Auto Racing

Eastern Iowa auto racing community weighs options for 2020 season

Hawkeye Downs scheduled to open a week from Friday

Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids could be the first track in Eastern Iowa to host a race. The scheduled opener is
Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids could be the first track in Eastern Iowa to host a race. The scheduled opener is May 22. Independence Motor Speedway and Benton County Speedway are schedule to open next weekend, too. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Promoters, drivers and fans are working out the final details for the possible opening of auto racing in Eastern Iowa.

Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids is scheduled to open a week from Friday, followed by Independence Motor Speedway on May 23 and Benton County Speedway in Vinton on May 24.

Independence did a trial run practice session last weekend with a 10-person per car limit in the pit area and zero fans allowed in the stands.

“Racing with no fans is going to be a trial-and-error process,” said Jerry Mackey, who works with the races in Vinton and Independence. “We’ll try it one time and see if it does work financially. It’s going to be key to have quite a few people with each car, while staying in the pits and not being able to mill around like you normally would at the track.

“The decision on Week 2 will have to be made after we race one week.”

Drivers are using the extra time in a variety of ways.

Scott Strauss has been racing at Hawkeye Downs for 20 years, but switched to the legends circuit last season and earned rookie of the year honors.

“We still have a lot of things to research and learn in this class, gaining the knowledge the other legends drivers have,” Strauss said. “I’m anxious to get back on the track and try to progress from last year.

“I’m excited to get back on the track, but I want it to be safe before we do and ultimately we want to get back in front of the fans. That’s important to me.”

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One option for tracks and their fans is to offer a pay-per-view service. Tracks would have to pay to implement the televised events, but would generate revenue while reducing risk for all involved. Another option, albeit far less likely, would be to find either a sponsor or financial angel to cover costs.

“It would be absolutely beautiful if that happened,” Mackey said. “On our level, that’s very unlikely.”

Benton County Speedway is expected to practice on Sunday.

“It’s all about people being race-starved and their only option right now is to watch it on TV,” Mackey said. “The question is how many times will people sit down and pay to watch. We have no idea.

“We want to race with fans and hopefully it will be that way sooner than later.”

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