March 4, 2008
A COOL TRACK WITH
There’s a lot more going on in Iowa than those caucuses. Fact is
that, although it has a far smaller population, Iowa ranks up there
with California, New York, Texas, and Pennsylvania in the number of
active race tracks. Many of them are on the sites of old country
One of the raciest tracks I have ever seen is West Liberty Raceway,
located on the Muscatine County fairgrounds. The place is absolutely
classic. It is well-kept and has modern facilities, but still
maintains a glorious old covered grandstand that reverberates
thunderously with the roar of racing motors.
The track itself is a full half mile, very wide, and flatter than
Bonneville. Drivers say that when you’re hooked up, it is scary
fast. And it doesn’t look that awful hard to hook up. Keith Simmons,
the promoter, claims, “This dirt is so easy to work you have to
really try to screw it up. It just requires a blade, sheep’s foot,
and lots of packing.” It’s a great place to race.
The infield is spacious, with fresh cut grass; wonderful old trees
give welcome last summer afternoon shade. It’s a great place to
West Liberty seems to share that same positive people index with
other short tracks across the country. For the most part, racing
folks are just plain good folks. The first guy I ran into in the
pits was Sam Harroun, a muscled gasser who started racing three
years ago. In just his second season he snatched nine limited late
model mains. In ’07 he attacked the mid-country NASCAR dirt tracks
with a Ford-powered Mastersbilt. The extended Harroun family has
responded with proud support; the grandparents even own the motors.
But racin’s racin’. On Mother’s Day ’07 a temporary caution flag was
draped over the family’s enthusiasm. Nudged from behind on the
straight at Dubuque, Sam flipped savagely three times, landing
upside down in the turn. It was a monumental mess.
Sam’s mom Robin will tell you all about it. “When he was flying
through the air, I couldn’t believe it. It took 18 minutes to turn
that car back over, cut the roof off, and get him out. I was
freaking out, but I knew I couldn’t lose it because Sam’s wife
Heather and their kids Skyler and Breanna were right there with me.
It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.”
As it turns out, Sam was fine. He has good kit, maintained by West
Liberty late model legend Steve Boley.
After the wreckage was finally cleared, Sam greeted Robin with a
great big hug and said “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.”
At this point Robin wasn’t sure how to react. “I’d like to think he
was being loving,” she smiles, “but it’s more likely he was being a
little bit of a wise guy.”
© 2008 Lew
Boyd, Coastal 181