Auto Racing

Larry and Penny Eckrich's half-century in racing now includes Hawkeye Downs Wall of Fame

Longtime owners of Precision Performance in Cosgrove are a staple of Eastern Iowa racing community

Race fans gather around the Precision Performance No. 50 car during a reception for the 2019 Wall of Fame honorees before weekly points races at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, July 12, 2019. Precision Performance owners Larry and Penny Eckrich were both inducted. (Douglas Miles/The Gazette)
Race fans gather around the Precision Performance No. 50 car during a reception for the 2019 Wall of Fame honorees before weekly points races at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, July 12, 2019. Precision Performance owners Larry and Penny Eckrich were both inducted. (Douglas Miles/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A half-century of building race cars and engines as the owners of Precision Performance in Cosgrove has earned Larry and Penny Eckrich induction into both the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame and the Iowa Hall of Fame and Racing Museum.

When word arrived that they were to be included in the 2019 Wall of Fame class at Hawkeye Downs, that meant just a bit more to the couple of 52 years.

“It is more important right here,” Penny Eckrich said before the weekly points races Friday night at the venerable speedway. “This is home.”

“Oh it’s great,” Larry Eckrich added. “I have really enjoyed it. We raced here for years and I never even gave it a thought. We were just here having fun and trying to win races and championships. Yikes, I can remember some good times and I can remember some hard times, too.”

Drivers Mel Morris, Denny Osborn, Leon Plank and Stan Stover were also inducted Friday night.

Instead of getting behind the wheel, Larry Eckrich built cars and hired drivers for his Precision Performance Racing Team, which was a staple at Downs from the late 1960s until the track switched from dirt to asphalt in 1989.

Precision Performance won countless feature races across the country, both with its accomplished cast of hired drivers and then with Larry and Penny’s four sons — Dave, Denny, Doug and Andy Eckrich.

“We always said it is not a job,” said Penny Eckrich, 72. “Everybody says, ‘Oh, why do you go to the racetrack every Friday night?’ It is where all of our friends are. It was where everybody was.”

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The Precision Performance No. 50 car was on display Friday night at Downs, which helped racers such as Roger Dolan and Ray Guss Jr. win a combined five NASCAR Central Region championships, plus Dolan’s National Winston Racing Series championship in 1987.

“It was ahead of its time,” said Larry Eckrich, 74. “It won races. We were working in the gray area and we were doing things that maybe wasn’t quite on the rules but the rules didn’t say we couldn’t do them.”

Precision Performance is in its 53rd year of business.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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