers down the stretch in what Gibson said was “probably the best race that I’ve seen in my 30 years out here.”
Gates open Friday night at 5:30 with Mid-Am series qualifying at 5:45. Racing starts at 7 p.m. and will include the regular weekly division — hornets, hobby stocks, legends and sport mods and late models.
Gibson said he’s already seeing increased interest among local and regional drivers, but also is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I think car count is going to grow in what I call ‘internally,’” he said, meaning several local drivers are showing interest.
Part of the reason for the increased interest is the “NASCAR money.”
Late models at Hawkeye Downs, for instance, will be classified as Division I in the Advanced Auto Parts Racing Series under the new partnership with NASCAR. Sportsman is Division II, hobby stocks Division III and hornets Division IV.
Legends and sportsmods will continue to compete at the track, but will not be part of the regional series.
The total purse, in all six divisions, will exceed $20,000 now. It was $4,660 last summer.
“Life is good night now for us,” Gibson said. “We just have to keep our heads down and keep moving.
“I’m really excited. The first night is going to be huge.”
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