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Trump’s Rushmore trip draws real and figurative fireworks

By STEPHEN GROVES

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — President Donald Trump will begin his Independence Day weekend on Friday with a patriotic display of fireworks at Mount Rushmore, an event expected to draw thousands where masks and social distancing aren’t required as coronavirus cases spike across the country.

Trump is expected to speak at the event, which has issued 7,500 tickets to watch fireworks that he says will be a “display like few people have seen.”

The president will likely enjoy a show of support, with the state Republican Party selling T-shirts that feature Trump on the memorial alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. But concern about the coronavirus risk and wildfire danger from the fireworks, along with protests from Native American groups, will also greet the president.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, a Trump ally, has said social distancing won’t be required during the event and masks will be optional. Event organizers will provide masks to anyone who wants them and plan to screen attendees for symptoms of COVID-19.

The Republican mayor of the largest city near the monument, Rapid City, said he is watching for a spike in cases after the event, the Rapid City Journal reported.

“We’re going to have thousands of people, shoulder to shoulder at these events — someone in line to see a president and being able to see fireworks at Mount Rushmore — they are probably not likely to disqualify themself because they developed a cough the day of or the day before,” Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender said.

Leaders of several Native American tribes in the region also raised concerns that the event could lead to coronavirus outbreaks among their members, who they say are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because of an underfunded health care system and chronic health conditions.

“The president is putting our tribal members at risk to stage a photo op at one of our most sacred sites,” said Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

Some Native American groups are using Trump’s visit to protest the Mount Rushmore memorial itself, pointing out that the Black Hills were taken from the Lakota people against treaty agreements.

Protests are expected in Keystone, the small town near the monument. Chase Iron Eyes, a spokesman for the Oglala Sioux president, said protesters would like to make their voice heard at the memorial itself, but it’s not clear they’ll be able to get close.

Security is expected to be tight, with the road leading up to Mount Rushmore shut down. The governor’s spokesperson, Maggie Seidel, would not say whether the South Dakota National Guard was being deployed, but said organizers are making sure it is a safe event.

But several people who once oversaw fire danger at the national memorial have said setting off fireworks over the forest is a bad idea that could lead to a large wildfire. Fireworks were called off after 2009 because a mountain pine beetle infestation increased the fire risks.

Noem pushed to get the fireworks resumed soon after she was elected, and enlisted Trump’s help. The president brushed aside fire concerns earlier this year, saying, “What can burn? It’s stone.”

The National Park Service studied the potential effect of the fireworks for this year and found they would be safe, though it noted that in a dry year, a large fire was a risk. Organizers are monitoring the fire conditions and were to decide Friday if the fireworks are safe.

Trump made no mention of the fire danger in fresh comments Thursday.

“They used to do it many years ago, and for some reason they were unable or unallowed to do it,” he said. “They just weren’t allowed to do it, and I opened it up and we’re going to have a tremendous July 3 and then we’re coming back here, celebrating the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C.”

Trump has presided over a several large-crowd events — in Tulsa, Oklahoma and at an Arizona megachurch — even as health officials warn against large gatherings and recommend face masks and social distancing. He plans a July Fourth celebration on the National Mall despite health concerns from D.C.’s mayor. Trump and first lady Melania Trump plan to host events from the White House south lawn and from the Ellipse.

July Fourth weekend will test Americans’ discipline

By JOHN SEEWER

AP – The U.S. headed into the Fourth of July weekend with many parades and fireworks displays canceled, beaches and bars closed, and health authorities warning that this will be a crucial test of Americans’ self-control that could determine the trajectory of the surging coronavirus outbreak.

With confirmed cases climbing in 40 states, governors have ordered the wearing of masks in public, and families were urged to celebrate their independence at home. Even then, they were told to keep their backyard cookouts small.

Health experts agree this will be a pivotal moment in determining whether the nation slides into a deeper mess. The fear is that a weekend of crowded pool parties, picnics and parades will fuel the surge.

