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.

LaCrosse Speedway

LaCrosse and Hawkeye Downs are very similar tracks in their layout. Both have two tracks in one. Promoter for LaCrosse, Chuck Deery, is proactive as well in providing activities for the fans and kids. And, LaCrosse is a NASCAR–sanctioned short track.

LaCrosse first ran races in 1957 and a lot of well known racers have run here over the years. Steve Carlson, who has had so much success in this region over the past 25 to 30 years won his first Hobby Stock feature on August 18, 1976. He went on to win his first Late Model feature in 1982 and was crowned Late Model champion in 1984.

Dick Trickle won the track championship in 1977, Rusty Wallace won his first Late Model feature in 1979 and Mark Martin set the track record in that same year. Dale Earnhardt even raced here in 1987. Other successful racers who have left their mark on this speedway include Joe Shear, Butch Miller, Junior Hanley, Ted Musgrave, Eddie Hoffman, and Brian Hoppe. It seems that to earn respect in this region, you must have success at this track and a win here. There is also a big fall race that goes a long way toward earning that.

Oktoberfest is a four day, end of the year event that is known all over this rich region of racing as the must see, must compete race of the year. Started in 1970, it now brings more than 500 cars to compete in various classes and many thousands of spectators make it an annual must do.

LaCrosse is a somewhat different layout for a racetrack. Turns 1 and 3 are long entry shapes where the driver can carry a lot of speed into the turns, but coming off of Turns 2 and 4 the layout changes. The turns tighten up quite a bit and if a racer is not ready for that, the wall comes up very quickly.

Looking at a Google Earth view of the track shows exactly what I'm talking about. If you follow the curve of the racing line shown by the dark pavement created by the tires, following that arc takes you right into the wall at those two turns. Added steering must be applied just before the straights on both sides of the track, front stretch and back stretch.

The classes that run here include the NASCAR Late Models, Sportsman, Thunderstox, Hornets, and Outlawz. As with Hawkeye Downs, the two top divisions ran the larger half-mile track while the other classes ran the smaller track.

The one thing that happened during my visit that made a lasting impression on me was when they had the kids ride along experience before the nights racing began. The parents could bring their kids down to the track along the front stretch and track officials would help the kids get into one car at a time to ride around the track, at a slow speed of course.

I stood and watched as a good number of teams provided their cars for this event and many dozens of kids, faces lit up with big ol' smiles, waved to the crowd as they made their way around the track for a couple of laps in a real live race car. It was great and I wished more tracks could do this for the younger fans.

Both of these tracks provided important information for us to contemplate. First off, Hawkeye Downs is coming back from near extinction due in large part to responsible management techniques and a commitment by the promoter to make it work no matter what needs to be done.

With LaCrosse we see a track with a long history of success and where the promoter is not sitting still, but constantly looking to improve the experience for both racers and fans. His attention to the families that come to watch the races helps keep them coming back weekend after weekend. The plan isn't brilliant, it just makes sense and it works.

The next installment of the AMSOIL Great American Circle Track Tour takes us to our title sponsors home town of Superior, Wisconsin, and the AMSOIL Speedway in the first of a three track run all in the same weekend. These three tracks will be the first dirt tracks we will visit for this year's Tour and I can say, it's about time after all of those tarmac tracks.

SOURCE
AMSOIL
925 Tower Ave.
Superior
WI  54880
800-777-8491
http://www.amsoil.com
Crane Cams, Inc.
530 Fentress Blvd.
Daytona Beach
FL  32114
904-258-6174
www.cranecams.com
E3 Spark Plugs
Ponte Vedra
FL
http://www.e3sparkplugs.com
International Motorsports Industry Show
http://www.imis-indy.com
Holley Performance Products
1801 Russellville Rd.
Bowling Green
KY  42101
270-782-2900
http://www.holley.com
NecksGen
855-632-5743
http://www.necksgen.com
G-Force Racing Gear
770-998-8855
http://www.gforce.com
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