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NASCAR buys Iowa Speedway

In a move that will be certain to raise eyebrows across the racing world, NASCAR announced it has purchased Iowa Speedway in Newton.

A press release issued by the sanctioning body Wednesday said the strategic move was designed to “expand [NASCAR’s] commitment to enhancing event experiences and fan engagement, as well as solidify the future of one of the premier racing and entertainment facilities in the Midwest.” The purchase agreement between NASCAR and the Clement family-owned U.S. Motorsport Corporation was effective immediately.

The purchase price was not announced. David Higdon, Managing Director of NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications, said those terms will not be disclosed.

“Iowa Speedway is a great entertainment facility with a very bright future,” NASCAR Vice President for Strategic Development Eric Nyquist said. “The facility has the support of the region, it’s positioned well in the heart of the Midwest, and year in and year out it provides great short-track racing action for motorsports fans.”

Nyquist said NASCAR ownership of the track will allow the sanctioning body to draw upon the multi-billion-dollar resources of its entire company. He said it also provides NASCAR with opportunities to execute “entertainment ideas and engagement opportunities with fans” that have been outlined in its own industry action plan.

In the press release, NASCAR said it will host a special event Thursday, Dec. 12, to further outline details of the purchase and future plans for the 7/8-mile tri-oval. Previous media reports indicated the event would take place at the Iowa Statehouse, but Iowa Speedway Communications Director Craig Armstrong said those reports were in error.

A future Sprint Cup Series date for the racetrack is not likely the subject of the event. The sanctioning body made it clear the purchase of Iowa Speedway does not mean Sprint Cup races in Iowa.

It is standard NASCAR policy to not discuss race schedules until they are published, usually in October of the year before.

“The Speedway released its 2014 schedule earlier this month, encompassing three weekends, one each in May, July and August,” the statement read. “NASCAR has no plans for Iowa Speedway to host a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race next year or in the immediate future.”

Local leaders, given their first opportunity to publicly react to the purchase, expressed their collective excitement.

“If there had to be a sale to take place at the Iowa Speedway what better of a corporation than NASCAR to buy,” Newton Mayor Mike Hansen said. “We look forward to a long and prosporus relationship with NASCAR. We’re also very thankful to Stan Clement and the Clement family and to Brad Mannatt and the Mannatt family. Without those folks, we wouldn’t be where we are today with a facility that NASCAR owns.”

Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Darrell Sarmento said the change in ownership with be “nothing but positive” for NASCAR and Newton. He said the Chamber “can’t wait” to work with the sanctioning body.

“Tremendous thanks to the Clement, Manatt, and every other family involved on the success of the Iowa Speedway, including Rusty Wallace,” he added. “If it had not been for the success they had this purchase would not have happened.”

Newton Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Linda Bacon said the purchase of the speedway was “a positive step” for Newton and the surrounding region, and said she hopes it spurs additional development in the area. Newton Development Corporation Executive Director Frank Liebl and Jasper County Economic Development Director Chaz Allen also expressed their pleasure with the announcement.

“It’s what we worked for the last 10 years,” Allen said. “It’s an exciting future for the Iowa Speedway ... its a positive step.”

“We’re pleased that the sale has occurred,” Liebl added. “It sounds like the racetrack is in good hands; we look forward to the success of the new ownership.”

Higdon said how the sale of the speedway will impact the facilities, staff and existing vendors will be disclosed at the Dec. 12 event. As recent as three months ago, land adjacent to the racetrack was purchased by a known developer.

Asked if NASCAR was involved in that purchase, as well, Higdon declined to comment, other than to say the Dec. 12 event would answer questions about future development at Iowa Speedway. The sale also will result in the payment of the track’s outstanding debt.

Separately, Armstrong said he was not aware of any changes the sale might have on current staffing at the racetrack.

“The staff is every pumped about this announcement; they’re excited,” he said. “This is the stability and foward-thinking attitude that are exactly what is needed to take Iowa Speedway into the future.”

Armstrong added that Rusty Wallace, who designed the track, will continue to play a role in the promotion of Iowa Speedway. The NASCAR Hall of Famer’s stake in the racetrack he helped build, however, was also purchased by the sanctioning body.

But, Armstrong said the most important message of the purchase was that Iowa Speedway will be in Newton “for the long haul.”

“NASCAR, which has in excess of 60 years of experience behind it, is the number one motorsports organization in the world, and the number two spectator sport in America,” he said. “This is good news, not just for Newton, but for the entire state of Iowa.”

Additional reporting by Daily News Staff Writer Zach Johnson.

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