In the summertime, golf courses, lakes and parks are full of those trying to soak up the sun after yet another long Nebraska winter.
Jordan Graboski is often one of those, but most of the time, he's somewhere else.
"The love I have for the sport and the passion I have to win (is what keeps me racing)," said Graboski, the US 30 Speedway modified and stock car division leader. "I just like to be competitive and have always enjoyed it. My whole family is involved with it now. Brother-in-law and everybody helped me with it and it’s something that we love to do. Some people like to go to the lake and go boating and fishing. I love to do that stuff too, but I’d rather be at the racetrack racing."
Graboski, a Beatrice native, has been racing for nearly 20 years, starting at the age of 11.
During those two decades, he has had plenty of success, winning national championships in 2011, 2016 and 2018. Additionally, Graboski has won multiple state and regional titles.
His introduction to the sport started at tracks in Beatrice and Colorado where he watched his father, Kent, and uncle, Mike Bernhardt, compete on the dirt and the asphalt.
Graboski's played a particularly large role, helping him acquire his first race car.
"My dad used to take me to the races when I was a kid at the Beatrice Speedway," Graboski said. "I grew up and loved it and knew that’s what he always wanted to do. I had an uncle from Colorado that raced. He was influential in my racing career and actually bought my first car. That’s what started it all.
"(My uncle) always raced asphalt cars. Long story short, we talked about what we wanted to race and what we wanted, and he helped me buy my first race car. We were always really close because he raced. Anytime we were in Colorado, we went to the shop and seen his race cars and all that stuff. He was influential in my racing career."
Nowadays, Graboski races an average of three to four days a week, going to U.S. 30 Speedway in Columbus on Thursday, Beatrice on Friday, Thunder Hill in Mayetta, Kansas on Saturday and Lexington every other Sunday.
Graboski said he was hooked on the sport right away when he first began competition. Still, future success was uncertain at best. Had you told him he'd be winning trophies and titles, he likely wouldn't have believed you.
"No, I never thought of it," he said. "I never dreamt of it. We just had a lot of success and worked really hard at it. Just didn’t know it would come to this level. It’s kind of crazy to sit back and think about it, to be honest."
Graboski normally races in the modified division, but this year decided to pull double duty and race in the stock division as well.
"There was a bunch of bigger stock car races across the Midwest," he said. "We just put a stock car together because we wanted to go race some of them. I was driving for a guy last year. Every once in awhile I’d race his stock car. I kind of got it in my blood and I was like, ‘Hey, let’s build one of our own and see what we can do with it.’"
Racing in two divisions on the night is a lot of work, but he said the payoff is worth it when everything goes to plan.
Before the season began, Graboski was eyeing another national title. Several spring rain outs have made that less likely.
"It’s been a lot tougher to race around," he said. "We’ve had to get creative on places we’ve gone because it seems like every other week somewhere is getting rained out. It is tougher. I think in the end here we’ll have a shot. We just have to keep winning races and see how the points layout."
Graboski has driven up to 10 hours to Francis Creek, Wisconsin to get in a race.
Currently, he sits sixth nationally in the modified division, second regionally, second in the state and first at U.S. 30 Speedway.
In the stock car division, he sits second nationally, regionally and in the state and leads the U.S. 30 standings.
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com