1 week ago



‘IT GETS IN YOUR Loup employees fill weekends with racing Zach Reicks grew up listening to the roar of engines at the Speed Bowl Speedway just outside Red Cloud, Neb. He watched the stock cars zoom around the track, the drivers eager to outrun each other. Each car was emblazoned with the logos and names of its sponsors. One featured Reicks Plumbing, the business owned by his father, Jeff. It didn’t take long for Reicks to envision himself on that track. In 2002, at the age of 16, he bought his first car. He added an old motor that his grandpa had in a grain truck and modified it to race. Then he spray painted some numbers on it and towed it out to the track on a chain. “Once you start, it just hooks you,” he said. Reicks, a journeyman lineman at Loup, is joined by two coworkers who spend most weekends from April through September racing at dirt tracks — Chief Mechanic Neil Korus and journeyman lineman Jared Hoefelman. Hoefelman was also introduced to racing at a young age. He raced a go-cart in Norfolk when he was 6 with an older brother and continued for 10 years. “We fell in love with racing,” he said. Like Reicks, Hoefelman began stock car racing as soon as he turned 16. His high school friends knew better than to ask what he was doing over the summers. Things haven’t changed much since then. “The racing isn’t even the busy part of it,” he said. “It’s working on the car at the shop. You put in countless amounts of hours.” Korus was working and in college when he was first introduced to the sport through some coworkers at Schumacher Irrigation in Platte Center. “That’s when I got the bug to race,” he said. There are several different divisions of stock car racing. Korus races in a hobby stock class where most of the cars are modified passenger cars, such as Monte Carlos. Korus, however, has raced three cars that he built himself. “We looked at a lot of used cars and I felt they were all unsafe,” he said. “I felt we could build a better car, a safer car knowing the welds were done right.” In Reicks’ class, racers build a roll cage around a frame and add an aluminum body. Hoefelman races in an A mod class which features a different rear suspension and fewer motor restrictions. The three Loup racers spend time at a lot of tracks in the area, including Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction and Off Road Speedway in Norfolk. Hoefelman often races at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood. Hoefelman, who traveled all over the United States racing go-carts as a kid, has continued to travel as a stock car racer. A few years back, he put in 56 nights of racing during the season. Most recently, he traveled to Las Vegas and had one of his best finishes there, placing 12th among more than 200 cars in his class. In addition to a large amount of 10 GENERATOR HOEFELMAN Photo by Andrea Slizoski

BLOOD’ time, the sport can also take a large amount of money. Sponsorships help cover some of that cost. Korus said when he started racing in the late eighties, things were a lot different. “That was back when it was cheap,” Korus said. “We welded a car up, went out and raced and had a ball.” The first car he raced was an old Chevelle with a total cost of about $500. If something needed fixed at that time, racers would hit the junk yard and get a replacement. Today, many hit the catalog pages and buy new parts. Reicks agreed that the sport has become much more expensive, with some racers spending a bunch at the machine shop or buying parts to fix up their suspensions. “The sky’s the limit,” he said. Hoefelman said there are definitely a lot of ways to spend money in the sport. But certain equipment that one racer feels is necessary to win might not mean as much to the next guy. “You kind of need to do your own program and not listen to anybody else,” he said. Korus said that when he started racing, many of his competitors were locals from towns like Albion, David City and Columbus. That meant he knew almost everyone. Now, many travel from farther away, hitting several races across the state or even a couple of states over the course of a weekend. “They’re trying to chase those points,” he said. Points are awarded throughout the season based on how each racer finishes. Races have prizes that range from a couple thousand dollars up to $10,000 or more. Both Korus and Reicks have sons who have picked up the ‘racing bug’ from them. Zach’s 6-year-old son Leyton is now racing go-carts. Korus sees a time ahead when he pulls back and instead helps his 23-year-old son Alex gain traction in the sport. The racers acknowledged that stock car racing does require a lot of time and sacrifices for family because of the time away from home. But they just can’t pull themselves away. “If I’m not going to be racing, I don’t even want to go to the track,” Korus said. Hoefelman knows the feeling all too well. “It gets in your blood,” Hoefelman said. “It’s a way of life.” NEIL KORUS Chief Mechanic JARED HOEFELMAN Journeyman Lineman ZACH REICKS Journeyman Lineman KORUS Photo by Jon Pedersen REICKS Photo by Jon Pedersen SPRING 2018 11

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