Rusty Wallace‘s unofficial pet project has come to fruition, as this past weekend marked the official opening of Iowa Speedway. Rusty helped design the track, and was instrumental in securing the financing necessary to make the track a reality. Wallace attended the initial groundbreaking in June of 2005, and he was there for the initial race this past weekend. Judging by the results of that event, the track is hopefully a blueprint for how tracks will be built for the foreseeable future.
Iowa Speedway is the first racetrack anywhere to be completely surrounded by SAFER barriers, and what makes that even better is that it is the next generation of SAFER, which does not have a concrete barrier behind it. The track also has video and audio equipment built into the track surface to provide never before seen angles from the middle of the racing groove, not just the walls or the infield. Finally, it has a state-of-the-art media center and a VIP tower filled with corporate suites that stand four stories tall.
If the initial race was any indication, it also has an outstanding racing surface. The 7/8-mile track is a standard D-shaped oval and it incorporates the latest craze: variable banking. The front straight is banked 10 degrees, while the corners graduate from 12-14 degrees. The track is also 60 feet wide.
With 30,000 seats already in place, the track will add 10,000 more before the IRL race next June. They also advertise that they can add 40,000 temporary seats if an event deserves them. Of course, when you get to the 70,000 plateau, you are starting to talk about NASCAR Cup Series eligibility, and if the racing so far is any indication of how good this track can be, the sport should start paying attention. This is definitely a state-of-the-art facility.
The first race to take place at the facility was the first race in the championship series for the Hooters Pro Cup Tour. The finish of that event spoke volumes about the kind of racing Iowa provided. Coming out of turn 4 on the white-flag lap, Mardy Lindley was in the lead, but he was nudged out of the way by Daniel Johnson coming to the line as Woody Howard roared to the inside of both of them to take the lead by the time they got to turn 1. When the cars got around to the finish line, Lindley was all the way back to fifth place, as Howard came by to take the win. Behind him, the top-10 finishers were all within a second of each other as they crossed the line. That close racing was symptomatic of the type of racing the track offered all day; with four to five grooves to race on, people were passing high and low, running three- and four-wide with no problem. An astonishing 19 cars ended up on the lead lap at the finish.
The only disappointment about the track is that it did take a good chunk of public money to complete. While $10 million is only 1/7th of the total amount of the project, it is still a shame to see a small community like Newton, Iowa have to fork over that kind of cash to bring an attraction like a speedway to their town. Here’s to hoping that the U.S. Motorsports Entertainment Group, the backers of the track, will be outstanding corporate citizens and return the graciousness that has been shown to them by the city.
All in all, the debut of Iowa Speedway was a rousing success. USAC put on extremely successful midget, sprint car and Silver Crown events after the Hooters Cup inaugural race. The track is top notch and deserving of Busch and Truck series races in the very near future. So, if you get a chance to visit Newton, Iowa and take in any of the racing that is offered in the near future, like the ASA and ARCA events that are taking place the weekend of Oct. 14th and 15th, do it. It is worth the price of admission.