Sherman and Petrzelka share a strong family bond
Cousins team up this summer to run at Hawkeye Downs
CEDAR RAPIDS — Cousins are often the first friends people make outside of their immediate family.
While Jason Sherman is 14 years older than his cousin Matt Petrzelka, their bond is expected to grow even stronger this summer at Hawkeye Downs Speedway.
That’s because Sherman, a 10-year-old Hobby Stock driver, broke his leg and tore ligaments March 26 in a freak accident while fixing his truck on the side of the road. He was returning from Dirt Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee.
First and foremost, Sherman’s concern is to return to work at General Mills in Cedar Rapids so that he can provide for his family.
Once those details were ironed out and the surgery was set for June 20, Sherman called his brother, Shane, and sister, Keela, to ask if they’d like to drive his car for the season.
“They both have things going on in their lives that they don’t want to engage with,” Sherman said.
The next call was the easiest decision to make.
“Matt is a former track champion,” Sherman said. “When I started racing he was already winning so I have nothing but respect for him.”
Although Petrzelka is the younger cousin, he just turned 29 this month, he got his start going to Jason’s family to work on show cars with his dad and uncles.
After graduating from Benton Community High School in 2009, Petrzelka moved from show derbies to weekly races at Hawkeye Downs. He won three track championships in the Hobby Stock division before buying a Sport Mod and hitting the dirt.
Eventually, Petrzelka wanted to focus on her growing family and a house-turning project with her mother, Virginia, and decided to slow down her run.
In March 2019, a week after Petrzelka and his girlfriend, Kaitlyn Burns, welcomed their daughter 2.5 months prematurely, Petrzelka’s mother and father, Bruce, were killed in a motorcycle accident in Florida.
With all the chaos in her life, Petrzelka needed to extend her break from racing and focus on her family. Now it’s the family calling and asking for help with the race. Petrzelka gladly said yes.
“I was really excited and knew I couldn’t refuse,” Petrzelka said. “We went out and practiced and it was fast.”
So fast in fact, with essentially the same setup that Sherman used a year ago, Petrzelka parked it in Victory Lane on opening night.
Sherman and Petrzelka felt good about the first run and plan to spend the summer working for a track title.
Now that some of the chaos of 2019 has faded and his 3-year-old daughter, Willow, is healthy, Petrzelka has found himself feeling at home on the track again.
“I feel less pressure and I’m more relaxed now that I’m running at Hawkeye Downs,” he said.
“I just want to do my best and get wins and trophies for him. Put a smile on his face.