116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Todd Ness may technically be listed as a rookie in the Sportsmen class this season at Hawkeye Downs but the Marion resident was born into the family of racing as the son of John Ness, who managed the historic track beginning in the 1970s.
“Hawkeye Downs has been my Friday nights for my whole life,” said Ness, who spent a year traveling around to area tracks as part of the American Iron Racing Series, which features pre-1980 made race cars. “We're back here full time and I don't plan on going anywhere anytime soon.”
Ness first gained experience as a wheelman racing go-karts when he was 12, but after spending more in one year than the Ness family typically spent on a full-size race car, they nipped that plan in the bud.
Following his graduation from Cedar Rapids Jefferson in 2008, Ness began competing in the Hornet division in the late 2000s.
“I grew up idolizing my dad so I had wanted to be a driver since forever,” Ness said. “It's a passion, it's a love and it's a family tradition that I want to carry on with my father's legacy.”
Now married and a father himself, the service manager of a local tire repair shop often relies on his dad, John, to meet him at Hawkeye Downs with the car ready to go.
“The mechanical side of my job helps with racing but the hours I put in sometimes make it tough to race weekly,” Ness said. “That's where my dad comes in and that's one less thing I have to worry about.”
Another major source of support for Ness is his wife, Becky, with whom he has a 6-year-old son, Beau. The design of Ness’ car raises awareness for autism and epilepsy, two conditions Beau has.
“If she wasn't supportive I wouldn't be doing it still,” Ness said. “Whether I have a good night or tear the car up, she's there to say ‘let's keep going, we got this.’”
With the help of Becky and John, Ness finds himself with three victories in the last month and tied for the points lead in the Sportsmen division.
“My dad won a championship in 1998, but I've never really had a good shot at it,” Ness said. “This year I feel like I have a good chance if we can keep the car in one piece. We're a low-budget team and one screw-up may put us out for 2-3 weeks until we can get the money to get back on the track.”
While Ness is hoping everything falls into place, he's currently just trying to control the things he can.
“Luck is a huge part of it,” Ness said. “Then I just need to be smooth on the track and focus on my race.”
How will the Nesses celebrate if Todd is able to add another title to the family trophy case?
It will likely start with John rushing to victory lane.
“He may be getting old but he sure can move when I win a race,” Ness joked. “It would be a huge accomplishment and I can't even imagine what it would feel like. I'm just hoping we can get there.”