“We’re not going to be arresting people for having gatherings, but we’re certainly going to discourage it,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health director for Seattle and King County.

Those who decide they must gather with a small group of family members need to be careful, he said: “Don’t share utensils, don’t share objects, don’t pass them back and forth, because you’re passing that virus around as well.”

The warnings were sounded after a Memorial Day weekend that saw many people emerge from stay-at-home orders to go to the beach, restaurants and family gatherings. Since then, confirmed infections per day in the U.S. have rocketed to an all-time high, more than doubling.

The U.S. set another record on Friday with 52,300 newly reported cases, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Arizona, California, Florida and Texas have been hit especially hard.

Despite it all, there will still be fireworks and community events scattered across the nation, with many taking social distancing into account. In Ohio, Upper Arlington’s July Fourth parade will take a much longer route through its neighborhoods so residents can watch without crowding the streets.

“We’re calling it the front porch parade,” said organizer Sam Porter. “We can’t just not do something.”

Fireworks will be launched from four spots across Albuquerque, New Mexico, so that people can ooh and aah from home instead of gathering in a single place.

President Donald Trump was set to travel to South Dakota on Friday for a fireworks show at Mount Rushmore before returning to the nation’s capital for military flyovers Saturday and a mile-long pyrotechnics display show on the National Mall that his administration promises will be the biggest in recent memory. Up to 300,000 face masks will be given away but not required.

The big party will go on over objections from Washington’s mayor.

“Ask yourself, do you need to be there? Ask yourself, can you anticipate or know who all is going to be around you? If you go downtown, do you know if you’re going to be able to social distance?” Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

Beaches that had been open for the traditional start of summer over Memorial Day weekend will be off-limits in many places this time, including South Florida, Southern California and the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans who do go to the beach to wear face coverings, though not in the water.

Delaware’s governor ordered bars in some beach towns to close ahead of the holiday, saying people were getting complacent about masks and social distancing. The Jersey shore town of Wildwood canceled its fireworks, and the Lake Erie resort village of Put-in-Bay in Ohio did the same after health officials linked a small number of coronavirus cases to bars on the island.

After hearing Michigan’s governor warn about the need to be smart amid an uptick of cases, Mary Halley of Jonesville said her family canceled plans for a weekend outing on Lake Michigan.

“We had some disappointed kids, but we knew as a family we couldn’t do that,” she said.

The problem, she said, is that too many people aren’t listening to the experts. “Even in my small, little town, there are lot of people who didn’t comply with the orders,” she said.

Dr. Don Williamson, head of the Alabama Hospital Association, said he is “really, really worried about the Fourth of July.”

“I think that will likely determine the trend for Alabama for the rest of the summer,” he said.

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Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.

State sees increase in excessive speed on roadways during pandemic

BY 

RADIO IOWA – Several state agencies are getting together to try and put the brakes on some of the drivers in the state who have been taking advantage of reduced traffic on the roadways to push the speed limit.

State Patrol spokesman Sergeant Alex Dinkla says, “The big norm seems to be now since the COVID hit is that motorists feel that it is okay to drive well in excess of the speed limit. And so we want to make sure that we slow motorists down — because our ultimate goal is we want people to get to their destination safely — and to save lives.”

He says this is more than drivers going five or six miles above the limit. “People traveling 25 miles-an-hour or more over the speed limit as well as 100 miles-an-hour or more over the speed limit. Each month since around March, we have seen those numbers just increase,” he says. Dinkla says there may’ve been less traffic on the roadways — but there is still a danger with those high speeds.

“When motorists travel that fast, they are not going to have a good reaction time should a motorist or even a deer pop out in front of them. We’ve seen the number of 100-mile-and-hour or more citations increased to over 100 tickets each month since March of motorists getting ticketed for traveling over the speed limit.

