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Postby latemodel97 » Sat Dec 26, 2009 4:46 am


♦More than 200 feature race wins

♦Eight track and series championships

♦Michigan Racing Hall of Fame member

♦Avilla Speedway Hall of Fame member

♦HARF Sportsmanship Award, 1989

♦HARF Pat O'Connor Award, 1993

♦Set world-wide 1/2 -mile lap record of 13.9 seconds at Winchester Speedway in 2000


With a racing career started back in 1959 and still going strong 50 years later, Henry Hurryin' Hank Lower has plenty of wonderful memories. "I've only run one USAC race, back in 1989, but it's the kind of race that sticks with you – I fortunately won that race and figured I’d stop running USAC while on top!" Fact is, Hank would have enjoyed running more USAC races, but destiny had other plans including eight track and professional series championships throughout Michigan and Indiana.

Even though Hurryin' Hank has won over 200 feature races in competitions encompassing 62 racetracks across America and Canada, spending time with the 71-year old (Hank was born May 9th, 1938) in 2009 reveals it’s the "next race" that means the most to Lower. The opportunity, as he puts it, "to get out there and run fast – that's why I enjoy the high bank tracks like Salem Speedway so much – I love the speed." That’s just one of six tracks in Indiana where Hank has owned the final checkered flag of the night, along with thirteen different tracks in Michigan, five in Ohio, as well as multiple feature wins in Wisconsin, Florida, Illinois and Iowa. He's also enjoyed racing some winter months in South Africa from where he brought home a few special trophies. In total he's won features at 29 different racetracks and held the one-lap track record of 13.9 seconds for four years (set in year 2000 at age 62) at the world famous Winchester Speedway.

Hank's career started out at Quincy, Michigan's Butler Speedway in 1959 driving a four-door Kaiser with a Continental six-cylinder engine. Not a lot of races were won early on, but then he met two men who would greatly-influence his racing career. Car owner, Mark Rader, taught him, "Always set-up your own car – then you can really understand and appreciate the end result." And veteran Butler Speedway driver, Larry Zimmerman, shared great advice. "Run the last lap at least as fast as the first lap, Hank," Lower remembers fondly. It's been his mantra ever since.

After several training seasons, in 1965 on the dirt track in Avilla, Indiana, Lower put it all together and won his first feature. "I was running a 292 C.I. Chevy six-cylinder in a Ford Model A Coupe – that was a pretty sweet little race car – I just had to figure out how to drive it!" He had it figured out, alright, and winning became the "norm" for Hurryin' Hank. In 1978, Lower switched to Winged Sprint Cars and began to dominate the region's dirt track sprint car racing for many years. "I guess 1986 would have to be one of my best years – we won 15 out of 31 features that year. That's my best – so far…"

Hank won Butler Speedway championships in 1977, 1978 (his first year in a sprint car) and 1979. Track announcer, Gary Lindahl, came up with the Hurryin' Hank nickname. "Steve Kinser was nicknamed 'Hurryin' Hoosier,' so he couldn't use that one," remembers Lower with a twinkle in his eye. The early 1980s found Lower joining the professional Sprints-On-Dirt (SOD) race series. It didn't take him long to dominate there, as well, winning championships in 1982, 1983, 1986 and 1994. Lower currently competes in the Hoosier Outlaw Sprint Series (HOSS) where he won the championship in 1997 and recently finished 2nd in 2005 and 2007.

Lower is certainly a veteran driver – 50 years behind the wheel – but he's nowhere close to "over-the-hill." May 20th, 2009 found Hank winning a televised combined HOSS/AVSS feature event at the famed Anderson, Indiana Speedway. He loves racing against professionals half his age. "The competition is amazing – winning against these drivers is a proud accomplishment for me," Hank enthusiastically shared from Anderson's Victory Circle.

Lower builds, sets-up and maintains his own race cars with the help of several dedicated crewmen including his son, Jeff. His bride for over 54 years is wife, Beverly, and the Lowers also have a daughter, Krista, as well as many grandchildren. Now retired, Hank previously worked as a professional millwright and factory equipment fabricator, assisting in outfitting several of the area's largest manufacturing facilities including the General Motors Chevrolet/GMC pickup factory in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Hank and Bev have made Angola, Indiana their lifetime residence, but racing has taken them to every corner of the United States and overseas. "It's been an incredible journey, and I have absolutely no regrets," adds the seasoned veteran. "Well – maybe just one – I wouldn't turn anyone down if they let me get in one of those Indy Cars and run around Indianapolis at 200mph!" That opportunity has never come to fruition, but no one can argue Hurryin' Hank hasn't made the most of every opportunity he has been afforded.

A member of several track and state racing Hall-of-Fames, perhaps Hank's most important contribution to racing is the respect he always shows his fellow competitors. Hoosier Auto Racing Fans (HARF) have awarded Hank with many honors, but a very special one is the Pat O'Connor Award (won in 1993) given to the driver who shows great cooperation and attitude toward fellow competitors. Tony Swanson, HOSS series owner: "I have huge respect and admiration for Hank. Not only does he consistently run at the top of our series, he is always willing to help out other racers. He's a legend in our sport."

Asked about retirement: "Well, I've got my health, I still see really well, sponsorships are running a bit low but fan support remains very high, my crew is dedicated and I'm still at the top of my game – would you retire?"

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Postby LMFAN » Sat Dec 26, 2009 12:54 pm

Very good article. I'm glad to see he still loves racing and doesn't want to retire yet.
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