116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The exhilarating fun of racing is what draws many of its competitors in, but it's hard to last long as a driver if you don't balance the pressures of the business side of the sport.
First driving in enduros in the early 1990s before graduating to the Saturday Night races where he raced in the Hobby Stock class at Hawkeye Downs, Chad Vozenilek of Marion walked away in 2006 once the fun faded. A move the former Marion prep in football, baseball and wrestling says was necessary in order for him to come back to the sport now that he is in his late-40s and able to approach his favorite pastime from a different angle.
"It just got to a point where I lost focus on it being fun," Vozenilek said.
Earlier this year Vozenilek's uncle, Mike Offerman, who drove for years as the No. 66 Blue Bomber in the Hobby Stock division persuaded his nephew to jump back into competitive driving with the ever-popular enduros still held at Hawkeye Downs.
Although he had never raced a front-wheel drive car, he finished seventh out of 73 cars and was once again hooked.
“My first thought was, 'There are only five of these, I've got to get a Friday Night Car’,” Vozenilek said. “My wife Kandi thinks I'm crazy, but she's fully on board.”
That being said, the soon-to-be 47-year-old (his birthday is July 25) gave his wife a scare in June when he hit the wall during the start of the Hornet division race driving a 2000 Dodge Neon.
“Coming to the green flag, the rear hub snapped off and took me for a ride,” Vozenilek said. “Sparks were flying behind me and tires were going everywhere. It didn't phase me as much as everyone else thinks it did, because I've hit the wall before.”
With his car essentially totaled, the racing community came to his aide before Vozenilek could consider walking away.
“I had guys messaging me at midnight offering up cars, and by Monday, I had a new one,” Vozenilek said. “I love this place. It's a nice family atmosphere and getting back behind the wheel has been the most fun I've had in a long time.”
Once again the local building manager is racing, now in a 2003 Chevy Cavalier that looks brand new, and will pull double duty next weekend by running at Hawkeye Downs on Friday before switching to a dirt setup and running at the Jones County Fair on Saturday.
“It's my birthday weekend, why not go racing?” said Vozenilek, who is using this year to learn before hopefully competing for a points championship next season and for years to come.
“I'll be out here for a little while.”