CEDAR RAPIDS — Jacob Tiegen had to wait until he got to the racetrack in order to put his foot on the gas.
The 13-year old Marion seventh-grader spent the better part of the spring getting ready for his first race at Hawkeye Downs.
“My expectations for tonight were to come in and try to keep up with the pack,” said Tiegen. “And to just learn what I can.”
Racing Go-Karts for the last five years helped with the learning curve. However, the Tiegen crew has logged hundreds of practice laps every Wednesday.
“My dad really wanted to get me into something that he wasn’t able to do as a kid,” said Tiegen. “The most important part for me is being able to be with my family.”
Tigen took sixth in his heat and qualified for the feature. Tiegen got tangled up with a couple of other cars in turn two, and finished the night on the tow truck.
Tiegen represents part of a youth movement to hit Hawkeye Downs this season. Following in the successful footsteps of Landon Cassill are younger drivers like Tiegen and 16-year olds Brody Willett and Logan Clausen.
“My dad took me to a few races and it just kind of sparked from there,” Willet said.
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The enthusiasm is evident with the younger drivers, but that doesn’t give them much of an edge.
“There really isn’t an advantage to being young in this sport,” Willett said. “You kind of have to make your own advantage by working hard and striving to be the best you can be when you get to the track.
“You get tired and worn out quickly. It helps to get in the gym and work on your endurance. And to always stay hydrated.”
Willett competes in the Late Model division. Cars in this division can reach speeds of close to 100 mph. The high speed (and potential for collisions) do little to deter the determined Willett, who won his heat.
“We looked pretty good and we had good speed,” Willett said. “But the car just wasn’t where it needed to be, and the driver was getting used to being back into things.”
Willett has his sights set on the Big 8 series this year. The Big 8 series is a competitive Late Model series allowing drivers to compete under the same rules when competing at different tracks.
“I think with the scenario we’ve put ourselves in, we are definitely a top-2 car,” said Willett. “But we are definitely striving for the win.”