Auto Racing

Benton County Speedway working on offseason renovations

Cars in the SportMod heat race prepare for the start at the Benton County Speedway in Vinton on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020.
Cars in the SportMod heat race prepare for the start at the Benton County Speedway in Vinton on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

VINTON — Eastern Iowa racetracks are getting ready to host their final fall features.

Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids is showcasing its “Adios 2020 Fall Bash” at 1 p.m. Saturday. Gates open at 11 a.m., followed by a 200-lap 1980s themed enduro race Sunday, beginning at noon with gates open to the public at 11 a.m.

Cedar County Raceway in Tipton will host its fall bash Oct. 1-3 with six different classes running each of the three nights.

One area track know for big payout races that typically signal the start of autumn, however, is taking the fall off.

Benton County Speedway needs as much time as possible to complete tasks the Dripps family has planned for the offseason.

“Many people have asked us if we’re going to have a fall race,” Rick Dripps, general manager of the track, said. “If we didn’t start immediately, we wouldn’t get all (the projects) done by spring.”

The work already has started and includes moving the scoring tower out of the infield and building a new one on top of the grandstands that also will feature a new VIP patio bar.

The Dripps also want to redo some of the surface on the front stretch and address other troublesome sections of the track.

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“There are two spots that when we hauled in 280 loads of dirt this year, which was black dirt, there was a little bit of clay in it,” Dripps said. “We know where that is at, and we’re going to dig it up and tear it out. We have a whole stockpile of black dirt that we’re going to put back in.”

Then Rick and his team, which includes his son Corey, will do something “nobody has done before around here.”

They are going to tear the whole track up and seed it with winter wheat.

“We’re going to let the grass and the wheat grow,” Dripps said. “In the spring, we’re going to tear it up, blade it back in and lay it back down because the soil needs the microbes to make it work. We have the best soil in the entire country in Benton County and we have to maintain it.”

Many of the improvements are aimed at a better experience for guests of the track, including a catwalk for the people in the pit area to be able to access views of the races more easily.

“I have a five-year plan,” Dripps said. “I want anyone who enjoys dirt track racing to have the ‘Bullring’ at Benton County Speedway on their bucket list. That’s why we’ve invested so much in (technology). We want to be fair and we want to be a destination for both fans and drivers.”

Comments: justin.webster@thegazette.com

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