Auto Racing

IMCA president on auto racing's return to Iowa: 'It's a little bit of back to normalcy'

Top drivers will be challenged in a different way at Independence

IMCA President Brett Root (left) stands with Grundy Center driver Joel Rust at Benton County Speedway in Vinton in 2016.
IMCA President Brett Root (left) stands with Grundy Center driver Joel Rust at Benton County Speedway in Vinton in 2016. Root is happy to see car counts up at IMCA events. (The Gazette)

Fans were just starting to return to tracks across Eastern Iowa and already one local promoter put a bounty on two of the more successful drivers in the area earlier this week.

Tony Olson and Kaden Reynolds have swept the Sport Mod and Hobby Stock classes, respectively, at Independence Motor Speedway through two weeks of racing, leading promoter Mick Trier to up the ante via Facebook on Tuesday with a simple question that got fans talking.

“Kaden and Tony, cash or points? Extra laps if you go to the back.”

That came a day after offering a $100 bounty to any driver who wins the feature Olson and Reynolds race in Saturday night.

“The thing you will see is them being more aggressive and going for holes they might not normally,” said track announcer Jerry Mackey.

While that will make for an exciting night of racing, at least in two of the classes, Mackey made clear dirty driving will not be tolerated.

“We don’t want over-aggressive driving, that’s not the purpose of this,” Mackey said. “It’s trying to see how many cars they can pass and creating excitement for the fans. That’s what it’s all about.

“It’ll be exciting to watch and see what happens.”

Another good sign racing is getting back to full speed is the reopening of many tracks across Eastern Iowa, most of which run IMCA sanctioned events.

The International Motor Contest Association is based in Vinton.

“It means a lot to get back to racing for a variety of reasons,” said IMCA President Brett Root. “For those of us in the industry, it’s our occupation and has been affected no different from other jobs. For the drivers and crews, friends and family it’s a little bit of back to normalcy.

“Nobody has to be doing any of this and many would classify this as non-essential, but to many of us it’s essential and is a part of our lives.”

The IMCA is the largest sanctioning body in the United States with events in 35 states and Canada.

“There are a lot of different restrictions and opinions all the way from the city level, to the state and national level,” Root said. “Everybody is trying to do what they are supposed to do so they can at the very least comply.”

The good news is the extra time has led to excellent racing out of the gate.

“This extra time has allowed for drivers to make sure all the nuts and bolts are tight and they’re ready to go,” Root said. “We have some beautiful race cars out at the tracks. Normally we start racing in April in Iowa so we are almost eight weeks behind.

“Everyone should be ready to go and we’re seeing it in some of the car counts, including Independence setting a record even though they couldn’t have fans there.”

The IMCA sanctions more than 7,000 events each year, including across Eastern Iowa at Independence, Vinton, Columbus Junction, Donnellson, Farley, Dubuque, Davenport, Burlington and Tipton.

Root said those tracks are also seeing drivers from the west coast migrate to Iowa due to looser restrictions.

“We’re just trying to follow guidelines, comply and give the racers a little bit of what they like to do for fun,” Root said.

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“Every industry has been affected by this, it’s just nice to know that we can get back to racing because we are definitely a seasonal event. I hope other sports and entertainment venues get the same opportunity.”

Comments: justin.webster@thegazette.com

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