A little over five years ago, when Iowa Speedway was a fledgling facility just starting out, track designer and former NASCAR driver Rusty was begging for a NASCAR race — any NASCAR race — to come to Newton. Since that time, Iowa Speedway has landed NASCAR’s Camping World series (now K&N Pro Series), an IndyCar race, NASCAR’s truck series and a pair of NASCAR Nationwide dates.
“It’s ahead of what I expected. I thought it was going to be a lot more to get these NASCAR races.” Wallace said. “Man, I never expected ever this much inventory this quick. And now we’ve got a second Nationwide race.”
How many NASCAR races could the Newton facility run? “Five” said Speedway President Jerry Jauron, smiling. That fifth race would be a Sprint Cup race — the pinnacle of NASCAR racing. If the Nationwide series is like AAA baseball then the Sprint Cup would be the major leagues.
Five years ago, landing a cup race was unthinkable. Wallace said he was on his knees begging NASCAR to come to Iowa. With five complete seasons and a host of successful races, Iowa Speedway is primed, Wallace believes, for the a Sprint Cup race.
“We’ve seen great races at other types of tracks, but on a consistent basis you would see a great cup race every single race at this particular track because of its size, because of its banking and because we’ve run five years already and proved to every single ... driver that came here — every driver said ‘I love it,” Wallace said. “If you polled every NASCAR driver right now and said ‘Hey, rumor on the street is NASCAR is thinking of taking a cup race to Iowa,’ they’d go ‘Hell, yeah, baby! Let’s go!’”
Wallace believes the biggest obstacle to landing a Sprint Cup race in Newton is an expansion of the Newton Airport, which needs a longer runway of about 7,000 feet of length to deal with additional corporate air traffic that comes along with NASCAR’s premier series.
“I will tell you, after the race is over, they want to get on their plane and go home,” Wallace said. “Even if they have to land in Newton and come up to Des Moines and stay here if they want some different hotels, they’ll do it. Then they go to the track and when the race is over they go home.”
While Speedway officials can dream of landing a Sprint Cup race some day, the immediate future includes the debut of two Nationwide races in Iowa Speedway’s sixth season. The Nationwide race has been a huge draw in Newton, exceeding 50,000 spectators. But with two such dates, there’s some concern that fans may choose to go to one or the other, rather than both dates. Despite the unknown, Wallace believes Iowa Speedway would have been foolish to turn down the opportunity for a second race.
“We’ve just got to try it out,” Wallace said. “We’ve got so much excitement and demand in the State of Iowa and the surrounding areas and states that it would be foolish for us to say ‘Oh, no we don’t want that.’ Then it would put it where we can’t grow.”
Instead the speedway will push ahead with the additional date and four major race weekends this season and that’s left Wallace more than satisfied with how far the speedway has come in five years.
“I think we’ve got a hell of a product,” he said.
Iowa Speedway’s season kicks off May 21 and 22 with NASCAR K&N Pro Series and the first NASCAR Nationwide Series race.