Auto Racing

Hawkeye Downs honoring past auto racing stars Friday

6 new members inducted into Wall of Fame

The sun sets over the grandstand during the season opener at Hawkeye Downs. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The sun sets over the grandstand during the season opener at Hawkeye Downs. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

It’s another special night at Hawkeye Downs Speedway on Friday, and not just because the AIRS Vintage Cars will be part of the show.

This is Wall of Fame night.

The Wall of Fame will get six new members, including drivers Mel Morris, Denny Osborn, Leon Plank and Stan Stover. Larry and Penny Eckrich, fabricators and car owners, also will honored.

The night also will include racing in four regular divisions — sportsmen, hornets, hobby stocks and sports mods.

Gates open at 6 p.m. with opening ceremonies at 7:20 and racing at 7:30.

Morris, who died in 2010, started racing in 1956 and was a regular at Hawkeye Downs when it was a dirt track. He won the Mississippi Valley Stock Car Association four times outright, with back-to-back titles in 1960 and ‘61. He was co-champion in 1975, his last title. In 1969, Morris was track champion at West Liberty, Columbus Junction and Oskaloosa.

Osborn, who started his racing career in 1970 in Nashua, has raced at 31 different tracks and spent five years on the NASCAR Busch All-Star Tour. The 1989 IMCA Late Model national champion, Osborn won track titles at Marshalltown, Webster City, West Union and Eldora. In 2005, he got the opportunity to race against his son, Brad, at Hawkeye Downs.

Plank’s racing career started in 1966 in Waumandee, Wis. A member of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame, he raced at Hawkeye Downs in many special events, winning the 1980 Spring Fever 50 and the Miller 100 in 1981.

Stover got behind the wheel for the first time in 1963, winning his first Late Model feature four years later. He drove for Ed Sanger from 1970 through ’72. He finished second in the Iowa Challenge Cup at Hawkeye Downs in 1973 then stepped away from the sport in 1979.

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The Eckriches own Precision Performance in Cosgrove and the No. 50 car, a Late Model that has won five NASCAR Central Region championships and been driven by the likes of Tom Hearst, Roger Dolan, Dale Fischlein, and Ray Guss Jr. The two already are members of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. Their sons — Andy, Dennis, Dave and Doug — all race.

This will be the third race this season for the Vintage Series. Matt Hudspeth of Marion is the points leader — one point in front of Scott Fridley Mechanicsville — and has one win. Chris Rollinger has the other win and has two Top 10s.

Drew Nickell of Newhall has a big points lead in the hornets division — as well as six wins in seven races — and Jim Hansen of Cedar Rapids has won six of the eight hobby stock features and owns a 31-point lead. Cory Houdek of Marion leads the Sportsman and has four wins in five races and KC Ansel of Dubuque leads the sports mods.

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