Race track rebuilt to honor military heroes

Mike Evock and his longtime partner in the military were standing around his race car one night, drinking a cold beer, discussing how to raise money for veterans when his partner suggested he use his race car to raise proceeds to be channeled into a 501(c).

His partner, Mike Donatelli, never got the chance to see his vision play out.

Donatelli, originally from Indiana, died in a pre-dawn helicopter crash during the filming of a reality TV show in California.

While the Racing for Heroes Speedway in Clinton County may have never come to fruition while Donatelli was living, Evock said his fingerprints are all over the track.

“It was more or less that with race cars, we were gonna help out veterans,” Evock said. “I figured this race track is more of an opportunity to raise money than with a race car, that’s for sure.”

Evock and Donatelli spent about 20 years together in special operations, and Evock said his military days left him about 90 percent disabled with broken bones and neck injuries. Since retiring from the military together, Evock and Donatelli made it their mission to assist veterans with little things that Evock said can be forgotten about, such as wheelchairs or ramps.

One of those helping spearhead the efforts at the Racing for Heroes Speedway is James Greer, who retired from the Army in 2008 after 13 years of service. Although he lives in Missouri – his wife is still in active duty – Greer said he plans to travel to the Clinton County track frequently this summer to offer a hand.

“A lot of these guys get forgotten by the system and the government,” Greer said. “What we’re trying to do is bring something back and help these guys out. We’re not trying for one specific goal of raising so much money to donate to one specific cause; we want to do specific things to help specific people.”

That objective began in earnest toward the end of 2013 when Evock and his team signed a five-year lease, and one of the first tasks the group took on is enlarging the track to a three-eighths model. Most of a bankment was knocked out instead of the high banking track under previous sponsors.

It resulted in a lot of hours for Evock, who put in three consecutive 16-hours days before finishing with a 12-hour day to raise a back wall. He also estimated he has spent about $20,000 in diesel fuel alone just to move dirt.

Evock is “slowly pecking away” at other tweaks like adding walls and redoing the bleachers at the track, which opened its season last week. He plans to donate 100 percent of the track’s proceeds to veterans.

“Hopefully we can get this track going and do what Mike and I set forth to begin,” Evock said. “I want it to be successful.”