Auto Racing

Eastern Iowa racers ready to get back on the track

Leah Wroten of Independence (14C), battling Benji Irvine of Oelwien in this 2016 photo from Benton County Speedway in Vi
Leah Wroten of Independence (14C), battling Benji Irvine of Oelwien in this 2016 photo from Benton County Speedway in Vinton, is ready to add racing back into her life. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Leah Wroten is missing her time behind the wheel.

She got use to working 40 hours a week as a nurse and balancing a race schedule that features weekly appearances at Marshalltown, Benton County Speedway and her hometown track, Independence Motor Speedway.

“This year we’re moving up to stock cars,” Wroten said. “With hobby stocks, there are things you can change on them but they’re pretty basic.

“By now, we’d be racing three nights a week and I work every other weekend, but I’m lucky my husband does most of the work on the car.”

While drivers and fans are missing each other right now, Wroten has learned to look out for certain fans she didn’t always notice.

“I didn’t think about it when I started in 2013, but younger girls have started racing and have reached out to me to say that it was because they’ve seen me be successful,” Wroten said. “That feels really good to think that maybe you inspired someone to try racing.

“My goal was always to be a really good racecar driver, not the girl driver, but now I embrace that too because it does mean a lot.”

IMS is scheduled to open May 23, Benton County Speedway on May 24.

Conrad Vertz, a 16-year-old wrapping up his junior year at Linn-Mar, is looking forward to getting his driving career started.

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He’ll be a rookie in the hornet division when Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids opens May 22.

“I’ve always been into racing but the urge to race started a couple years ago with karts on vacation in Florida,” Vertz said.

His 2003 Chevy Cavalier will premiere in the hornet division next Friday, although it’s taken three cars to finally make it to the track.

“We had problems with the first two, but we got this last September,” Vertz said. “I have a group of friends who come over and help work on the car.”

That was before the pandemic. Now, the teen practices by playing NASCAR HEAT on his PS4, even using a wheel for authenticity.

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