116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — John Ferden is proof that it's never too late to live your dreams.
A native of the Mason City area, Ferden started helping other drivers back home when he was 15. A few years ago, once his youngest three daughters — who are currently aged 20, 19 and 16 — were "old enough," he began helping a friend with his SportMod at Independence.
That raised a question from his wife of 27 years, Gina, who wondered out loud why he wasn't driving his own car.
“I told her I'm 57 years old,” Ferden said. “She said I wasn't too old. (Gina) was the main influence.”
So the couple drove to Kalona and a salesman let Ferden try it first to make sure he really wanted to drive it.
"I did!" Ferden said. "Then, I bought a car."
Now, Ferden races weekly in the Legends division at Hawkeye Downs and is slowly gaining the experience needed to build his confidence in the car.
"My first heat race I thought, 'I'll just pass (the car in front of me)'" Ferden said. "I punched it and spun out right away and ended up against the wall."
Then the day before the derecho, Ferden hit the wall in Vinton and needed help from Dave McCalla to put his ride back together, again. The camaraderie between all of the drivers is important to Ferden, who didn't grow up at Hawkeye Downs like many of his younger peers have.
"Everybody is out to help one another," Ferden said. "Even though we want to beat you on the track, if we wreck a car or tear something up, they are the first ones to help you put it back together. It's a special thing."
Another special thing is the support Ferden has from his wife, who told him to get into the car in the first place.
“You really have to have their support, because it takes so much time,“ Ferden said. “I've wondered if we shouldn't sell the car and put our funds elsewhere, but my wife says ‘No, we’re not doing that.’”
While you'll find Ferden living his lifelong dream each Friday night at Hawkeye Downs, you won't find the 61-year-old (his birthday was Thursday) trying to relive his youth through racing.
“The younger guys take more chances than us older guys,“ Ferden said. “I'm happy to load it in one piece. I'm not necessarily going to win, but if I can finish respectable, maybe in the top 10, I'm happy with that.“