News & Media


Spotlight: Fans, drivers voice approval of Iowa Speedway

August 03, 2011, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

At a time when many race tracks are battling dwindling crowds and degrees of disinterest, Iowa Speedway is making plans to host a sold-out crowd for Saturday's Nationwide Series race -- its second of the season.

Fans have already voiced their approval of the three-year-old venue, and to the delight of the track's new majority owner, Iowa businessman Conrad Clement, his facility is almost unanimously praised by NASCAR's competitors as well.

"We really felt Iowa Speedway would be hugely successful or else we never would have built it."

--RUSTY WALLACE

"Everybody likes to come here, and everybody likes to race here," Clement said. "We're really excited about this [project]. They did it right when they put it together, Rusty [Wallace] designed the race track and the race track speaks for itself -- the competitors love it, the car owners like it and the fan base up here is just phenomenal."

Clement's comments reflect what minority owner Wallace had hoped when the track was conceived.

"Iowa Speedway has been on a growth [curve] a lot more than I ever envisioned," Wallace said. "As we built it, we knew NASCAR had given us no guarantees whatsoever about any NASCAR race dates, because NASCAR just doesn't award races, you have to build the track and prove you can put on events at a certain level."

And Iowa has consistently done that.

"I'll never forget when we got our first K&N [Pro Series] race -- an actual NASCAR race," Wallace said. "We kept trying and then we got a [2009] Nationwide race. And really, that was all we'd ever hoped for. I don't think we ever thought we'd have two Nationwide races, a Truck race, a K&N race, ASA races and an Indy car race.

"Right now, the Iowa Speedway has got every race except a [Sprint Cup] race, and we've been filling the grandstands every race -- we've been sold-out every race this year except the truck race, and we were within 1,000 and some change of selling it out. It's been a huge success and it exceeded our expectations like crazy."

The initial proof came in the fans' immediate response.

"We really felt Iowa Speedway would be hugely successful or else we never would have built it," Wallace said. "The reason we felt it would be successful is it's right on Interstate 80, 25 minutes from Des Moines with a regional airport that we walk to, right behind it."

Much in the same way fans took to Watkins Glen in New York, Iowa race fans are showing a similar affection for their track.

"A lot of people don't realize it, but there are more race tracks, per capita, in Iowa than in any other state in the Union," Clement said. "[Iowa Speedway] is the only professional sports entity in the state of Iowa, and there are a lot of people here -- three to three-and-a-half million people -- and a lot of good race fans."

And it hasn't been lost on the competitors, either.

At the track


Dubbed a "Rusty Wallace Signature Series Track," Iowa Speedway is a seven-eighths-mile tri-oval located in Newton, Iowa, about 30 miles east of Des Moines.

"The one thing that's really fun about Iowa is that it was built in a place where a lot of people told them it wouldn't work," Justin Allgaier said. "And the fans have come out and showed them that it's absolutely not the case. I don't think I've ever been to a race at Iowa Speedway that, No. 1, hasn't had good action, but No. 2, that the fans haven't been out in full force and really rallied around the race track.

"It's fan-friendly and it's fun to race on, because the surface is good and it was laid out well. There are so many good things to it, and the other part is, we don't have too many new facilities that we get to go to -- and when I say new, I mean brand new -- it was only a year old. That makes it fun for all of us along with how well it was built."

You don't even have to be a native of the Midwest to recognize the track's immediate legacy -- especially if you were a key player in forming it. Brad Keselowski, who won the inaugural 2009 Nationwide race in a memorable duel with Kyle Busch, has strong feelings for the track.

"I think it was a defining moment for me," Keselowski said. "It was a heads-up, legit win against one of the best, at a key time in my career for me."

Iowa's very nature makes such an event inevitable, Keselowski said.

"The fans really like that place, because it's not too big and it's not too small," Keselowski said. "You look at a big track, and the field gets too spread out and you look at a small track and there's a lot of beating and banging and wrecking. Iowa's just the right size to race really hard, without wrecking. And it's got multiple grooves, so it's a great race track."

"You've got a little bit of variable banking, which is always good," Allgaier said. "The way it's laid out -- I correlate California and Iowa together, with the driving style and the way that you turn the car, the way that you miss the bump in Turns 1 and 2.

"Of course [California] is more than twice as big, but you can run the top, the middle or the bottom -- and that's the type of stuff that we look for. Anywhere that you can run multiple grooves -- because I'm not the type of guy that can run one lane, I'm always searching [for a faster one] and any time you've got the ability to do that it makes it a blast."

The track's dynamics impress the men responsible for creating the chassis settings that have enabled Carl Edwards to win at Iowa -- and Wallace's race teams to contend.

"It's got the characteristics of Richmond, it's good and wide and you can pass," crew chief Mike Beam said. "I really like Turn 2 [at Iowa] because it widens out and you can get a good run off there, where at Richmond it kinda cuts you off."

It leads to the obvious conjecture: What's next for Iowa? Clement, who as the head of the Featherlite Manufacturing company that supplies both motor coaches and race car haulers to the NASCAR community enabled that company's intricate involvement with NASCAR, detailed the track's impact.

"I saw the figures one time [and] the track's economic impact was $45- or $50-million a year -- and that was before we got the second Nationwide race this year," Clement said. "So it would have to be $65- or $70-million, I reckon. And that's a lot of money for a state like Iowa."

Its success indicates a Sprint Cup race could be in the offing, if only an opening on NASCAR's crowded schedule existed.

"Obviously [getting a Sprint Cup race] is our long-term goal," Clement said. "We've talked to NASCAR about it and of course, NASCAR says the schedule is full and the date has to come from someplace else --- and we understand that.

"But we have a good relationship with everybody at NASCAR and have had for 20 years. When the timing is right and there's a place to fit one in, we're going to be ready for one, that's for sure. In the meantime, we're going to keep doing what we're doing."

Clement confirmed the second Nationwide race, which includes an American Speed Association late model race Friday night was a sellout and that the track had added 10,000 temporary grandstands. Clement said the last of those new seats would be sold by mid-week.

"It's cool having all your peers, the competitors saying how much they like the track -- hearing them say 'they need to do it like they do at Iowa Speedway' -- really means a lot to me," Rusty Wallace said. "There's a buzz here, an excitement that's electric and a real festive atmosphere."