CEDAR RAPIDS – Racing is a cyclical sport. Over the years, participation has risen and fallen, often coinciding with the nation’s economy.
Of late, participation in weekly racing at Hawkeye Downs hasn’t been like years past, save for one division: the Legend cars.
“The Legend car is a very good deal for racing and is going to continue to be good for racing,” said Hawkeye Downs promoter Mike Becker. “There is a sense of excitement again, that maybe fell off a little bit with some of the other (classes).
“I think this is the fuel for the fire that we needed to get young people involved, to get people excited about (racing) and get people having fun.”
Becker said Friday night he believes, as has happened in the past, racing will see a resurgence, and the class that will lead it there is the Legend class.
With it’s relative affordability compared to other divisions, the Legends allow for families with drivers of all ages to enter the sport without a ton of logistical hoops to jump through.
“There are young families getting involved in our sport because of this (class),” Becker said. “They’re small, they’re light, they’re easy. You can own one of these when you live in a cul-de-sac and your neighbors aren’t going to mind. They’re very well thought-out.”
The Legends average 16 cars per week at Hawkeye Downs – including 15 Friday night, when Tim Goettsch picked up the feature win – well above the next closest class, the Hornets which average eight cars every Friday night.
That popularity is spread all across the country – with heavy participation on both coasts – and brought 13-year-old driver Noah Cornman and his family to Cedar Rapids from Groveland, Fla.
“What makes this class great for us is you can race in a lot of different states,” said Noah’s dad Scott Cornman. “There’s always going to be a class. … We can go pretty much anywhere in the United States.”
With the rules package that cars in INEX U.S. Legend Cars International compete under, Cornman can take his Gatorland Legend to any INEX-sanctioned track across the country and be ready to race without any major changes, other than the car setup.
And as competitive as the Legend cars are on a weekly basis because of that, the racing at Hawkeye Downs figures to be even closer a week from Friday night. The track is set to host a U.S. Legend Cars International regional qualifier on July 19.
Becker said it’s hard to tell exactly how many cars will show up for the race next week – Scott Cornman said he, Noah and the family might come back next week while the family is still in the Midwest – but that it will be a big show for the race track regardless.
“I’ve been told by some we’ll have cars here from six states,” Becker said. “We could be nuts, we have no idea (how many will show up). Tune in next week.”
Maybe the most attractive part of the Legend cars for drivers – especially those hoping to move up the ranks like Cornman – is the experience it provides them and the lessons it teaches them behind the wheel.
“You see a lot of kids – rising stars – that are wanting to make it big time, and this is the level to start at, as far as a real car goes after go-karts,” said former Hawkeye wrestler-turned racer Mark Ironside. “A lot of the (Sprint) Cup guys, they got their start in these, and they say if you can drive one of these things and be successful, you can drive anything.”
July 12 Hawkeye Downs feature winners:
Hobby Stock: Matt Lacoursiere
Sportsmen: Dave McCalla
Legend Cars: Tim Goettsch
Modifieds: Tim Plummer
Hornets: Todd Ness
Late Models: Griffin McGrath
For a full list of the results from Friday night at Hawkeye Downs, see the July 13 edition of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.