Maguire DeJong of Team DeJong Racing took his Sportmod number 30M green and black car to victory lane at the Southern Iowa Speedway half mile track in Oskaloosa last month.
It was the 15-year-old’s first win in the IMCA Sport Modified class.
“I was able to make a tough pass of a veteran driver to take the lead and stretch it out for the win,” said Maguire, the son of Matt and Marinda DeJong of Montezuma.
“It was a fun celebration with friends, family and sponsors present,” said Matt, who helps keep the racing family on the road and on track. “Zack Vanderbeek built us a rocket of a car, but more importantly, he was there to coach Maguire to the win.”
“From what I was told, the entire crowd erupted in cheers when I took the lead, making it a fun experience for all my fans, friends and Montezuma supporters who came to watch,” added Maguire.
“He drove a great race and made it look like he’d been doing it for years,” said Vanderbeek. “This was only race 19 of his (Sportmod) career. I’d say he’s ahead of the curve and this is his first of many. It’s only just begun.”
Maguire was only 5 when he started racing go karts in Newton. He was following in the footsteps of his brother, Michael, who is two years older and was already racing karts at the time. His dad, Matt, also raced go karts, starting at age 11 and continuing until age 19. He then went on to race SCCA (Sports Car Club Association) cars at road courses throughout the Midwest and in Oklahoma, Kansas and California before settling down to start a family.
As Maguire gained more experience kart racing, the DeJong Racing team branched out and started racing at other tracks around the Midwest. Maguire has raced karts in 10 different states including trips as far away as the Carolinas and Delaware, where Matt and family drove non-stop through the night to open the door for Maguire to race and win the North East National Championship at a track he had never been to before.
“We have accumulated more than 20 championships and won 212 features during the past 10 years,” he said of kart racing.
One of Maguire’s biggest wins came a few years ago at the SEMO (Southeast Missouri) Raceway in Sikeston, Mo.
“We were just hoping to make it in the top 10 as we were racing the best in the country,” said Maguire.
After the dirt had settled, Maguire took home four wins and more than $12,000 in cash purse winnings that weekend.
“I still have those trophy checks hanging on the race shop wall,” Maguire said.
Maguire is known to be the most successful Midwest junior kart racer and has set the bar for the number of championships won and purse money collected.
“I don’t look at it that way as I just like to race, be competitive and hang out with my racing friends,” he said.
Maguire wrapped up his go kart career last year, racing Outlaw Karts and flat karts. He then switched gears to the bigger IMCA (International Motor Contest Association) Sport Modified (Sportmod) class, racing at four venues in the early going.
“I was playing football at Montezuma, so I was only able to get four nights in before the season came to an end,” said Maguire.
Since last fall, Maguire has had 21 total race starts in the Sportmod class where he has qualified into all but one A Main race. His big win came on Wednesday, June 24 in Oskaloosa.
Maguire’s race car was built by professional racer and car builder, Zack Vanderbeek, owner of VanderBuilt Race Cars of New Sharon and fabricator J.D. Gresham.
“The IMCA car has a sealed crate motor that can’t be modified or worked on (hence the word sealed),” said Maguire.
The General Motors V8 engine produces 350 horsepower.
The number 30M car is built with an aftermarket Chevrolet Chevelle frame in the front to hold the engine with the rear area constructed of tubular steel. The body of the race car is covered with sheet metal. The car features a number of safety equipment options including a roll cage and five point safety harness to keep Maguire safe behind the wheel.
The DeJongs are in the process of building another car with plans to race at USRA (United States Racing Association) events. Unlike the IMCA car, this car has an open motor and quick change rear end.
Maguire said racing is a family affair for the DeJongs. Matt typically does most of the maintenance on the car and tire work (mounting, siping, grinding, sizing, etc.), but Maguire is taking on more responsibility and learning the ropes from his dad.
His sister, Elizabeth, and friends are in charge of cleaning mud off the car after each race, waxing the car, and his mom provides food, supplies and moral support on race day. Grandparents and other family members often attend Maguire’s races.
It’s not uncommon to find other racers in the DeJong race pit. They often stop by to catch up, offer advice after a race or give a word of encouragement.
In the Sport Modified class, Maguire said he doesn’t make pit stops to fix sheet metal or change a tire during a race.
“My dad says if we have to do that, it’s just not our day, and to pull in and regroup for the next race,” he said.
Just in case the need arises, Maguire said there is a spare engine, transmission and lots of spare parts in the race trailer.
“Luckily, we have not had to change one yet,” he said of an engine or transmission. “However, when we start traveling more, we need to have those spares should that change need to happen.”
As for future races in 2020, Maguire said COVID-19 has put a bump in the road this season with tracks opening up as of recent, but he is trying to race two or three times a week at local tracks and at those across the state. A lot depends on his school schedule, family events and Matt’s work at DeJong Manufacturing.
“I don’t have a driver’s license yet, so I kind of need my dad to take me,” he laughed. “With Oskaloosa being so close to home, we try to hit the Southern Iowa Speedway track every week possible during the season.”
When asked about his future in racing, Maguire said his parents are adamant that his education comes first and for now, racing is just a hobby and not a career. He added that his hope is to continue racing while in college.
At the end of the day when the last race has finished, Maguire said he enjoys hanging out with family and friends and loves competing with the other drivers who enjoy the sport as much as he does.
“My dad says I am a natural and machine behind the wheel, but I just look at it as being lucky to have the God-given talent, opportunity and support network.”