116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Scott Unash has been a fixture in the Cedar Rapids sports world for three decades.
The 1984 Kennedy graduate has been working as the race director for Hawkeye Downs Speedway since the start of the 2020 season, hoping to rebuild one of the first places he fell in love with local sports.
His father, Bob, worked on a pit crew in the 1970s when Hawkeye Downs was still dirt and, “my sister and brother and I would get to go to the races and just kind of caught the bug and fell in love with it then.”
Unash never got into racing full-time as a driver, but has gotten behind the wheel a few times since he joined the popular radio broadcast, Friday Night Racing, from 1999 through its final show in 2011.
“That was a great time and people listened around the country,” Unash said.
As race director, Unash takes care of setting up the races behind the scenes with scheduling, getting the drivers and officials ready and on the same page, and also making sure everyone gets paid at the end.
“A lot of people think you just turn the lights on and make a million dollars,” Unash said. “We’re in it for the long haul. There are always rumors that we’re going to go under and plow the thing up or go dirt, but we’re out here and going to stay for a while.”
Drawing more drivers and fans is the key to the success of Hawkeye Downs and that’s why Unash and staff have worked hard to remind people of the facility’s many attractive features.
“We are using social media, radio and platforms like The Gazette to reach a wide variety of audience,” said Caleb Slouha, media manager for Hawkeye Downs. “The goal is to let the regulars know what’s going on, while trying to find new people and introduce them as well.”
They’ve also added MUSCO lighting and a new sound system to increase the ease of enjoyment for fans of all ages.
“We have the lowest grandstand admission of anyone around and we haven’t changed it in several years,” Unash said. “We’ve gone to more IMCA rules to see if we can get some of the dirt guys out here. We don’t want to take them away from those tracks, but if they are free on a Friday, come out and try it, you might like it.”
Payouts also are bigger in 2021 in hopes of increasing car counts.
“It’s just building the foundation brick-by-brick to try to get it back,” Unash said. “If we can get 65-70 cars a night, I think that’s great.”
One way they will do that is to run more races on the half-mile oval.
“We’ve got the ARCA Midwest Series coming and we’re trying to get the late model class back up,” Unash said. “We need to utilize the half-mile, we can’t just let it go to waste.”
Unash and the HD crew also are starting to brain storm for the track’s big birthday that is fast approaching.
“I grew up here watching races and to have a chance to take it to 100 years is going to be cool,” Unash said of the track built in 1925. “Give us a chance, we’ve got a lot of good things out here.”
Opening night for the only full-time weekly asphalt track in Iowa is Friday with pits opening at 4:30 p.m., gates at 6 and hot laps at 6:40.
Admission is $10 for adults, seniors and youth 9-17 are $7 and children 8-and-under are free.