Auto Racing

Outlaw Street Drags coming to Hawkeye Downs Speedway

Monthly races kick off Thursday night

Hawkeye Downs Speedway will host the Outlaw Street Drags on Thursday, a first-year event hoping to draw interest and cars (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Hawkeye Downs Speedway will host the Outlaw Street Drags on Thursday, a first-year event hoping to draw interest and cars (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Keith Simmons is looking for the next big thing in auto racing.

He thinks he may have found it. At least he hopes so.

“Anything that brings more interest to auto racing is good for all,” said Simmons, who has been involved with the sport for most of his 64 years, the last 17 promoting races at places like Dubuque Speedway and, before they shut down, Farley Speedway and West Liberty Raceway.

That’s the rub. Some tracks are struggling with car counts and putting folks in the grandstands. Some have ceased operation.

He’s hoping the Outlaw Street Drags, which make their Eastern Iowa debut Thursday at Hawkeye Downs Speedway, can reverse that trend.

“A lot of people want to race but they can’t afford it,” Simmons said.

The concept behind these “300 feet of fun” drag races is simple, and cheap. Anyone with a car, truck or motorcycle can race.

It’s a double-elimination format with brackets for each car, truck or motorcycle. There are brackets like Family Sedans, Domestic Performance, ATV/Side by Side and Eighties Performance (1980-89).

“Thirty percent of the cars show up on a trailers ... cars that shouldn’t be driven on the street,” he said.

The rest are the cars you take to work each day, or something you may tinker with in your driveway. The vast majority of the drivers, Simmons said, are folks who “want to bring them out and beat their buddy ... you can actually even have your buddy ride along.”

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It’s an event he saw take off last summer in Madison, Wis., and he’s hoping it will do the same here.

“It will take a little bit to build it up,” he said. “At Madison, we started with 60-some cars ... now a bad night is 180 cars.”

These street drags are scheduled for once a month, although there will be two in May (Thursday and May 23). More racing is planned for June, July, August and September.

Hawkeye Downs is the perfect place, mainly because “it takes a paved track.” Races will use a 300-foot “chute” in front of the Hawkeye Downs grandstand.

“It also takes a fairly large population base,” Simmons said.

Simmons said putting on a show like this isn’t easy, but “once it starts it’s nonstop racing.”

One night in Madison, he said, there were 374 cars racing and the entire show lasted about three hours.

“I’d be happy with 50 or 60 cars (this week) and I’d hope by the end of the summer, we’d have over 200,” Simmons said.

He called this “grassroots” racing.

“It’s kind of like racing when it first began,” he said, “Fords against the Chevys, American cars against foreign cars.”

There is no prize money, just the satisfaction of beating that buddy.

“It’s all for bragging rights,” he said.

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A “Shine and Show” car show also will be held in conjunction with these races, so car enthusiasts who don’t want to race can show off their classics. A “best in show” will be awarded each night.

This is a big week at Hawkeye Downs Speedway. Weekly racing begins Friday, with pits opening at 4 p.m. and gates at 6 p.m.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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