Tim and Holly Mortenson are no strangers to revving engines and checkered flags. The Kamrar couple own Poplar Grove Speedway, a go-kart track outside of Kamrar.
For 20 years the Mortensons’, along with a number of volunteers, have been providing a dirt track for kids to learn and all ages to race. Go karts raced at the speedway include 2-cycle, 4-cycle, and clone. The senior class represents ages 16 and above. The Junior I class includes ages 8 to 11. The Junior II class features ages 12 to 15.
“We have a lot of people that will come and race every single race. We have others that might come just for special races,” said Holly Mortenson.
Races take place from the beginning of May through the end of August each year.
Tim Mortenson works on track maintenance as well as making sure odds and ends are taken care of. Holly Mortenson helps with check-ins, registration, line-ups and scoring. The couple made sure to note the small village of volunteers who help keep everything running smoothly out at the track.
“We have several people that help us. It’s not just Tim and I. If it wasn’t for everybody else that helped us, the flag men, the scorers, the people that work concessions,” said Holly Mortenson. “We’ve got quite a crew that comes along every Sunday to help us out.”
The most recent race at Poplar Grove Speedway took place on Father’s Day. The Midwest Dirt Kart Challenge saw racers as young as 6 years old on the track. A total of 97 racers in 12 classes represented 8 states.
“When you see that we’re in Kamrar, IA, and we’ve got this many people from eight states I think that’s neat,” said Holly Mortenson.
The Midwest Dirt Kart Challenge is a touring series that travels from northern Missouri to central Iowa. The challenge runs five to six races every year.
The event began at noon with check-in and registration and was followed by hot laps. Hot laps give drivers a chance to test out the track and also gives those in charge of track maintenance time to make sure the track is in good condition for the racers.
“Basically they can get a feel for the track,” said Holly Mortenson. “We can see if there is anything that needs to be done with the track, if we need to sweep it or grade it. Things like that.”
After hot laps, racers take part in two heats. Lastly, each class participates in the feature. This is the race that determines cash prizes or trophies depending on who is sponsoring or hosting the race.
“With heats you might have an A or a B class so there aren’t 16 karts out on the track,” said Holly Mortenson. “With features you combine those and it’s the best of the best for the feature. That’s who actually wins.”
Preparations for the Midwest Kart Tour began four days before the start of the event on Thursday.
“It takes time. It takes patience,” said Holly Mortenson. “You’ve got to know when exactly when you should go on the track. When we pack it, grade it and so on.”
According to Holly Mortenson, 30,000 to 40,000 gallons of water plus calcium chloride was put on the track for Sunday’s races. Recently, the track wall was expanded to give drivers more space in case of a spin out.
“This past year we hauled in about 150 loads of dirt and moved back our wall about 15 feet to give the race more room in case they spin out,” said Holly Mortenson.
Dave Bergeson has been a flag man at the Poplar Grove Speedway for 15 years.
“It’s a family sport,” said Dave Bergeson. “I think what gets me is the time they spend in their pits working on their wheels.”
“It’s hard work, but we enjoy it,” said Holly Mortenson. “It’s neat seeing a kid get on the track for the first time that’s never been in a go kart and watch them come across the finish line.”
The next race at Poplar Grove Speedway is a track points race. It is scheduled for June 26. The track is located at 2730 Poplar Grove Avenue, Kamrar.
For more information about Poplar Grove Speedway visit poplargrovespeedway.com.
“It’s a family oriented activity. You see a lot of these where it’s the entire family here. Wether they’re racing or not, it’s mom and dad. It’s all the kids. We have some that even bring their dog,” said Holly Mortenson.