CEDAR RAPIDS — Jim Hanson remembers his parents taking him to Hawkeye Downs Speedway as a kid, when the track was dirt.
He loved the action and remembers his favorite drivers to this day.
“The track has been part of my life growing up,” he said.
Now the 48-year-old Hanson is one of those drivers young fans come out to see, cheering him and others around the quarter- and/or half-mile paved ovals.
“I like to support our local track,” he said.
The 93rd season of racing at Hawkeye Downs begins Friday night — gates open at 6, racing starts at 7:30 — and Hanson will once again be behind the wheel of two cars — a Sportsman and Hobby Stock.
In 2016, he was the season points champion in both divisions, claiming eight Hobby Stock feature wins and six Sportsmen. Last year, he raced only Hobby Stock — even though he wasn’t supposed to be on the track after a couple of offseason surgeries — and won another title. In 2015, he won his first Sportsman title.
He’s shooting for two more championships this summer.
“We’re going to try to win as many as we can,” he said.
Like a lot of drivers, Hanson has a passion for racing. But, he admits, it’s just a hobby. It’s an expense one, he said, and something he couldn’t do without good sponsors and family and friends helping out.
“Just the competition and getting the car ready,” he said when asked why he races, “going out and beating everybody you can.”
And, he said with a laugh, “to keep some of the competition from winning.”
He said weekly racing can be “a little like a soap opera,” but said it’s mostly in fun.
“We give each other crap all the time,” he said.
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He said a lot of hard work went into the winning part of his career, again crediting the sponsors more than the man behind the wheel.
“The first five or six years, it’s a learning curve,” he said. “We figured things out.”
No doubt about that.
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