The move might have been in the cards, but Thor Anderson is doing his best to play the ones he was dealt.
With a number of factors influencing his decision, the 20-year-old Bondurant native decided to run every week at Hawkeye Downs Speedway, instead of travelling to some other venues and races like previous seasons. For the most part, Anderson’s move has been positive.
Anderson will attempt to win his fifth feature of the season during weekly points races at Hawkeye Downs Speedway on Friday, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The evening is also Larry Niemeyer Appreciation Night, honoring the long-time Cedar Rapids Jefferson J-Hawks softball and girls basketball coach for his coaching record and many years of service at the southwest Cedar Rapids school.
Anderson finished as high as second in the series standings in six seasons racing at Hawkeye Downs. He has eyes on a championship.
“We’d be proud of it,” Anderson said. “We’re definitely battling pretty hard here. if we can get away with it it would be great.”
Anderson is another talented driver that has taken the track at Hawkeye Downs. Landon Cassill has elevated to NASCAR Sprint Cup, while drivers like Michael Annett, Joey Gase and Brett Moffitt compete in a NASCAR series. Mason Mitchell has run at Hawkeye downs and is an ARCA driver this season. Anderson has joined drivers Griffin McGrath and Tim Plummer in regional series.
He started driving modifieds at Hawkeye Downs, but moved to late models at age 14 about midway through his first season. Anderson’s best finish in season points was 2009, placing behind Gase. he has seven career feature wins at the Eastern Iowa track. His ability on the track is enhanced by a hands-on approach with his car.
“I work on my own cars,” Anderson said. “I understand what is in them and how they work. When I go out there and I feel the car is doing a certain thing, I know what causes it and can change it. That leads to me making the car faster. it allows us to be more flexible in how we set up our cars.”
A title could be the spark the talented young driver needs. Anderson used to run regularly in bordering states, including at a track at La Crosse, Wis., have a four-man crew, but it took a hit when one joined a NASCAR Nationwide Series team and another took an internship with Polaris, which contributed to decreased travel for racing. Take into consideration that fuel costs have risen and tracks do not offer as much for payouts and it made sense for Anderson to focus on closer competition.
“We had to stick closer to home,” said Anderson, whose father, Larry, remains on his crew. “All sorts of costs have gone up, and it’s got really expensive.
“It’s hard to justify going far when you can get just as much money, travelling a fraction of that.”
Money is a major component of auto racing these days. Talent alone makes it tough to get the opportunity to drive. Financial support is a key to get rides and drivers who don’t have funds readily available have a tougher road to elite levels of racing. Anderson is uncertain what his future in racing holds, but he aspires to drive in a NASCAR series.
“I’m open to anything,” Anderson said. “Whether it be (NASCAR) Nationwide Series or whatever, it takes a lot of money just to get into it.
“I’m kind of focused on trying to get the money part first and going from there. it depends on what opportunity arises to race from here.”
The dedication for this week’s race was created at the last minute. Niemeyer and members of his family will be honored in front of the crowd during intermission between heat and feature contests. Niemeyer was contacted at the end of last week and was told his contract would not be renewed after 52 total softball seasons. The 74-year-old, has tallied a record of 2,089-429 in 52 softball seasons. He won four state championships – the 1970 fall title at Adel, then crowns at Jefferson in 1983, 1997 and 1998.
“He has been such an awesome coach for so long,” said Hawkeye Downs Race promoter Mike Becker, who had two sisters coached by Niemeyer. “I just wanted to give a tribute to the man.”
Becker said anyone wearing a Cedar Rapids Jefferson J-Hawks sports jersey or apparel will be admitted free to the races. He also encourages athletes, parents and coaches from other schools who competed against Niemeyer and his teams to attend.
“We just want Larry and his family know there are some of us in the Cedar Rapids area that realize how valuable he has been,” Becker said, “both to the kids and the fans alike.”