116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
COLUMBUS JUNCTION — Mark Claeys and his friends with the Nostalgic Stock Car Racing Club put on a showcase of old-school American automotive ingenuity Friday night at CJ Speedway on the Louisa County Fairgrounds.
Claeys drove his 1968 Chevelle body that sits on an old street stock frame while his son, Jarrett, drove their 1957 Chevy convertible that has an added roll-cage for safety.
“There is no roof, so it’s pretty cool in there once you get going,” said the 16-year-old. “It rides really nice.”
A student at North Scott High School, Jarrett is focused on his future outside of racing, having recently accepted an internship with Peterbilt, although he is enjoying his teen years driving with his dad.
“I’m just going out there to drive and have fun,” Jarrett said. “I’m still trying to figure out my career first, but I like to go out there and know that I’m doing the same sport that my dad has done for so many years.”
Four years after starting the club, Mark is working to build the group as they became a nonprofit for the first time this year.
“It’s getting to the point where we are really starting to grow,” Claeys said. “We have fees and I take that and roll it back into the club. It all comes right back to (the drivers).”
Based in Eldridge, Claeys is raising his son just half a mile from the farm he grew up on and works as a parts salesman for JC Dubil Auto Parts in Bettendorf, a job that comes with some obvious perks.
“They help my club a lot by getting the parts that can be hard to find,” Claeys said. “We have several that are originals from the 1960s and ’70s with very little changed on these cars.”
Claeys also promotes the use of safety options that weren’t always available.
“The safety features we have today, they didn’t have back then,” Claeys said. “These guys raced in their T-shirts and blue jeans.”
Some of “those guys” are 77-year-old Terry Hirst, who won the club’s first race of the year, and 83-year-old Pat Tuttle, who raced in the 1960s and ’70s before retiring.
“He got the bug, bought a car and he races with us now,” said Claeys, who understands the itch of racing. “Doing this reminds me of when I was a kid. We’d go and watch these cars run and now I’m driving them too. It’s a ball, it really is.”
Starting at the back of the pack, Jarrett held his line and finished 11th while Mark started ninth and worked his way up for a third-place finish in the Nostalgia Racing division.