Racing Commentary

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Photo by Lew Boyd

On the left is Sam Harroun with his mom Robin.  On the right is his special
Mother’s Day present to her.  Photos by Dan Busch

March 4, 2008


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 fairs.

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 work.

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

.: Previous Tearoffs :.

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer


























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