NEWTON — Saturday was the quiet before the storm for Mike Van Genderen.
Not really, because Van Genderen and his “crew” were preparing and packing for this week’s IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals at Boone Speedway. The Super Nationals is sponsored by Casey’s General Store.
“Over the last 10 years, we’ve only missed the main show once at the Super Nationals. We ran stock cars and the modifieds there, but this year it is just modifieds,” Van Genderen said.
“We hauled our RVs up to Boone yesterday (Friday) and today, it’s the cars. This is a week vacation for me. We go up and do a lot of racing in the one week at Super Nationals.”
Modifieds begin qualifying races today at Boone. Qualfying for stock car, sportmods and hobby stock main feature races began Monday for the 31st annual event.
Car counts at Super Nationals have topped 800 every year since 2008. New event records have been set each of the last three years, with the 874 entries in 2012 setting the latest standard.
Depending on car count, more than $250,000 in cash and nearly the same value of product contingencies will be awarded at Super Nationals.
In 2011, Van Genderen was the modified division runner-up at the Super Nationals. He said there were 280 cars competing that year.
“Last year, we won more races than anyone else during the week. We made the big show, but we broke at the end,” Van Genderen said.
Van Genderen didn’t grow up “in” the sport. He said his family went to the races while he was growing up in New Sharon. It wasn’t until after he graduated from college that Van Genderen got the racing bug.
“I bought my first race car for $50. I started in the open Figure-8 class and ran in that for many years, winning over 200 feature races. We ran hobby stocks and stock cars, then dropped Figure-8 and went strictly stock car racing,” he said.
Van Genderen won the 2011 USRA Iron Man championship.
“I’m a very competitive person and I love the speed of racing. I’m a professional poker player. I get to promote and play games for a living. I have a great wife, Jana, and children, Rowdee, who is 6, and Dierks, who is 4,” Van Genderen said. “Racing is my hobby. My wife supports me doing what I enjoy doing.”
Van Genderen moved to Newton, coming out of college, and sold insurance. As of this racing season, he is the promotor at four dirt tracks, including three in Iowa and one in Missouri. He is the promotor at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Hamilton County Speedway in Webster City, Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, and Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Mo.
“I keep busy. I race about 30 nights in the year and promote at the four tracks. I love the sport. I’ve been around it and want to see the sport grow,” he said. “I’ve never been one to work on cars. I have a full-time mechanic — Jimmi Jaennette — who does all the work on the cars. I just race.”
Van Genderen and Jaennette were working all week to have a back-up car ready to go to the Super Nationals. He said he does a lot of organizing, parts-buying and errand running to have everything they need for a full week of racing.
“You have to win your heat race to get to the qualifier each night. They take the top eight finishers to the big show. You have to race hard, wear out your car in the heat race because if you don’t win, you don’t move on,” Van Genderen said. “You have plenty of time between races to rework the car.”
Super Nationals is a state fair of sorts, he said. Thousands of people come to Boone Speedway to see a ton of racing throughout the week.
“They take 33 cars to the main feature on Saturday. There’s nothing like that pace lap at Boone for Super Nationals. All you see is a sea of people around the track,” he said.
So, “The Flying Dutchman” is at Boone Speedway this week, driving the No. 57V modified in the 2013 Super Nationals.
Saturday’s modified main event starts 33 cars. The winner earns $2,000 plus another $100 for each of as many as 50 sanctioned starts during the 2013 season, resulting in a potential $7,000 payday.
Stock car, sport mod and hobby stock mains all start 30 cars.
Racing begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The first race on Saturday is also at 3 p.m. followed by the feature races starting at 6 p.m. The main event races begin at 8 p.m. with hobby stock, sport mod, stock car, and modified divisions.
Grandstand tickets for Wednesday and Thursday are $15 each. Friday’s grandstand admission is $20 and for Saturday’s finals admission to the grandstand is $25. Pit passes are $25 on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and $30 on Saturday.