EVELETH — Harry Hanson is back.
After a three-year absence from Northland dirt track racing, Hanson is sliding back into the seat.
Hanson, of Eveleth, is returning to area racing in a brand new WISSOTA late model.
A 2021 Rocket XR1 race car is on its way to Minnesota in which the veteran driver will compete at Hibbing Raceway and other Northland dirt tracks.
“We’ll see if I can handle it,” Hanson, 65, said. “I’m three times as old as some of the kids out there.”
Hanson has for decades been one of the area’s most popular and winning dirt track drivers.
However, Hanson turned to Saturday night UMSS sprint car racing three years ago as the grind of late model racing multiple nights a week began to wear on him.
“The biggest thing with the late model was that it was four nights a week,” Hanson said. “My sprint car racing was one night a week.”
Hanson’s No. 7 Rocket is owned by Pat Kapella of Keewatin.
The car will be equipped with a 525 cubic inch Chevrolet aluminum crate motor from Pace Performance in Boardman, Ohio.
“It’s a pretty reliable motor,” Hanson said. “You can run 60 shows on them before you have to touch them. They’re not like other motors where you have to set the valves on them every night. They might have 50 or 60 horsepower less than a typical steel motor, but we should be alright. If you have one of those nights when it rains (and the track gets tacky), it might be tougher, but most of the time it should be pretty good.”
Kapella and Hanson have been racing partners for years. They also partnered in the non-winged and winged sprint cars Hanson has been racing, primarily at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis.
“I know he will race the sprint cars early in the year,” Kapella said. “But once he starts racing this car, he will never get back in a sprint car.”
For Hanson, it will be his 49th year of dirt track racing.
Over that time, he’s driven several different types of chassis.
“Rocket has always been a good car,” Hanson said. “Pat Doar (also a Rocket driver) is also going to help us with setting up the shocks.”
Hanson is retiring from work this summer. With a daily job in the rear view mirror, Hanson says he plans to alternate racing sprint cars and the late model.
“I guess we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do,” Hanson said. ”We’ll probably race the sprint cars every other weekend and we’ll race the late model on the weekends when we don’t race the sprint cars. When September comes, we’ll race the late model at the specials.”
Kapella is confident Hanson will be competitive.
“He’s wheeled a late model for 45 years and he was good,” Kapella said. “He could drive a wheelbarrow.”
For his part, Hanson hopes he can compete against younger late model racers, some who are the sons of drivers Hanson competed against for years.
“They’ll all be sitting in the stands saying ‘What is he doing?’” Hanson said of his former competitors. “But I look the same with the helmet on — you just don’t see the gray hair.”
Welcome back No. 7.