- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2016

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) - It’s going to be big year for Daniel Bergquist.

The 29yearold sprint car driver is prepping for his first year as an owner/driver at 34 Raceway, but he’s no stranger to the dirt track.

“I’ve been driving for six years. I’ve just always been driving for someone else,” he told The Hawk Eye (https://bit.ly/1Rzq4JH ).

A Burlington native who lives on the outskirts of town, Bergquist has been competing at 34 Raceway since 2010.

“I was around racing before I was even born,” he said. “Racing has always been in my family.”

Bergquist was floating around 34 Raceway long before he learned to drive. As a boy, he became involved with mud drag racing. When he got a little older, it was time for gokarts.

Sprint cars were an inevitability.

While Bergquist has been driving sprint cars for six years, this season will be his first as an owner. He is shown with his car Wednesday. Bergquist and other 34 Raceway participants will be at Heartland HarleyDavidson today showing off their cars.

“We’ve always done it as a family, and in the later years, I was the one who drove,” Bergquist said.

Despite all the time he spent at the fabled raceway, Bergquist first made a name for himself outside the dirt track. By the time he was 20, Bergquist was winning local acclaim in the relatively new sport of ice racing, where all-terrain vehicles rocket around ice skating rinks. To maintain traction on the frozen water, riders install metal studs in their tires.

Bergquist went on to win several iceracing championships, but the fad started to fade a few years after he started - at least in Iowa.

“Shortly after I won the last championship, they only had three or four races a year, and I was used to running 15 or 20 races,” he said.

Bergquist already was involved with sprint racing by then, and the transition from ice to dirt seemed natural. His, friend, Ryan Jamison, a former ice racer himself, provided Bergquist with a car in 2010, and the results were immediate. Bergquist was the Sprint Invaders Rookie of the Year in 2010.

“Ever since I was 12 or 13 years old, I was a crew guy for Ryan Jamison,” he said. “He was definitely a heavy influence, and still helps me out. He’s still a great friend.”

As a driver and nothing more, Bergquist had the luxury of leaving most of his troubles at the track. As an owner, he’s responsible for regular maintenance and upkeep on a speed machine that could easily crumple in a multicar pileup. He’s racked up three feature wins and several top five finishes at 34 Raceway, but now bears the responsibility of staying near the top without wrecking often.

“It’s just a matter of getting done what you need to get done, and we get a ton of help from our sponsors,” he said.

Even then, Bergquist must pay several thousand dollars out of pocket to keep his No. 9 car in good racing shape - while working 50 to 60 hours a week at Modern Welding Co. of Iowa.

“Obviously, this (racing) is a hobby, and all of us that race at 34 work fulltime jobs,” Bergquist said. “Finding time in the evening to get your equipment ready can be hard.”

If he crashes, Bergquist’s workload increases exponentially. He’s not just spending three or four nights of the week working on his car then. He’s spending every night out there, as well as the entire Saturday before the night’s race.

“It’s racing,” he said. “It has its ups and downs.”

Whether it’s NASCAR, Indy Car or dirt track racing, everyone crashes, eventually. The key is to crash less than everybody else, while pushing possible accidents from the forefront of the mind. For regular racers, it’s as much instinct as concentration.

“I’ve had a couple of good crashes. It’s part of sprint car racing,” he said. “I’ve never been seriously injured.”

As with most things racing, the real cost of an accident is the impact on Bergquist’s wallet.

Profit isn’t a consideration. Cars bleed money, and it’s up to each driver to determine how much it affects their ability to do what they love.

“I’m going to go broke as long as I can justify my hobby,” Bergquist said with a laugh.

Bergquist’s first race of the season will be April 16 at 34 Raceway, though the race season at the track starts April 2.

___

Information from: The Hawk Eye, https://www.thehawkeye.com

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