Auto Racing

Hawkeye Downs lifer Elliott Vogel earns first career win at the track

Elliott Vogel celebrates his win Friday night at Hawkeye Downs. (Submitted photo by Caleb Slouha)
Elliott Vogel celebrates his win Friday night at Hawkeye Downs. (Submitted photo by Caleb Slouha)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Elliott Vogel has been attending races at Hawkeye Downs Speedway since the summer of 1997.

He wasn’t born until New Year’s Eve, but that didn’t stop his pregnant mother, Dori, from taking him to the track with his father, Brian, who currently helps his son “keep cool and get the car ready to go,” the 22-year old Cedar Rapids Washington graduate said.

The former hornet division rookie of the year is in his fourth season in one of the most competitive classes at Hawkeye Downs, although this will be the first full season he will get to drive his “new” 2004 Chevy Cavalier 5-speed, bone-stock, “nothing on it’s fancy” ride.

“Preseason testing 2019, we blew two motors out of the gate,” Vogel said after opening night Friday. “I wasn’t able to drive this car until the end of the season, although I was lucky enough to have friends and fellow racers loan me their cars so I could race a full season between three cars. Somehow we finished third in points.”

The camaraderie of the class isn’t the only draw to the hornets division.

“It’s low-cost,” Vogel said. “We just scraped things together and built things from the ground up.”

Thursday night Vogel was still building, late into the night.

“Unfortunately, I’m a very last-minute person,” Vogel said. “(Thursday) night we had the car on jack stands, all four tires were off and there was no fluid in the transmission. We were not prepared. It was a very long night (Thursday) night.”

That may explain why Vogel and his crew chief and buddy Gavon Barton try to keep their goals attainable.

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“We’re just fortunate to get it off the trailer, even for practice,” said Vogel while Barton nodded in agreement. “If we can get it off the trailer, I consider it a win and the car was already off when I got here tonight.”

That luck rolled right into the feature where Vogel finished first for the first time in his young career.

“We ran the Spring Special and were pretty pleased with the overall speed of the car,” Vogel said. “We were out on very old tires and we just decided to put on four sticker-tires for the main event tonight and it hooked up unbelievably well.”

So well it left Vogel unable to process his emotions.

“I’ve always been pretty chill,” Vogel said, “but after my first win I really don’t know how to react. It’s been such a long, bumpy road and everything that could have gone wrong with the car has at one point. It’s just a sigh of relief.”

Even with his first win under his belt, Vogel remains steadfast in his weekly goal.

“Get the car off the trailer,” Vogel said again. “Hopefully we can make a run for the championship. I can’t even imagine if we somehow pulled that off, but we’ll just take it one night at a time and hope the car survives.”

If they do pull off the season championship, they’ll have to party in style, something that didn’t happen after win No. 1.

“Considering I have to get up and go to work at 6 a.m., there probably won’t be too much of a party tonight,” Vogel said.

Other feature winners were Mike McDonald of Cedar Rapids in the Sport Mods, Jim Hanson of Cedar Rapids in the Hobby Stocks, Aaron Moyer of Allenton, Wis., in the Legends and Braxton Franks of Cedar Rapids in the Sportsmen.

Not only did fans turn out in force for the official start of the 2020 season, the drivers noticed.

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“I love seeing the fans,” Vogel said. “It’s what keeps us going and hopefully they come out next week and enjoy the show again.”

Comments: justin.webster@thegazette.com

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