” Dinkla says the drivers thought they were out there alone. “One of the number one reasons we were given from a lot of motorists when they were stopped during the pandemic was — they plain and simple thought law enforcement was not out there actively stopping cars and initiating traffic stops,” according to Dinkla. “Quite the contrary, because our officers, they are not able to work from home. They have to be out enforcing these infractions.”

The Iowa Department of Public Safety, Iowa State Patrol, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, and the Iowa Department of Transportation are collaborating on tactics to help bring awareness to the issue, and encourage personal responsibility in keeping Iowa’s roadways safe in a public awareness campaign. Dinkla says finding our your loved one was involved in a fatal accident is not something you want to hear.

“Those fatality accidents also take a toll on officers and first responders that have to respond to those and see the things that they see,” Dinkla says. He says officers will be on the roadways and looking for drivers who feel the need for excessive speed.
“Not only for the Fourth of July but through the month of July, we are going to be actively out there trying to reduce what people think is the new norm and that they are able to speed,” according to Dinkla. “We want to make sure that we get that message out there. It is not okay to drive well in excess of the speed limit. The speed limit is out there for your safety as well as other motorists’ safety.”

The data shows the most common speeding violators are males between the ages of 14 and 29 years of age. The highest rate of noncompliance with posted speed limits occurred on Saturday afternoons. The Patrol’s data also revealed that 60% of the violators are out-of-state drivers.

Fire Marshal advises you to make safety plans before shooting off fireworks

BY 

RADIO IOWA – Some fireworks outlets reporting increased sales as the number of community Independence Day celebrations and fireworks shows has dropped dramatically with concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

State Fire Marshal Dan Wood says if you decide to buy your own fireworks to celebrate — you need to keep safety in mind. “Try to keep 300 feet away from any buildings, have a fire extinguisher there, or a garden hose,” Wood says. “And just generally be careful when you are lighting them.”

There are all sorts of fireworks available from bottle rockets to complex launching devices that shoot several flaming balls into the sky. Wood says you should make sure you understand what a firework does and how to use it before setting it off.

“Read the directions, if you do light one and it doesn’t go off, let it sit for a while. Stay away from it,” he says. “A lot of the manufacturers’ recommendations are wet it down with water just to make sure it’s not still lit inside after you let it sit for a while.”

Some other tips from the fire marshal: refrain from drinking alcohol before and while discharging fireworks. Keep spectators at least six feet away from lit fireworks. Always supervise children near or handling fireworks. Even simple products like sparklers can be dangerous – burning at up to 2,000 degrees

Local governments set the rules about if and when you can shoot off fireworks.  Wood says you should check your local ordinances before shooting them off to see if they are allowed.

Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell arrested

By JIM MUSTIAN and LARRY NEUMEISTER

AP – Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite who was accused by many women of helping procure underage sex partners for Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested Thursday in New Hampshire, the FBI said.

Maxwell, who lived for years with Epstein and was his frequent travel companion on trips around the world, was taken into custody around 8:30 a.m., said FBI spokesman Marty Feely.

An indictment made public Thursday said Maxwell “assisted, facilitated and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse ” girls under age 18.

Epstein killed himself in a federal detention center in New York last summer while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Maxwell was accused by many women of recruiting them to give Epstein massages, during which they were pressured into sex. Those accusations, until now, never resulted in criminal charges.

The indictment included counts of conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and two counts of perjury.

Messages were sent Thursday to several of Maxwell’s attorneys seeking comment. She has previously repeatedly denied wrongdoing and called some of the claims against her “absolute rubbish.”

Among the most sensational accusations was a claim by one Epstein victim, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, that Maxwell arranged for her to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew at her London townhouse. Giuffre bolstered her allegations with a picture of her, Andrew and Giuffre that she said was taken at the time.

Andrew denied her story.

Maxwell was described in a lawsuit by another Epstein victim, Sarah Ransome, as the “highest-ranking employee” of Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking enterprise. She oversaw and trained recruiters, developed recruiting plans and helped conceal the activity from law enforcement, the lawsuit alleged.

