Auto Racing

The only woman racing at Hawkeye Downs started late, but hasn't looked back

Racing is part of being an Olson, and Stacy has joined the family garage

Stacy Olson started racing a Legends car after dating long-time local driver Dave McCalla who also competes in the same
Stacy Olson started racing a Legends car after dating long-time local driver Dave McCalla who also competes in the same class each Friday at Hawkeye Downs. (Stacy Olson)
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Some things are inevitable.

Death, taxes and members of the Olson family racing cars.

Most people are familiar with the boys, but the lone female racer in the family also happens to be the lone female racer at Hawkeye Downs.

“It’s always been such a huge thing with my family and I grew up at the track, even my family vacations were at tracks,” said Stacy Olson who started racing in 2015. “My boyfriend, Dave McCalla, has been racing for 27 years and the more I went there, the more I really liked the Legends cars. He bought me one and here I am.”

Although Olson has been at local tracks for decades, she had her own sport growing up.

“I was focused on softball and that was my thing,” Olson said.

She’s now the Cedar Hills Booster Club President and oversees 20 teams with players ranging from ages 4-14, along with working 40 hours a week as manager of Iowa Style Apparel.

“I got to the point where I needed something else and when I started dating Dave, he was somebody who could constantly watch over and fix my car and all of that drew me in,” Olson said. “I was finally at an age where I could focus on racing and run with it.”

Not only has Olson run with it, it’s become her new thing.

“My favorite part is, it’s kind of a stress reliever,” Olson said. “I look forward to it all week and then I get out there and it’s me versus everybody else in a high-speed chess game. One mistake and you’re done. The thrill and excitement of never knowing how a race is going to end, I just love it and the adrenaline that goes with it.”

One thing the Cedar Rapids Jefferson grad is certain of is that the timing of her joining the sport had to be right.

“I kept to myself growing up and always wondered what it would be like,” Olson said. “I thought about it but I didn’t want to jump into it because I knew how good (the boys) were. I was always about winning and was very competitive. I knew in my head that if I jumped into a car these boys were going to beat me and I would look silly.”

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If she wondered in her youth how the family would receive her, they left no doubts once she “joined the club.”

“The older I got, the less I cared and I decided to try it,” Olson said. “The support I got from them was absolutely crazy. My dad was shocked that I wanted to race and now it’s just such a family thing that I wish I would have said something way back when because I’d be 10 times better than I am now. My boyfriend and all of my cousins are into it and I love it.”

One place Stacy likely gets some of her passion is from her mother Gayle, who died in 2006.

“She was so positive and told me not to worry about anyone else,” Olson said. “She told me that if it makes me smile, do it. If you get off the track or softball and you aren’t happy, this isn’t for you. If I’m not having fun when I pull off the track, I’ll rethink racing. That’s how my mom always was and she never missed a race.”

While Gayle was the data collector for her husband Dave, making notes for each driver and recording the temperature at the track for use later, she never got to see Stacy race.

“That part sucks,” Olson said. “If she was here today she would be on cloud nine. My dad is really relaxed but my mom was the feisty one.”

Olson also encourages young women to be feisty when it comes to speaking up.

“If younger drivers speak up sooner they would have an advantage,” Olson explained. “I started so late in the class and it’s so advanced. The other drivers have all been racing for so long. The advantage that I have, while I don’t think it’s on purpose and I don’t want it to sound snooty, but I’m favored there. I don’t get booed. The way I’m treated is part of the reason it is so fun. They know how bad I want it and they are just there to push me and part of that is because I am a woman. They make me so comfortable out there and that’s why I love it so much. They don’t single me out for being a female.”

While Olson doesn’t have a feature win to date, she did capture a trophy dash in her third season.

“I have never been so excited,” Olson said. “If you could hear me, I was screaming as I went through the checkered flag.”

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Not only does racing excite Olson, her fans are a big part of the reason she keeps returning to Hawkeye Downs.

“I have a lot of little girls that cheer for me and I don’t think there is anything better than the fans,” Olson said. “There is nothing better than them opening up the pit gates and all of these kids and women storming toward your car and they are so excited. Telling me that I’m an inspiration for their daughters, that itself is enough reason for me to go.

“There is a little girl named Ellie that plays on my softball team and she never misses a race. She has pom-poms and calls me Rainbow Brite because of my car. They wear Rainbow Brite shirts and sit front and center. I can see the pom-poms when I’m racing and it makes me smile every time I go out there and see it. I know they are there for me and without fans, it wouldn’t be as fun and exciting.”

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