CEDAR RAPIDS — David McCalla is so Cedar Rapids. Raised by his mom, Connie, in an apartment above Dlask’s Grocery, near O Avenue and Ellis Boulevard, in the 1980s and 1990s, he graduated from Jefferson High School in 1994.
McCalla started his auto racing career in 1992, running full seasons at Tipton and Maquoketa. Coincidentally, he was introduced to the Olson family — to which he’s been an honorary member for several years, way before he started dating his longtime girlfriend, Stacy Olson — when he bought many of his first car parts from Stacy’s father, “Doctor Dave” Olson.
That first car McCalla drove in the mid-1990s was a four-cylinder Modified and, unlike today, tracks raced 22 weeks a season sans rain.
In the early 2000s, McCalla did so well in the Saturday night class that he was banned from Hawkeye Downs — after winning eight straight weeks and “stinking up the show,” according to the promoter.
Since he couldn’t race, he was helping Johnny Spaw with his Late Model on Friday nights when Spaw went to work for Arlo Becker.
“The two of them talked and said that Arlo would supply the car and parts and he allowed Johnny to work on the car for free since I did so much work for Johnny,” McCalla explained. “They built me a Super Stock out there at Becker Motorsports and once Arlo supplied the car and Johnny supplied the labor while teaching me, that’s when my racing career went crazy.
“We won a bunch of races, even though we got DQ’d so many times that we had to start at the back most of the season and finished fourth in points. The following year, we won the points before moving to a sportsmen in 2005.”
One reason the Becker/Spaw/McCalla team worked so well was innovation.
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“The car was a mid-1980s Monte Carlo, and with Johnny’s help, we were running plastic brake lines and doing stuff that nobody even thought about doing,” McCalla said. “We were saving weight in so many places that it was a huge advantage, and they started making a bunch of rules after that car came out because it was winning a lot of races.”
McCalla won four championships in a row in the Sportsmen class before eventually ending up in a Late Model with which he couldn’t compete.
“There was a guy in Minnesota that had a Legend car, which Stacy already drove, and he wanted to get into a Late Model and we made a trade,” McCalla said.
Now McCalla and Olson happily race in the same class, although David does occasionally get distracted.
“It’s nice because, if I start behind her, I can watch what she’s doing so that next time, I can tell her to try this or that,” McCalla said. “It’s tough racing in the same division, because I want to watch her and I find myself slowing down or missing a corner. ... “It’s definitely different than when I was just watching her.”
Gates open at 6 p.m. at Hawkeye Downs on Friday with racing beginning at 7:30 and Late Models and AIRS joining the regular class schedule.