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Local Sports

Hyatt’s plan for Iowa Speedway is to stay on the course, and grow

David Hyatt is the new president at Iowa Speedway. The West Virginia native brings a passion matching the passion of Iowa race fans to the Newton racetrack. He is an admitted short-track racing fan and is ready to help grow the sport and the fan experience at Iowa Speedway even more.
David Hyatt is the new president at Iowa Speedway. The West Virginia native brings a passion matching the passion of Iowa race fans to the Newton racetrack. He is an admitted short-track racing fan and is ready to help grow the sport and the fan experience at Iowa Speedway even more.

Build on what works is foremost on David Hyatt’s agenda as the new president of Iowa Speedway.

“My first order of business is not to mess up what we have here at Iowa Speedway,” Hyatt said. “Jimmy (Small) has done a great job here and I’ve inherited a fantastic staff. This team is recognized throughout NASCAR as one which works well together and puts on a great event.”

Hyatt was announced as the next Iowa Speedway president on Feb. 8 to succeed Jimmy Small. Small was the first president of the Newton racetrack when NASCAR purchased the facility in December 2013.

Hyatt has been working with the Iowa Speedway staff for the past few weeks. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Hyatt and Edward Williams, the Speedway’s director of integrated marking communications, were in Iowa on a media tour.

“I’m so excited to be here at Iowa Speedway. I’m a short-track fan whether it’s on dirt or asphalt. I grew up going to dirt track racing with my dad in West Virginia. And this is The Fastest Short Track on the Planet,” Hyatt said. “Iowa Speedway is the right size — it’s a big enough short track you’re going to get a lot of high speed — and fans who come for the race have a great experience.”

Iowa Speedway’s 2018 racing season is in place and set to open June 16-17 with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Iowa 200 and the NASCAR Xfinity Series American Ethanol E 15 250. The Speedway has three race weekends each summer.

On July 7-8 is the ARCA Racing Series Iowa 150 and the Verizon IndyCar Series Iowa Corn 300 then July 27-28 brings the Xfinity Series back for the U.S. Cellular 250 paired with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series Casey’s General Store 150.

“I’m thrilled but a little scared also,” Hyatt said. “Scared in a good way because this is my first opportunity to run a facility and I don’t want to mess it up. The great thing is I have a tremendous team in place here at Iowa and I know as soon as I get up to speed, we’ll continue to grow the sport here and grow Iowa Speedway’s brand.”

Hyatt said for Iowa Speedway to be successful, the community of Newton needs to be successful. Iowa Speedway will continue to be a good corporate citizen for Newton, central Iowa and the state of Iowa.

“I’ve been on several tours of Newton since coming here, Frank Liebl of the Newton Development Corporation and Craig Armstrong, who I’ve known for years, of the City of Newton have shown me around,” Hyatt said. “I plan to be active in the community. I’ve taken drives around the town and love learning the history of the community.”

Hyatt is a War, WV., native and graduate of East Tennessee State University with a bachelor of science degree in communications and marketing with an emphasis on broadcast performance and management. He brings nearly 30 years of experience in the NASCAR industry.

Hyatt launched the original NASCAR.com and most recently served The Motor Racing Network (MRN) as president and executive producer. In that role, Hyatt developed, oversaw and executed the network’s operational budget, business plan and growth strategy.

“MRN had the radio broadcast rights for this facility since it opened. I came right after it was built to determine what MRN needed to do the broadcasts and I did several races,” Hyatt said. “I know this facility. 

“One thing I did not know in all the years I’ve been involved with motorsports is Iowa has more racetracks per capita than any other state in the country. I found that out when I was researching for this position. I’ve been selling racing across this country for 25 to 30 years and I did not know that fact.”

Hyatt said there is a great passion for motorsports in Iowa. He said Iowa Speedway has a great fan base and he plans to continue to grow the sport with the help of the Speedway team.

