Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
COSGROVE, Iowa Throughout the history of motorsports, apart from the fuel, tires and engines, there's one constant: family.
Racing is a family sport, and that is personified with the Eckrich family. Through the years, they have traveled across the Midwest together, chasing wins and thrills on dirt tracks.
"Sometimes money don't buy what you need to keep everything together and keep a family together. Sometimes it's just being together," said Larry Eckrich, the patriarch of the family. "When we went to races, everybody said we were like a bunch of gypsies – everyone in the back of the truck.
"Whether we won or lost, we were together."
Brothers Dave, Denny, Doug and Andy Eckrich have been around racing for a long time, having grown up in the sport.
Their dad never raced, instead building cars and engines for his Precision Performance Racing team. The boys still tagged along to tracks around eastern Iowa – specifically West Liberty Raceway, their home track – were where they grew up, and grew so close.
"They were born around the race track," Larry said. "So they just presumed everyone went to the racetrack in the summer. All the rest of the kids in school envied them because they got to go to the race track and play in the dirt."
Being around each other for so long, it's conceivable they would bicker and need space. However, that space can be hard to come by when three brothers drive, one is the crew chief on those cars, and their dad helps out around the shop. Denny and Dave were the first behind the wheel, with Doug as Denny's crew man, and Andy as Dave's. Andy was behind the wheel by the time he turned 16, and hasn't looked back.
"It's awesome driving a race car, but what's really cool is having a mentor dad," Andy said. "Not many people get to spend that much time with their father and their best friends that are their brothers.
"Some people can't stand each other, (but) we can't stand going four hours without talking to each other."
And though the drivers get the attention, Andy was emphatic when pointing out the glue of the team was Doug. His car setups, Andy said, are why the team is as successful as it is.
While none of the brothers will try to say things are always perfect, they do insist time together is something they all seek out.
"I think it's what holds our family together real tight," Denny said. "There's not a day that goes by we don't all see each other. It's Thanksgiving or Christmas Day every day for us at the race track."
Having been a team since the early 1960s, change became constant at Precision Performance, but that doesn't mean the success stopped. Larry's team, with a revolving door of drivers, won countless races and championships, including 14 track championships from 1985-2000 at Dubuque Speedway.
Though they've scaled back now, the team used to race as many as 75 times a year. With all those races at all those venues, they lose track of how many wins they've amassed. When asked for a ballpark figure, Andy could only chuckle.
"Shoot, I don't know," Andy said with a modest smile. "It's a lot. Probably 300 between me and Denny."
Throw in Dave's wins, and their dad's estimated 1,000-plus team wins with hired drivers, and you have an Eckrich car in victory lane "several thousand" times. Larry said an article written about him in 1989 had his team win total at 495, including a 1987 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (originally the Winston Racing Series) national championship with driver Roger Dolan.
Twenty-four years later, they show no signs of slowing down. Denny got a win in the first Deery Brothers Summer Series race at 34 Raceway in West Burlington on April 6. Despite not having a win in the Summer Series this year, Andy sits second in points.
The challenge now becomes setting new goals and chasing more wins. To do that, though, Denny and Andy have to unseat the man currently atop the Summer Series Brian Harris.
Harris is a winner of a record-tying four straight Summer Series feature wins, and will take aim at holding the record himself tonight at Independence Speedway. If someone is going to stop the streak, the Eckrich brothers hope it's them.
Andy had a chance last time in West Liberty, finishing second.
"It can be frustrating (when a guy is winning a lot)," Andy said. "Right now, nothing against those guys, but I'm beating myself. I think if I made the right adjustments from heat to feature, we'll be right there.
"We're (getting) better. We've just got to work on it."