DES MOINES — When NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Justin Allgaier and defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion James Buescher return to Iowa later this summer for their respective races at Iowa Speedway, they will have already had some laps under their belts.
However, those laps weren't exactly in racecars.
Allgaier and Buescher were on hand at Gray's Lake in Des Moines on Monday to promote the upcoming Iowa Speedway season, which begins racing action on June 7. To do that, they participated in a relay race that first featured them burning some rubber on tricycles.
"It's just so much fun to come here. Even though we're not here for race weekend, it's fun to see how much support the NASCAR community gets from local fans," Allgaier said. "We've had good runs here, and every time you finish well at a track, you want to come back."
Following the drivers' laps, selected Iowa Speedway fans had to fill up milk gallons with corn kernels, representatives from DuPont Pioneer put up field signs and Des Moines TV sports anchors Scott Reister and Michael Admire finished things off with a bean bag toss. From there, the two teams raced in four-person paddle boats around a buoy in Gray's Lake, with Team Buescher coming in just ahead of Team Allgaier.
"Iowa has been a great racetrack for me," Buescher said. "Every time I come here I have good racecars and trucks, and I feel like we're usally in good position to win a lot of races. The bad thing is we haven't won one yet, so you do what you can to be prepared for these things, but the rest is up to fate."
Allgaier perhaps has more to look forward to than any other driver returning to Iowa Speedway this season after his second-place finish at the 2012 U.S. Cellular 250. He is currently running fourth in the Nationwide Series points race with five top-10s in nine races. And although it took a little time to jell with new crew chief Scott Zipadelli, Allgaier's focus on now on bringing home a victory this season.
"Every time you going into it think you have everything figured out, that's usually when it blows up in your face," Allgaier said with a laugh. "I'm going into it with a positive attitude. I feel like our program is really strong and we're starting to get the car figured out to where we want it. There are a lot of postitives and not as many negatives going into this year compared to past years."
On the other hand, Buescher will enter just about every race this season with a target on his back due to his status as defending Camping World Truck Series champion. He has had mixed results at Iowa Speedway in different series, but had some bad luck last year. After starting fourth and leading the American Ethanol 200, Buescher had tire issues and bowed out of the race early. However, he'll try to change that this year after grabbing consecutive sixth-place finishes in his last two races.
"Obviously we have some pressure on ourselves to do our best and to come into the season saying we'll be the first repeat champions of the series," Buescher said. "That comes with some pressure, but I don't see any reason why our team can't pull it off."
Iowa Speedway has made a habit of making and breaking seasons the past few years, and Allgaier and Buescher are hoping for the former. With Ricky Stenhouse Jr. gone from the Nationwide Series and Elliott Sadler switching teams, the fields for the June 8 and Aug. 23 Nationwide races are wide open.
And considering what happened in both Truck Series races in Newton last season, it's impossible to tell what could happen this season on July 13 and Sept. 8
"It was cool to see last fall how the race craft changed and how much differently we had to run it, so that was encouraging," Allgaier said. "But across the board, this is a good race for a lot of people. It's a racetrack that fits into a lot of peoples' best racetracks. So when we come back here, we know we need to be at 110 percent to win, but I feel like we can do that pretty easily."