Our next two stops on our Tour, after our long week previously spent traversing all of the state of Wisconsin, takes us first out of Wisconsin to Iowa and Hawkeye Downs Speedway for a Friday night show. Then we head straight north back into Wisconsin and to the LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway for the Saturday night races.

Both of these tracks are located at fairground facilities and both, as all tracks associated with, or located within fairgrounds, have the opportunity to introduce surrounding residents to the track every year when the fair comes to life. It helps, but it won't guarantee success. The promoters and managers have to make it work and we encountered two of the most unique and innovative we've seen.

We are just one weekend away from a short vacation and the next weekend off from the Tour. With only one more race in Wisconsin after this weekend, the AMSOIL Speedway in Superior, we are close to heading west. But not just yet, we've got a jam-packed weekend of racing still to go, so let's get started.

Hawkeye Downs Speedway

I met Mike Becker, the track promoter, when I first arrived and he had a lot to tell me. When Mike took over the Downs just two years ago, the track management was in bad shape. There was physical fighting in the pits and squabbling going on each Friday night and it was pushing good racers away. He proceeded to run off or rehabilitate the trouble makers and things stabilized after that.

The car count is slowly growing, as is the fan base. He involved the community in a way that attracts the local schools and the various functions associated with those, he built a great playground for the kids and he provided a super clean facility. It has all worked in reviving this racetrack.

Hawkeye Downs first started running races in 1925. No, that is not a typo, that was indeed 87 years ago. It ran as a dirt track until 1989 when it was turned into the two paved tracks it is today. It was Iowa's very first asphalt racetrack.

Features of the track include paved pit areas, Musco professional broadcast quality lighting, a new Daktronics scoreboard and message center, and a transponder timing and scoring system. The track itself is two tracks in one. The faster classes, being the Late Models and Modifieds, run on the half mile outer track while the rest of the Stock and Mini Stock classes run on the quarter-mile track. The classes run here include the Late Models, Sportsman, Hobby Stock, Hornets, and Legends cars. An average night's count runs about 75 race teams. And Mike takes care of each and every one of them. He is truly a hand's on promoter.

The track also participates in the Lil' Racers Club that provides “recreational, educational, and entertainment choices to young race fans under the age of 14.” It is a legal nonprofit public charity. The Lil' Racer Car Club was founded in 2005 and provides entertainment for kids at many area racetracks. In addition to Hawkeye Downs, there are clubs at Benton County Speedway in Vinton, Cedar County Raceway in Tipton, West Liberty Raceway in West Liberty, and 34 Raceway in West Burlington, all located in Iowa.

We have said repeatedly that involvement of the kids brings families back over and over again. And our future racers all spent their first trips to the track in the stands. The love of racing begins with watching, and then progresses to wanting to get out there and have fun competing. The kids clubs accomplish that I believe.