Protesters, police clash outside Iowa Capitol

BY 

RADIO IOWA – Des Moines police and state patrol troopers arrested 17 Black Lives Matter protesters at the Iowa Capitol Wednesday afternoon.

Des Moines Police Sergeant Paul Parizek said officers arrested three activists inside the building on charges related to a June 20th protest at a Des Moines Hy-Vee.

“It was when they tried to walk those prisoners out of the state capitol to the wagon that the crowd swarmed them,” Parizek said.

Parizek said a protester tried to block officers’ path and police moved to arrest that person. A protester told WHO-TV police were the aggressors. Protesters tried to pull their peers away from other officers making arrests.

One protester jumped on an officer’s back. Pepper spray was used during the melee. The state patrol gave a dispersal order and the remaining protesters left.

(By Iowa Public Radio’s Katarina Sostaric)

Anderson Scores First Win Of The Season At Southern Iowa Speedway

By: Jerry Mackey

Oskaloosa, Iowa: Wednesday night it was KIIC Thunder Country Night at the races as all five classes were in action on the Great ½ mile on the Mahaska County Fairgrounds in Oskaloosa.

The headliner of the night was the 16 lap Oskaloosa Quality Rental Sportmod main event. Logan Anderson shot into the lead by overtaking early leader Tim Plummer. Anderson was leading while Plummer and Curtis VanDerwal were locked in a battle for second. VanDerwal secured second and set his sights on Anderson, VanDerwal closed in on Anderson and challenged late in the race but Anderson drove a perfect race in scoring his first SIS win of he year. VanDerwal crossed the finish line just ahead of Plummer.

Derrick Agee has dominated the MidState Machine Stock Car class recently, Wednesday night saw Agee score his third consecutive win. Agee overtook early leader Jason McDaniel and held off a fast closing Cayden Carter late in the race to score the win. The three consecutive wins for Agee has brought a Bounty on the Moberly, Missouri driver. An additional $100 will be up for grabs for anyone who can beat Agee with the 14 of Agee in competition on July 8th.

The Parker Tree Service Hobby Stocks provided the fans with the closest finish of the night. Brad Stephens scored his second win of the season but it was anything but easy for Stephens. Hobby Stock ace Dustin Griffiths fought through the pack from a 4th row start and pressured Stephens late in the race. Sephens got to the checkers ½ a car length ahead of Griffiths in the 14 lap feature.

Tyler Harring added his name to the list of winners for the 2020 season at SIS on Wednesday night. Harring topped the Dirt N Asphalt Sport Compacts by nipping Billy Cain at the checkers.

Jonathan Hughes continued his mastery of the SIS monster ½ mile in the Rocking It Pilot Sprint Cars. Hughes has yet to be beaten in 2020 and his overall win streak is at 9 feature wins. The Bounty on Hughes continues to grow and will be $250 on Wednesday, July 8th.

Wyfells Hybrids will be hosting kids night on July 8th at the Southern Iowa Speedway, kids 15 and under will be admitted free and we are intending on giving away a few more bicycles. Hot laps will get underway at 7:15 pm with racing to follow.

Southern Iowa Speedway Oskaloosa, Iowa July 1 Feature Results (top 5)

Oskaloosa Quality Rentals Sportmods

  1. 53 Logan Anderson-Eddyville
  2. 1V Curtis VanDerwal-Oskaloosa
  3. 66 Tim Plummer-Norway
  4. 01C Brayton Caarter-Oskaloosa
  5. 30M Maguire Dejong—Montezuma

Midstate Machine Stock Cars

  1. 14 Derrick Agee-Moberly, MO
  2. 10CC Cayden Carter-Oskaloosa
  3. 22R Todd Reitzler-Grinnell
  4. 85 Jason McDaniel-Eldon
  5. 409 Howard Gordon Jr. -Oskaloosa

