McGrath making the most of Midwest Tour starts

Cedar Rapids native finished second in Milwaukee last Sunday, awaits Hawkeye Downs stop

Jeremiah Davis, The Gazette
Published: June 11 2014 | 6:41 pm in Auto racing, Sports, The Inside Track by Jeremiah Davis,

Griffin McGrath doesn’t get to travel much to race his Super Late Model these days, but when he does he makes it count.

The Cedar Rapids native and service manager at his family-owned McGrath Powersports raced in the ARCA Midwest Tour event at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday, finishing second to Erik Jones, a Kyle Busch Motorsports driver and NASCAR Next class member.

McGrath will only have a handful of starts on the Midwest Tour this season, so running well was a big boost for the Hawkeye Downs regular.

“It’s just a fun place. It’s a cool track with a lot of history,” McGrath said. “Every time we go up there, we seem to have a really competitive car and at least get ourselves in position to fight for wins.

“It’s been fun to kind of run a limited schedule and try to take advantage of the limited opportunities we do get throughout the summer.”

The Cedar Rapids Washington grad has one win at the famed Milwaukee Mile, coming in the ASA Late Model Series in 2010.

McGrath said the setup he ran at Milwaukee is very close to what he runs at Hawkeye Downs for a Super Late Model, so not traveling regularly didn’t hinder him Sunday at all.

In fact, he got to do quite a bit of testing during practice days at Hawkeye Downs to prepare — an invaluable asset with the shop so close to the track.

“We run essentially the same type (of) setup there as we do at Hawkeye Downs — small changes as far as rear springs go, but for the most part … it’s identical,” McGrath said. “We’ve got a lot of laps trying, testing and tweaking on stuff here in Cedar Rapids, and I think it directly translates to things we’re a hair bit better than people up there.”

The Midwest Tour will make its first stop at Hawkeye Downs since 2011 on July 5 for the Coors Light Summer Shootout.

McGrath has always considered this stop on the traveling tours as the most important to him, and is definitely considered a favorite when the cars roll off the grid July 5. The ultracompetitive field is also a respectful one, with drivers familiar with each other and willing to race hard but clean.

“It’s just a different group of guys that are extremely talented and they just respect each other so much. That’s why we’ve been attracted to running it, because you just don’t tear as much stuff up,” McGrath said. “We certainly do have our stuff together for Hawkeye Downs. It all transfers over from what we ran in Milwaukee, and we have a couple weeks to test here.

“I would like to think we’re certainly a favorite.”


If you’re from Iowa — especially the Cedar Rapids area — you’re (maybe too) used to plenty of rain in June.

Two IMCA traveling series have fallen victim to untimely rain showers over the last few weeks, postponing and canceling multiple races. The IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series and Hawkeye Dirt Tour have lost seven total race dates so far this season to rain.

The last two Summer Series races, scheduled for Hamilton County Speedway in Webster City and Cedar County Raceway in Tipton — a combo race with the Hawkeye Dirt Tour — were lost to rain, the Webster City race being canceled and the Tipton race rescheduled to Aug. 19.

Summer Series director Kevin Yoder could only give a halfhearted laugh when asked about the bad weather luck.

“You just can’t (do anything about it),” Yoder said. “Unfortunately, when your livelihood depends upon the weather — whether you’re in racing, playing baseball or a farmer — you just deal with it and move on and try to make the best of it.”

With some parts of Iowa in a drought, it’s impossible to call this summer an overly wet one, and Yoder was quick to point that out.

He instead said it’s been the (bad) luck of the draw on when the rain we’ve had comes.

“It just seems to be raining on the wrong days,” Yoder said. “If we had a race (Wednesday) night, for example, it would be perfect. But we had one scheduled (in Tipton) for (Tuesday) night, and it rained. Unfortunately it’s just rained on all the wrong days, according to our schedule, at least.”

Scheduling for a racing series is hard as it is — with other tracks running weekly and drivers sometimes on the fence about where they want to race. Because of that, Yoder said it’s highly unlikely new races will be added to the Summer Series schedule, which has seen four of its first nine races canceled or postponed.

The Hawkeye Dirt Tour has been more unlucky than that, with three of the first four scheduled events rained out, and the opener at I-35 Speedway in Mason City was rain shortened.

Two of the three rainouts were rescheduled. Round 1 at Benton County Speedway in Vinton will run Aug. 18, and the aforementioned Round 4 race at Cedar County Raceway in Tipton will be Aug. 19.


Mother’s Day was a special one this season at Hawkeye Downs Speedway, with a carnation giveaway and a drawing for jewelry that Friday night.

With Father’s Day this weekend, the speedway is at it again and will be giving away at Gravely XD 3 push mower to a dad in the stands Friday night at Hawkeye Downs.

Gates open at 6 p.m. and racing starts at 7:30.

This is the third giveaway of the season, as Hawkeye Downs raffled off a moped from MopedU last Friday night during Free Night.


The UMP DirtCar Summernationals is a well-known tour in the Open Late Model circuit across the Midwest. The so-called “Hell Tour” lasts less than two months each summer, but races as much or more than any series in the United States.

Late model drivers following the Summernationals tour race 33 events in a 39-day span, starting June 11 and finishing July 19. The “Hell Tour” makes a stop at Farley Speedway on Tuesday, with $10,000 to win — tied for the highest purse on tour.

IMCA Late Models will race for national points as a support race.

Hot laps start at 6:30 p.m., with racing to follow at 7.

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