CEDAR RAPIDS — Hawkeye Downs celebrated its weekly racing series with a virtual banquet last weekend, more than three months after the Aug. 10 derecho ended the track’s points chases with two weeks remaining on the 2020 schedule.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do as far as getting the track ready after the storm,” said promoter and banquet co-host Scott Unash. “We are looking at that and taking it as a challenge and we’re going to get things bigger and better than they’ve ever been at the racetrack.”
Unash was assisted in handing out the awards online by track announcer Jeff Selfridge, who has a long history with Hawkeye Downs and was able to offer many anecdotes about the drivers and the track’s staff.
One of those drivers was Patrick Flannagan, points champion and rookie of the year in the Sport Mod class.
“I’m guessing that technically, because it’s a Sport Mod, it’s different from what we were racing back in the day,” Flannagan said of his previous history at Hawkeye Downs. “Usually you can race 3-4 times (in a class) and maintain rookie status.”
Flannagan’s father, Bill, began his career in the late 1980s at HD when the track was still dirt. He converted to asphalt along with the track.
Bill owned an extra Modified car that another driver was using, but was given to Patrick to race once he turned 16 during the 1995 season.
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Now, Flannagan is in a similar situation with his own son, Beckett, who turns 12 in July of 2021. Flannagan is hoping Beckett will be able to begin racing next season on the HD asphalt, although the minimum age to race IMCA, the sanctioning body for most local dirt tracks, is 14 and that’s typically the age reserved for racers to start at Hawkeye Downs — with certain exceptions.
“I’m really excited to get to race with my son because I enjoyed racing with my dad when I first started,” Flannagan said. “That was some of the most fun we had because we’re working on the cars together and racing together. It was just good ol’ fun.”
While he doesn’t remember specifics, Flannagan said he’s certain he was probably yelled at a few times for not listening, something he joked he’d deal with if it happens with Beckett.
“We race hard together and, you know, I’d rub him,” Flannagan said. “If he’s doing something stupid or blocking, I’m going to bump him.”
As for the division the pair will race in, if allowed, there is one that just makes more sense than the others. The car Patrick raced to his first career championship was sold by the family who owned it.
“(Beckett) really wants to drive a Legend (division racecar) but I have so many Modifieds around,” Flannagan said. “I don’t want to buy a whole new car to have him race. Plus, I tried to fit in one because I thought about getting it for him, and figured I could drive it in some of the big money races, and I tried getting into one of the bigger guys’ cars and a big guy like me doesn’t fit so well.”
That leaves the Flannagans racing their own cars in 2021, which may not lead to a championship but won’t stop Patrick from doing everything he can to stretch the team’s budget.
“I’ve finished second and third multiple times, but this is the first (title) I’ve actually got,” Flannagan said. “I’m usually toward the front, running in the top 5 everywhere, but I’m a budget racer. I don’t always have new tires on my car and I’m always putting on used stuff that I buy at auctions. Sometimes it bites me in the ass when it breaks and I lose all of those points for the night.”
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The 2021 season at Hawkeye Downs is scheduled to begin April 10 or 11 with an Under the Sea-themed enduro race followed by the season opener for weekly races on May 7. Hawkeye Downs plans to have two hot laps sessions each Friday with the second doubling as qualifying for the racers.
Once the season begins, you’ll find Flannagan happily at the track with his son and his pit team that consists of Grady Karr and Terry Roberts.
“Just being able to shake hands with somebody because you’re not afraid you’re gonna get COVID,” Flannagan said. “When you have a good run it’s nice to be able to shake someone’s hand and say good job or have them say that to you. I just want to get back to a more normal summer.”
Hawkeye Downs 2020 awards
Hornet: Rookie of the year — Dennis Waggener; Champion — Troy Scott
Sportsman: Rookie of the year — Logan Clausen; Champion — Braxton Franks
Sport Mod: Rookie of the year — Patrick Flannagan; Champion — Flannagan
Legends: Rookie of the year — Michael Weber; Champion — Aaron Moyer
Hobby Stock: Champion Jim Hanson
Promoters Choice award — Dana Tiegen
Joan Feller Dedication award — Jerry Abben
Fan of the year — Sharon Hangartner (posthumously)
JP Pickart Sportsman of the year — Brian Franks
Hard charger award series: Hornets — Elliott Vogel, Sportsman — Braxton Franks, Hobby Stock — Jim Hanson