Auto Racing

From iRacing to the real thing at Benton County Speedway

Jay Crabill's DIY project has him racing every week

Jay Crabill of Cedar Rapids used his free time due to COVID-19 and paired it with his passion for racing and turned a 20
Jay Crabill of Cedar Rapids used his free time due to COVID-19 and paired it with his passion for racing and turned a 2002 Chevy Cavalier into a Sports Compact that he races each week at Benton County Speedway in Vinton. He had a total investment of about $3,500. (Justin Webster/The Gazette) 
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VINTON — Jay Crabill spent the last 10 years iRacing every day, hoping to eventually end up in a real car.

Finally he stopped hoping and decided to make it happen with a DIY project that has him racing each Sunday night in the Sports Compact division at Benton County Speedway.

“I was always too poor to go racing and for years and years I was just sim racing,” Crabill said. “Finally, due to COVID-19, we were able to get it done.”

With some extra money to his name and free time from his job at SEI in Iowa City, Crabill used his experience as an Army diesel mechanic and bought a 2002 Chevy Cavalier.

“Other than the cage and a right rear spring rubber, everything else is stock and I haven’t touched,” said Crabill, a Cedar Rapids native who entered the Army in 2007 after earning his G.E.D.

“You just have to have that initial little funding,” Crabill said. “Once you get the main things, everything else just starts to roll in.”

Crabill estimates that all-in, with his helmet and firesuit, it cost him around $3,500.

“You can go to Facebook and find hundreds of cars for $1,000 or less,” Crabill said. “I also did everything myself, which is the cheap way to do it.”

Crabill did go to Advantage Chassis in Vinton, which he recommends leaving to the professionals.

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When it came time for the paint job, Crabill spent 2 1/2 weeks mirroring his car to his iRacing machine with “War Turtle Racing” — his sim racing team — making an appearance on his car.

The No. 87 is a dual homage to his birth year of 1987 while copying his father, who raced in Oklahoma for five years with the No. 65c due to his birth year of 1965.

His father bought him his first die cast of Jeff Gordon in the early 1990s and, “it’s been all motor sports since then,” Crabill said.

The best part of the experience is gaining new friendships with drivers outside of the online community.

“Mainly it’s the camaraderie,” Crabill said. “All of us guys from Hawkeye Downs park in a line (in the pits). Racing is fun but getting to see the same people every week and just being around racing people is the best.”

While he is currently in ninth place in the Sports Compact division at Vinton, Crabill is hoping to keep working his way up.

“Top five would be awesome,” Crabill said of a “best-case scenario” to the season. “Until this car is junked we’re just going to keep coming back each week.”

With that do-it-yourself attitude, who would bet against him?

Comments: justin.webster@thegazette.com

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