Photos © Kyle Ealy Collection
By: Eric Huenefeld / For nearly half of its 90 year history, the speedway known as Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids Iowa has hosted some of America’s top short track racers during the summertime months.
Beginning in 1973, when promoter Keith Fleck organized the first ‘Falstaff 100,’ a tradition was born in eastern Iowa. Through the years, the race has went through several name changes, with the ‘Miller 100’ moniker, the one most synonymous with the summertime tradition, retired after the 2011 event.
But despite the name changes, one thing remains true…for 40 of the last 42 summers…history has been made at Hawkeye Downs during the summer months. The spectacle now known as the ‘Coors Light Summer Shootout presented by McGrath Powersports and Liz Girl Logistics’ has seen some of the very best from both asphalt or dirt test the Hawkeye half mile.
No one has won more races in the heat of the summer at Hawkeye Downs than has West Salem Wisconsin’s Steve Carlson. ‘The King of the Short Tracks’ captured an impressive seven wins in what was then the ‘Miller 100,’ becoming just the second driver to win back-to-back summertime showcases in 1996 & 1997. Carlson also won four straight Miller 100’s from 2007-2010. Carlson could have been an eight-time winner at Hawkeye, had it not been for a mechanical misfortune with just six laps remaining in 1991, which ended his chances for what would have been his first victory at the track, instead putting another short track legend, Joe Shear, in victory lane for the first time at Hawkeye Downs.
Shear was a two-time ARTGO Challenge Series winner at ‘The Downs’, claiming victory after Carlson’s misfortunes in 1991 and again tasting victory in 1995 after getting past Minnesota’s Jim Weber in the middle stages of that 100 lap event. Besides Carlson and Shear, Davenport Iowa’s Justin Diercks is the only other asphalt racer to claim victory multiple times in 100 lap races at Hawkeye Downs, winning consecutive shows in 2002 and 2003 while holding off local favorites Johnny Spaw and Dudley Fleck in the process.
Prior to the 1989 season, Hawkeye Downs was one of the America’s premiere dirt tracks in one of America’s dirt racing hubs. Winners of summertime 100 lap events at Hawkeye Downs during the ‘dirt years’ read like a ‘who’s who,’ with Dirt Late Model Hall of Famers Billy Moyer, Rodney Combs, Ed Sanger, Curt Hansen and Larry Phillips all past champions. Phillips, the only 5-time NASCAR National Champion, actually claimed his 100 lap victory at Hawkeye Downs when the track was paved, reaching victory lane in 1990, one of his nearly 40 feature wins that season.
Two other NASCAR National Champions, Tom Hearst and Roger Dolan, also found victory lane at Hawkeye Downs in the summer months, with Dolan winning twice (1983 & 1986) while Hearst captured victory in 1985. Five-time USAC Stock Car Series champion and Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer Butch Hartman won the ‘Falstaff 100’ lap race at Hawkeye Downs back in 1973 on the way to his third straight USAC Stock Car title.
Last year, in the first incarnation of the ‘Coors Light Summer Shootout’ Seymour Wisconsin’s Ty Majeski entered victory lane at the famed half-mile. The win was part of an incredible season for Majeski, who not only captured the ARCA Midwest Tour Rookie of the Year honors, but was also crowned the 2014 Series Champion. Majeski faces stiff competition in his quest to repeat Saturday night, with challengers from seven states expected to converge on Eastern Iowa. Georgia hot shoe Bubba Pollard, along with two-time ARCA Midwest Tour champion Dan Fredrickson lead the list of contenders, along with 2011 Hawkeye Downs winner and 2012 Midwest Tour Champion Jonathan Eilen and 2011 Series Champion Andrew Morrissey.
Local favorites Griffin McGrath and Caleb Adrian will look to give the hometown fans a chance to make some noise, while Dixieland 250 winner Nick Murgic, four-time Oktoberfest winner Travis Sauter and teenagers Paulie Shafer and Derek Kraus also look to make their case for victory. Illinois’ Austin Nason and Wisconsin’s Skylar Holzhausen come to Hawkeye Downs looking for victory and chance to close the gap on Majeski in the ARCA Midwest Tour championship chase, while aces Ricky Baker, James Swan and brothers Chris and Jason Weinkauf will also be gunning for victory, along with a host of top-notch short track racers.
All of the excitement takes place at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids Iowa this Saturday evening, as the ARCA Midwest Tour takes to the track for the ‘Coors Light Summer Shootout presented by McGrath Powersports and Liz Girl Logistics.’ Joining the ARCA Midwest Tour will be the Quest Industrial Mid American Stock Cars and the INEX Legends. Qualifying begins at 5:45 PM, with the first green flag set to wave 7 PM. Adult admission is $18, with Students (ages 13-17) admitted for $10 and Kids 12 and under admitted FREE!
For more information on the ARCA Midwest Tour, please visit arcamidwestour.com. For more information on Hawkeye Downs, please visit hawkeyedowns.org.