116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Rain is a good thing, but there is something to be said about timing.
Mother Nature hasn’t bothered looking at the events of area interest calendar before deciding who to “bless” during this time of drought.
After watching the Hawkeye Street Drags get washed out twice for June and then Benton County Speedway be forced to move its County Fair race from Thursday to Sunday, Hawkeye Downs utilized a secret weapon while trying to fit its mid-season championships in Friday night at the 96-year-old track.
“I’m a big weather nerd and an amateur storm chaser,” said Caleb Slouha, media manager and weather enthusiast. “I have taken several storm training classes and I know a lot about it.”
Slouha’s insight may have been the difference maker since the ultimate decision on whether to run or not sits with race director Scott Unash, who wasn’t sure if the rain would hold off.
“Scott was very skeptical,” Slouha said. “It should rain until about 3 p.m. and then we should be good. So far, that’s what happened.”
Slouha was able to use several weather models that meteorologists use to predict patterns and make forecasts.
“Thursday there were several different projections,” Slouha said. “Friday I used the most consistent and decided it would be clear from 3 to 11 p.m. If we have a shot to (race), we might as well do it.”
Friday morning, Slouha and Unash met with Jen Draper, executive director and events manager for the track, and then shared their outlook with former race director Kevin Korsmo to get his insights.
Luckily, Friday night was the mid-season championships, which meant that only feature races would be run, and a smaller window would be needed to put on the show.
“Sometimes it’s a gutsy call just to have the races,” Slouha said. “If we don’t have races at all, it’s easy because we don’t have to pay people out, but if you have them and nobody shows up, you’re in trouble.”
That’s why Slouha understands that his phone blowing up from calls, texts and direct messages to his social media are to be expected on an overcast race day.
“That’s part of the battle with keeping people updated,” Slouha said. “I just tell them we’re still planning on racing.”
Friday at 3:30 p.m., just four hours before features were scheduled to start, Unash took his weather, track and driver input and made the call to race.
“That’s the point where I either need to start moving things over here to get ready or go home,” Slouha said as he prepared for all possibilities. “We know we can get the show rushed in if there is going to be rain. Unfortunately, I’ll probably still be worrying about something when my head hits the pillow tonight.”