Hyatt shares that passion with Iowa and other racing fans. It was cultivated growing up in a small West Virginia town where his father was a coal miner working the late shift during the week. Hyatt said his father loved racing and it was something the two could do on weekends.

“My dad was a fan and his buddies had introduced him to racing. On Sundays in those days, we’d come home from church put the portable radio on the top of the refrigerator at just the right angle to get the signal. Mom was cooking the Sunday dinner and we’d listen to the races,” Hyatt said. “I became a fan. My dad started taking me to dirt track races in our area.

“As a car kid — I love cars and still do — what is better than a car? A car going fast, so I fell in love with it immediately. It was our thing — my dad and I.”

Hyatt said they started going to some of the NASCAR races. He said they were within four hours of driving time of a dozen races. Hyatt said he decided he wanted to be a race car driver, and by the time he convinced his father to let him races, Hyatt was a year away from a driver’s license.

They built a “hobby” division car. Hyatt said his father was going to drive the car the first season at the area track then when Hyatt was old enough for his driver’s license, which he had to have to race at the track.

“Then the racetrack shut down. I call myself a frustrated driver. The next closest track to us was an hour’s drive further away and raced on Friday nights — my dad worked Friday nights,” Hyatt said. “So I decided if I couldn’t drive them, I’m going to call them (races). That sparked my interest in broadcasting.”

He went to college to become a motorsports broadcaster — a play-by-play man for races, he called himself. Hyatt said he kept searching for a job at MRN but could never find an opening listed. Hyatt said while at the first television station he worked for out of college, he was listing to a race and heard a new voice on the MRN broadcast.

“I got up the courage to call MRN’s office and asked how do I get a job with you. The lady asked what I wanted to do and I told her I wanted to call the races,” Hyatt said. “She said I would have to talk to the general manager, and I said OK. She transferred me — I was thinking I was going to be talking to a secretary of an assistant of an assistant. No, the GM answered the phone.”

Hyatt said the MRN general manager provided feedback on his tapes which led him back to dirt tracks for awhile as a public announcer at tracks. His work paid off with an offer to come into the MRN family in a lower level position to learn the business and work his way up to be an on-the-air personality.

“I learned the sport. MRN is the largest independent sport radio network and owned by International Speedway Corporation, which is a sister company to NASCAR,” Hyatt said. “It opened avenues for opportunities inside the sport leading me here.”

Hyatt follows Small, who accepted a position at NASCAR as Senior Director, International Business Development, taking a leadership role developing international strategy out of NASCAR’s Los Angeles office. Small has been with NASCAR for nearly 10 years and was the youngest president of a major racing facility in the United States.

Small led Iowa Speedway through a transition of local ownership to NASCAR ownership. He was involved in having the local race track being a proving ground for fan-based trends to improve fan experience at Iowa Speedway and other racing venues.

“David’s unique skill set and his impressive career at MRN make him the perfect choice as my successor,” Small said . “He is a seasoned NASCAR executive with an impeccable reputation in the industry and is well positioned to lead Iowa Speedway into the future.”

Hyatt said Small was referring to his relationships Hyatt has cultivated in the sport. He said he was able to learn from some of the best promoters and business people in motorsports.

Hyatt said he is excited about working with Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president of racing operations and chief racing development office, NASCAR President Brent Dewar and Brandon Igdalsky, NASCAR’s managing director of event marketing.

He said the Iowa Speedway team and NASCAR will continue to bring a great product to Iowa. Hyatt said he will continue to help NASCAR use Iowa Speedway as a proving ground for industry ideas.

“One of the cool things about this place is you are always going to see a great race here. This facility was designed by Rusty Wallace, who knows the fast way around a racetrack and understands the groove works it makes for a great racing experience for the fan,” Hyatt said.

Hyatt and his wife, Holli, have two children. Hannah Grace, who will be 15 in April, and Hunter, 11. They plan to relocate to Central Iowa from North Carolina after the school year is complete.

Contact Jocelyn Sheets at
641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or jsheets@newtondailynews.com

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