Auto Racing

Atkins driver Darrick Knutsen inspired by the fight family and friends show

Darrick Knutsen of Atkins races at Benton County Speedway in Vinton in the Micro Mod division and turns 48 this week. (D
Darrick Knutsen of Atkins races at Benton County Speedway in Vinton in the Micro Mod division and turns 48 this week. (Darrick Knutsen photo).
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VINTON — If you see Darrick Knutsen on Wednesday, make sure you wish him a happy birthday.

The father of two, who has called the Cedar Rapids/Atkins area home for the last 20-plus years, turns 48.

“I’m getting up there in age,” Knutsen said with a laugh after finishing fourth in the Micro Mod class Sunday night at Benton County Speedway in Vinton.

Racing has been in Knutsen’s family for most of his life, with his twin brother Erick driving a Stock Car at The Bullring most of the last 25 seasons. The pair grew up in northwest Iowa and graduated from Griswold in 1991 before moving to Eastern Iowa.

Although Darrick enjoys many hobbies, including his 28-foot 1990 baja boat that goes 70 miles per hour, he recently returned to racing in the Micro Mod division after his brother had back surgery and had to take some time to recover.

Erick was released last week and the racing team plans to hit up several big-payout fall specials around the country.

“We’ll hit up Tipton and nationals at Boone,” said Knutsen. “I also plan on taking my car to Tulsa for the shootout.”

During the day, Knutsen uses hydraulic torque tools to do calibrations and repairs on wind turbines around the state of Iowa.

“A lot of people don’t like them, but let’s get real,” Knutsen said. “What is more green than wind turbines? It isn’t putting chemicals in the air, and you can complain, but it’s my job, and it brings jobs to Iowa and keeps a lot of people employed.”

Besides spending time with his daughters — 19-year-old Lexi and 16-year-old Logan — Knutsen does a lot of charity work and last season donated 10 pairs of Hawkeye football season tickets to “families in need.”

Another cause that is dear to the driver’s heart is the raising of funds for his good friend, Nate Chandler, who recently found out he has stage-4 cancer of the unknown and began treatments to fight it on Monday.

“I just can’t imagine,” Knutsen said with tears in his eyes. “What if that was your son or daughter? That’s why I’m here to help do what I need to do. The good lord told me to donate and help with their family, because they are going to need it.”

Brad Chandler expressed his gratitude on behalf of his family after the racing community turned out in full force to help the winningest driver in the track’s history fight cancer by raising more than $8,000 for his family.

“It’s crazy when you don’t have to plan anything,” Chandler said. “Jennifer and Travis Losenicky and the Dripp family coordinated the whole thing. Nate spent a lot of time here and won a lot of races here. It’s really cool to have his last race here before treatments.”

Not only did Nate race, he won the Sport Compacts feature.

“Nate is just always willing,” Knutsen said. “I live in Atkins and he has a shop there and he is just always willing to give the shirt off his back to anybody. I could walk in there tonight and say, ‘Nate, I need the shop, and he’ll say I know how to get in.’ He would just do anything for anybody.”

Knutsen is now just trying to enjoy life, inspired by both his brother’s recovery and Chandler’s fight.

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“Get out and do whatever,” Knutsen said. “You only have one life and it’s too short. Get out and do what you want to do.”

Comments: justin.webster@thegazette.com

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