VINTON — If you’re a fan of Eastern Iowa auto racing, you probably know the Olsons.
Even if you don’t know anything about racing and you live in or around Cedar Rapids, there’s still a good chance you’ve crossed paths with one of the five cousins.
Kyle Olson, 29, works for the city and is the defending northern sport mod champion at Benton County Speedway.
“I spend many nights in the garage every week,” said Kyle, a Cedar Rapids Jefferson graduate whose 2020 campaign will be his 16th year racing. “I’m changing up the setup, switching out springs, making sure tire prep is good and checking the little things. You can’t just roll off the trailer and do as good as last week. Even if you don’t wreck, you have to pull into the garage and go over the whole thing and make sure all of your bolts are tight so you don’t lose something during the race.”
Cousins Tony and Russ, who are brothers, and Kyle’s second cousin Kaden also will be prevalent at Benton County this season with the quartet running four cars between them along. Another cousin, Stacy, is racing in the legends division at Hawkeye Downs.
Kyle’s father, Russ, actually started the family racing team several decades ago as a driver with his brothers in the pits with him.
“My dad is the one that got us all into racing when he drove and my uncles Randy and Dave were his crew,” Kyle said. “They started this whole thing and after years and years all of us kids became old enough to race, so then we got into it and my dad got out of it.”
Russ died suddenly a few years ago, but Kyle has been able to keep his father — and his lessons — inside and outside the car while he races.
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“From the time he’s passed until now, I have my number which is K3 and then inside of it are little B3s which was his number,” Kyle said. “I try to keep his memory alive on my car in some way each year.”
He also keeps his lessons close by.
“The year he passed he had written ‘easy in, smooth off’ in my car on the dash, which was what he always told me,” Kyle said. “Before the races, I’ll talk to him a little bit and say, ‘I need you here dad’ or something like that so I feel like he’s with me when I’m racing.”
Kyle will run the full schedule at Vinton along with appearances off and on at Boone, Davenport and Donnellson with frequent stops at Independence, as well.
“This year we’re just trying to make sure all of our equipment is good to go,” Kyle said. “Hopefully we can get the season started here soon with all of the rain.”
His car will be a 2020 rev chassis built off a Chevelle stub with fabricated bars, a 350 crate motor hooked to a three-speed Saginaw transmission that altogether produces approximately 350-375 horsepower.
“I’d like to be competitive and be right there in each and every race I’m in,” Kyle said. “I just want to have fun and get some wins doing it. That’s a successful season to me.”
Easy in, smooth off.