CEDAR RAPIDS — For the last five years, Hawkeye Downs Speedway has hosted a Celebrity Pride Race, with various Corridor celebrities and public figures taking part in a race to benefit the local Juvenile Diabetes Center at Mercy Medical Center.
It’s an event with no motivation other than to raise some money and put folks in a racecar who normally wouldn’t have a chance.
But Friday night, not only did the four drivers in the celebrity race put on a fun show, they also found a new appreciation for what it takes to race.
“What’s sad is it took me getting behind the wheel of one of these vehicles to even have an idea,” said KGYM “Afternoon Players Club” co-host Tyler Ryder, who finished fourth. “Just for the two, three hours I was out here practicing — the things (drivers) have to do preparation-wise just to compete … it takes (a toll) not only mentally but physically. You’ve got to be an athlete.”
Ryder had, in the past, doubted whether or not racers were athletes on his radio show. But he, and the other racers all brought up their newfound appreciation unprompted throughout their practice time during the week and at the race.
Mercy Hospital President and CEO Tim Charles, Director of Automation for Van Meter Rod Reinerston and KCRG-TV9 Sports Director Scott Saville all also competed and raved about the experience.
“This was a blast,” said Charles, who finished third after a spin in Turn 4. “The first thing is you realize what athletes racers are. Believe me, it takes a lot of energy and strength.
“It’s an exhilarating sport, and I can see why people get hooked, being behind the wheel of these cars and these speeds.”
Reinerston won the 15-lap event, keeping Van Meter’s undefeated streak of having an employee win the Pride Race intact. Saville was second.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Reinerston said. “I heard a lot about it the last couple weeks. I felt like, ‘OK, I’ve got to do my thing.’
“I was just going to work my line. I was lucky enough to get out front and keep it going.”
Hawkeye Downs Fair Board member and Legends racer Kevin Korsmo lended his No. 86 Chick Hicks car to Saville for the race, and helped coach the celebrity racers during their practice time. Korsmo laughed when recalling the drivers’ reactions after being out on track the first time and how their eyes were opened.
“You could look in (Rod’s) eyes when he got out here he wanted to go hard and win,” Korsmo said. “We knew we had some good competitors. All of them were quick learners, quick studies. Rod took advantage of his (pole) starting position and took off.
“And it’s funny how, without even bringing it up to them, the first thing that comes out of their mouths is ‘Boy, that is some work.’”
With such delighted attitudes and the rush of adrenaline, all the participants joked about getting racecars themselves after the race was finished — something Mark Ironside actually did after taking part in the Pride Race three years ago.
Saville, who kissed the start/finish line before the race because “I knew I wasn’t going to win, so I kissed it beforehand,” said if he wasn’t so busy with prep sports coverage on Friday nights for KCRG-TV9 he’d absolutely get a car himself.
“I would do it in a heartbeat, I really would,” Saville said. “I’d spend some time with someone who really knew how to drive a car right and teach me what to do when there’s problems and how to correct them. I think I could get that itch and want to do it.”
In regular racing, late models and modifieds saw their nights canceled due to “weepers” — rising moisture from underneath the track surface — creating multiple wet spots on both ends of the track. Both main events will be made up next week, with the 15 total drivers entered having their entry fee carry over to next week. Read more, here.
Brad Chandler took the win in Hornets, Nathan Ballard in Hobby Stocks, Dave McCalla in Sportsmen and Brady Fox-Rhode in the Legends.
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