Parker Tree Service Hobby Stocks

  1. 55 Brad Stephens-Bussey
  2. 10G Dustin Griffiths-Hedrick
  3. 1R Rick VanDusseldorp-Oskaloosa
  4. 14 Christian Huffman-New Sharon
  5. 35 Blake Henry-Indianola

Dirt N Asphalt Sport Compacts

  1. 5 Tyler Harring-Oskaloosa
  2. 52 Billy Cain-Bloomfield
  3. 00 Seth Meinders-Ottumwa
  4. 29 Kevin Garrett-Bloomfield
  5. 15 Austin Barnes-Des Moines

Rockin It Pilot Sprint Cars

  1. 67 Jonathan Hughes-Knoxville
  2. 12 Doug Sylvester-Ottumwa
  3. 25 Kelly Graham-Hedrick
  4. G2 Tyler Graves-Chariton
  5. 7X Lance Silvers-Ottumwa 

Oskaloosa & Ottumwa prepare for July 4 fireworks

What’s a Fourth of July celebration without fireworks?  There will be fireworks in Oskaloosa Saturday night (7/4) at Statesmen Community Stadium starting at 10pm.  Deann DeGroot, executive director of the Mahaska Chamber, tells the No Coast Network that the coronavirus will affect the fireworks.

“The stadium will not be open to seating due to COVID-19.  But feel free to bring your blanket and lawn chair.  You can sit out on the grassy area and park around the stadium area to see the fireworks.”

DeGroot says if it rains on Saturday, the fireworks display will be on Sunday, July 5 at 10pm.

Ottumwa will also have a fireworks display on Independence Day Saturday night shortly after 9:30 at Ottumwa Park.  On the evening of the display, traffic on the Wapello Street Extension will be restricted to right turns only coming in and out of Ottumwa Park.  Left turns crossing the median will not be allowed.

Hollowed out public health system faces more cuts amid virus

By LAUREN WEBER, LAURA UNGAR, MICHELLE R. SMITH, HANNAH RECHT and ANNA MARIA BARRY-JESTER

AP – The U.S. public health system has been starved for decades and lacks the resources necessary to confront the worst health crisis in a century.

Marshaled against a pandemic that has sickened at least 2.6 million in the U.S., killed more than 126,000 people and cost tens of millions of jobs and $3 trillion in federal rescue money, state and local government health workers are sometimes paid so little, they qualify for public aid. They track the coronavirus on records shared via fax. Working seven-day weeks for months, they fear pay freezes, public backlash and even losing their jobs.

Since 2010, spending for state public health departments has dropped by 16% per capita and spending for local health departments has fallen by 18%, according to a KHN and Associated Press analysis. At least 38,000 state and local public health jobs have disappeared since the 2008 recession, leaving a skeletal workforce in some places.

KHN, also known as Kaiser Health News, and AP interviewed more than 150 public health workers, policymakers and experts, analyzed spending records from hundreds of state and local health departments, and surveyed statehouses. On every level, the investigation found, the system is underfunded and under threat.

Over time, state and local health departments received so little support that they found themselves without direction, ignored, even vilified.

With the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, states, cities and counties have begun laying off and furloughing staff, even as states reopen and cases surge.

“We don’t say to the fire department, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. There were no fires last year, so we’re going to take 30% of your budget away.’ That would be crazy, right?” said Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino, the health officer in Shawnee County, Kansas. “But we do that with public health, day in and day out.”

Ohio’s Toledo-Lucas County Health Department spent just $40 per person in 2017. When the coronavirus struck, it was so short-staffed that environmental health supervisor Jennifer Gottschalk’s duties included overseeing campground and pool inspections, rodent control and supervising outbreak preparedness.

When Gottschalk, 42, and five colleagues fell ill with COVID-19, she found herself fielding work calls from her hospital bed. “You have to do what you have to do to get the job done,” she said.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans live in counties that spend more than twice as much on policing as nonhospital health care, which includes public health.

