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Stepping on the GASS

Some people just have a need for speed, and Newton’s BC Motorsports is one business ready to provide a fix.

The Newton-based company caters to racing enthusiasts who want to experience the rush of professional racing without the expense of having to maintain their own cars.

Headquartered in Newton’s industrial park, BC Motorsports offers race car ride-alongs, lap-driving and driver school at Iowa Speedway and also runs corporate events. But it’s the company’s Great American Stockcar Series that really attracts the hardcore racing enthusiast.

GASS is a fully-immersive driving experience — a sort of fantasy camp for wanna-be race car drivers, where they can get behind the wheel and compete in an ongoing series just like NASCAR drivers.

The series is open to anyone, and while a few pros do race in it, it’s geared more for hardcore racing fans who want to experience firsthand the thrill of competitive racing. BC Motorsports maintains a fleet of cars, so the drivers only have to bring themselves, their driving know-how and some cash in order to race. No cars to maintain.

“They just pay their money, show up on race day and have fun,” owner Barney Bushore said.

The Newton version is an offshoot of a concept started in Portland, Ore., by Bushore’s business partner Chris Evan. BC Motorsports maintains a garage here with the vehicles and keeps them ready to race for their customers.

GASS races are 60-laps with no pit stops and take about 45 minutes to complete. Typically, about 15 to 20 drivers compete in each event and the field often includes people from throughout the United States.

“It’s not just Newton,” Bushore said. “People come from all over to do this.”

At $4,000 per race, the GASS series caters more to older race enthusiasts and drivers with some disposable income. In addition to the race fee, novices might also have to pay up to $2,500 to go through driving school before they’re ready to race in the series.

Drivers are responsible for paying to repair the cars, too, if they wreck them. That’s something series regular Larry Olson of Conrad knows all too well.

“Two of the last three races some idiot ran into me from behind and wrecked my car,” he said, laughing.

“Larry is the only one out there that had to buy paint by the 50-gallon drum,” Bushore said, chuckling. “But he’s having a good time.”

He sure is.

Olson has been around racing most of his life. He’s previously competed on small-oval dirt tracks in north central Iowa and on some drag strips, but he got tired of always have to work on his own car. He started racing with GASS just to have some fun again.

“They do all the work and you just have the fun of driving,” he said. “And the reality is it isn’t any more expensive than what you did when you had your own car.”

Newton Mayor Chaz Allen drives the pace car for the series. He loves that BC Motorsports is able to capitalize on Newton’s big attraction — Iowa Speedway — and that it’s bringing something new to Newton, along with jobs.

While the series may be a dream come true for some gearheads, the actual racing is as real as it comes with cars traveling as fast as the NASCAR vehicles when they speed around Iowa Speedway. Like any other race, the potential for a wreck is always there.

“It’s extremely competitive,” Olson said. “Actually probably more so because all of the cars are set up very similar so the difference is the driver.”

So far the concept is catching on. Business is going well enough that Bushore hopes to add six cars to his fleet in the near future. The economic downturn has had little, if any, effect on enthusiasm for GASS.

“Racing is like an addiction,” Bushore said, “People really will cut a lot of other things before they cut out racing.”

That’s certainly true for Olson, who can’t get enough of the rush that competitive racing provides.

“I think it’s just the competitiveness, there’s just a little bit of adrenaline there all the time and it gives you something to look forward to in the summer,” he said. “It’s like any other hobby.”

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GASS races are chronicled on a TV show that airs on Fox Sports Net. Episodes can be viewed online at www.gasstv.com. Or visit www.racegass.com for more information on the company and its services.

The next GASS event is scheduled for Sept. 18 at Iowa Speedway. Anyone is welcome to attend as a spectator for free.

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Andy Karr can be contacted at 792-3121 ext. 434 or via e-mail at akarr@newtondailynews.com.

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