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Dedication, stamina hallmarks of local DeFrance Racing team

Marshalltown team marks 500th consecutive start Saturday

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Darrell DeFrance’s race car is shown recently.

Local stock car racers talk about Darrell DeFrance’s perseverance and stamina as DeFrance and crew start for the 500th consecutive time Saturday night in the Deery Brothers Series in West Burlington.

Denny Grabenbauer of Marshalltown raced at Marshalltown Speedway a number of years ago but he could not completely give it up — he went behind the microphone as track announcer.

Grabenbauer said over the years there has been no give up in DeFrance and team.

“How many times has Darrell been hurt?” Grabenbauer said. “How many times has he not felt good? How many cars has he wrecked? How many flat tires or breakdowns on the way to a race?”

Grabenbauer said DeFrance’s streak is one for the ages.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Darrell DeFrance, eighth from left, is pictured with family and friends in Hamilton County Raceway’s (HCR) Victory Lane. HCR is in Webster City.

“Just the stamina that DeFrance, his family and race team have had to make all of those events all over Iowa and Minnesota,” Grabenbauer said. “To keep that going took a lot of people to make it possible. The crew, the family, the sponsors.”

DeFrance is nearing the end of his 33rd season in the series at West Burlington’s 34 Raceway, a track where he estimates he has raced more than 50 times.

The veteran racer said while the 2019 season will end in late October he does not see an end to his racing anytime soon.

“I am not stopping,” he said. “I have not thought about it.”

Former race car driver, local businessman and DeFrance Racing sponsor Dave Hesmer of Action Auto said DeFrance was born into a race car family – his father and uncle raced too.

DeFrance started racing at age 16.

He is 59 now, with 43 years of experience on dirt ovals in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.

“I think another 43 years would be pretty good,” he said.

In candor, he thought the end might come if and when racing “is no longer fun or if he doesn’t feel he’s competitive.”

Hesmer said DeFrance and team are models of consistency.

“What an accomplishment,” Hesmer said. “His streak started in the 80s (1986) and here we are almost 2020. Dedication, perseverance, I can not imagine how many events that he and crew would have driven too that were “rained-out.”

Hesmer said no other racer has a streak like DeFrance.

“All I can say is ‘congratulations,’ Hesmer said. “It is not a championship, it is not getting the checkered flag first, but nonetheless a major achievement.”

DeFrance said he is not “a numbers guy” and come Saturday night, he will get into his car and take care of business.

“The streak does not mean so much to me at this point,” he said. “I am trying to win every race now. But once it sinks in, it will mean more to me then.”

DeFrance thanked his wife, children and pit crew for support.

“It’s a strain on the family but my wife and kids supported me all the way,” he said. “They have been a big part of it all with me.”