The undervaluing of public health belies its multidimensional role. Distinct from the medical care system geared toward individuals, the public health system focuses on the health of communities at large. Agencies are legally bound to provide a broad range of essential services.

“Public health loves to say: When we do our job, nothing happens. But that’s not really a great badge,” said Scott Becker, chief executive officer of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. “We test 97% of America’s babies for metabolic or other disorders. We do the water testing. You like to swim in the lake and you don’t like poop in there? Think of us.”

But the public doesn’t see the disasters they thwart. And it’s easy to neglect the invisible.

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A HISTORY OF DEPRIVATION

The federal government’s occasional promises to support local public health efforts were ephemeral.

For example, the Affordable Care Act established the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was supposed to reach $2 billion annually by 2015. But the Obama administration and Congress raided it for other priorities, and now the Trump administration is pushing to repeal the ACA, which would eliminate it.

If it had remained untouched, an additional $12.4 billion would eventually have flowed to local and state health departments, strengthening them for today’s pandemic.

Local and state leaders also failed to prioritize public health. In North Carolina, for example, Wake County’s public health workforce dropped from 882 in 2007 to 614 a decade later, even as the population grew by 30%.

Years of financial cuts left this predominantly female workforce stretched thin. More than a fifth of public health workers in local or regional departments outside big cities earned $35,000 or less a year in 2017, according to research by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the de Beaumont Foundation. Nearly half of public health workers planned to retire or leave their organizations in the next five years, with poor pay topping the list of reasons.

Two years ago, Julia Crittendon, now 46, took a job with Kentucky’s state health department. She spent her days gathering information about people’s sexual partners to fight the spread of HIV and syphilis. She earned so little she qualified for Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for America’s poorest. Seeing no opportunity to advance, she left.

Since the pandemic began, state and local public health leaders have been leaving in droves. At least 34 announced their resignation, retired or got fired in 17 states since April, a KHN/AP review found.

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FROM BAD TO WORSE

Scott Lockard, public health director for the Kentucky River District Health Department in Appalachia, is fighting the virus with 3G cell service, paper records and one-third of the employees the department had 20 years ago.

In rural Missouri, Melanie Hutton, administrator for the Cooper County Public Health Center, said her state gave $18,000 to the local ambulance department to fight COVID and provided masks to the fire and police departments.

“For us, not a nickel, not a face mask,” she said. “We got (5) gallons of homemade hand sanitizer made by the prisoners.

Since the pandemic began, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials said, the federal government has allocated more than $13 billion for state and local health department activities including contact tracing, infection control and technology upgrades.

But at least 14 states have already cut health department budgets or positions or were actively considering such cuts in June, according to a KHN/AP review.

Reductions threaten to limit crucial programs such as immunization clinics, mosquito control, diabetes and senior nutrition programs. Such cuts can make already-vulnerable communities even more vulnerable, said E. Oscar Alleyne, chief of programs and services at the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

The people who spend their lives working in public health worry they are seeing a familiar pattern — officials neglect this infrastructure and then, when a crisis emerges, they respond with a quick cash infusion. While that temporary money is necessary to fight the pandemic, public health experts say it won’t fix the eroded foundation entrusted with protecting the nation’s health as thousands continue to die.

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Michelle R. Smith is a correspondent for the AP, and Lauren Weber, Hannah Recht, Laura Ungar and Anna Maria Barry-Jester are writers for KHN.

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Contact AP’s global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org.

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This story is a collaboration between The Associated Press and KHN (Kaiser Health News), which is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Kids admitted free Wednesday at Southern Iowa Speedway

Kids under 15 will be admitted free to Wednesday night’s (7/1) races at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa.  Also, driver Jonathan Hughes has donated two bicycles that will be given away Wednesday.  The Southern Iowa Fair Board will be giving away bicycles every race night for the rest of the season.  Hot laps start Wednesday night at 7:15.  KBOE-FM’s live coverage of the Southern Iowa Speedway starts at 6pm with the pre-race show and racing at 7:30.

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