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Two of a kind

Brothers Ken and Jeff Hooker share a passion for short-track racing

August 13, 2010
Matt Mullally

Rugby veteran racer Ken Hooker says there are no friends on the track even when one of your competitors is your brother.

"I'm out there to win and so is he,' Ken said about his younger brother, Jeff. "We love the sport and the competition."

Jeff agrees.

"It's dog-eat-dog out there,' he said.

Off the track, though, it's a different story.

Jeff says Ken is often there in a pinch to lend a helping hand, and that was the case on the eve of the last race at Rugby's Geographical Center Speedway.

"Here it was 8:30 on Thursday night and I'm over in Rugby with Ken working on my car,' said Jeff, who resides in Minot. "I don't know how many times I've relied on him."

Then again, what's a big brother for?

"Yeah, I guess I have all the experience and brains,' joked Ken, who owns Hook's Repair. "Actually, it's good to get is in our blood."

The age gap between the two is 12 years, but both are considered seasoned drivers.

Ken, 52, began competing in short-track racing in 1988 and Jeff, 40, started in 1995.

The family's interest in racing began a bit earlier, though. "We did a lot of Enduro racing,' Jeff recalls. "From there we moved on."

Another brother, John, 45, also raced for a time and helped Jeff get started.

Ken retired - albeit briefly - before getting back behind the wheel a few years ago. "My grandson, Hudson, would see those trophies and ask me about racing. "I got the itch to compete again,'' Ken said.

The two have raced the past two years in the Midwest 'B' Modifieds' class at GCS.

"I think we competed one other year together in stock cars way back, before we were in different classes,' Ken said.

Racing has certainly changed over the years. The time commitment and expense has gone up. It used to be a driver could get parts at the junk yard, but now it's so different. Parts have become specialized as the different classes require stricter guidelines.

In the those early days the more skilled drivers came out on top. Today, the advancement of cars has created more parity, Ken believes.

Of course experience is still worth a lot. "And I love being on this end of it,' quips Jeff, who manages Minot's Midwest Autoglass.

The escalating expense to race has meant more drivers seeking sponsors. The brothers have been fortunate to get a number of local and area sponsors to back them including, Precision Autobody, i design, Jester's Lounge, Midwest Autoglass.

Racing at the GCS is more than a get together for the brothers, but rather for the entire family. Brothers Chuck and John and other family members and friends come out to support the Hooker racing team. Often they are down near the pits to visit Jeff and Ken.

While the two rely on each other for help getting their cars primed for racing, they do have assistance. Mark Erickson is Ken's pit man on race nights and Mike Coughlin Jr., of Minot, comes over with Jeff.

"Those guys don't get enough credit for the time they put in,' Jeff said.

As long as the two have the drive, they will continue to compete.

"I'm not ready to hang it up just yet,' Ken admits.

"It's still fun to be out here."



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