Auto Racing

Cole Mather back in victory lane as Independence welcomes back fans

Oelwein driver celebrated his 23rd victory with a win

Paul Shepherd of Marengo (left) and Cole Mather of Oelwein pose in front of the 74c car that Shepherd originally built b
Paul Shepherd of Marengo (left) and Cole Mather of Oelwein pose in front of the 74c car that Shepherd originally built before selling it to Mather so he could focus on building his first home. (Justin Webster/The Gazette)

INDEPENDENCE — Race fans rejoiced in their return to Independence Motor Speedway Saturday night with 130 drivers and “an excellent turnout from the public,” according to track announcer Jerry Mackey.

Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls was the star of the night, taking the checkered flag in two of the seven class features, but Cole Mather of Oelwein had plenty to celebrate.

Mather picked up a victory in the Burco Sales IMCA Stock Car division on his 23rd birthday, ending two-plus weeks of frustrating performances.

“We ran the thing 21 laps and had it bare-framed twice in one week,” Mather said. “My dad is a champion and really helped me out with this.”

Mather’s father, Brett, is a math teacher who raised his family in the Wapsie Valley school district. Cole graduated from there in 2015 before attending the University of Northern Iowa, where he is studying to become a physical education teacher.

“I just like my summers off and being around kids,” Mather said, noting he shied away from math. “Gym was the best class so it was an obvious choice.”

Another obvious choice presented itself to Mather at the end of the 2018 race season. Paul Shepherd from Marengo was about to build a home and had a fast car for sale.

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“I hadn’t even advertised it,” said Shepherd, who built the car himself after traveling out of state to learn additional tricks to design a racecar. “I’m a fabricator and have all of the abilities to do this stuff. I just decided to try it and I built what I thought was a perfect car.”

Shepherd already had made a name for himself, winning hobby stock titles at IMS and Benton County Speedway in 2006 while finishing fourth nationally. His newly-built machine also was catching the eye of Mather.

“In 2018 I saw one video of it at Marshalltown,” Mather said. “He was yanking the left front up and I liked what he was able to do with the car. At the end of the year, he gave me an offer and I said, ‘I’ll drive down tomorrow.’ The number was perfect and it was worth every penny.”

While Shepherd built the “perfect car” in his mind, Mather has expanded on it.

“He took the car and put a couple of little twists on it himself,” Shepherd said. “He destroyed races last year.”

At one point, Mather won 10 of 12 starts during 2019.

“He’s done more with this car than I ever did,” Shepherd said. “He’s young, he’s got that hard drive and he’s not afraid to tear stuff up. I don’t like tearing stuff up anymore because it’s so expensive.”

Now Mather has to be careful that he doesn’t have too much car after barrel-rolling two weeks ago at Webster City.

“As much as this thing tractions up, I couldn’t do anything and it just rolled me,” Mather said. “It happened so fast you can’t react to it. It’s just over and you start rebuilding again.”

After a busy week of rebuilding, Mather can relax this week and enjoy his birthday, his “summer off” and the return of fans to the track.

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“I won at Fort Dodge two weeks ago and there was nothing,” Mather said. “There is nothing like being back at Indee. That crowd reaction was priceless.”

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