NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Iowa Speedway Needs Another Race, More Promotion for Success

With the NASCAR national series and the NTT IndyCar Series off during the Summer Olympics, the ARCA Menards Series is the only series that continues to race during this time. Moreover, ARCA was the only series this year to race at Iowa Speedway. The 0.875-mile short track hosted ARCA for the 15th time, and Ty Gibbs went to victory lane on Saturday (July 24) night.

The track, owned by NASCAR, had the opportunity to shine. With a reported seating capacity of 30,000 and the grandstands opened to full capacity, the Shore Lunch 150 could have shined in racing action with a packed crowd cheering at a short track. Instead, the attendance mirrored the race itself, which Gibbs led 149 of the 150 laps: yawn.

Runner-up Daniel Dye told ARCA Racing, “I’m racing in front of 5,000 fans.” While the attendance from the race cannot be verified, it was a paltry amount.

Should racing return to this track in Newton, Iowa in the future?

“It’s impossible to foretell what the 2022 schedule looks like at all,” ARCA Communications Manager Charlie Krall told Frontstretch.

For a standalone ARCA event, it is not worthwhile. Yes, there were 23 competitors, but the entry list benefitted from a combined field of drivers from ARCA and the ARCA Menards Series East. According to Venturini Motorsports co-owner Billy Venturini, this track hosting a combination race did not add any hype to this race, nor is this racetrack one of the crown jewels on the ARCA schedule.

“It’s not [important to the ARCA schedule],” Venturini told Frontstretch. “This is a racetrack. It’s a nice facility and I’m glad we race here, but it’s not one of the cornerstones of this series.”

While it may not be a cornerstone, it is important to ARCA.

“This is a very important market for us,” Krall said. “We were the first series to race here in 2006. We love coming to Iowa, there are a lot of great race fans here. This is a huge market for Menards, which is always important to us. We have some sponsors that love being visible here in the Des Moines area.”

Newton is a little more than 30 miles away from Des Moines. But Newton itself only has a population of approximately 15,000. The infrastructure in the area is not enough to have a full race weekend that features the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA.

Gibbs himself concurs.

“They’d need more grandstands for a Cup race,” he told media post-race. “Overall, Rusty Wallace and all those guys did a great job building this racetrack. It is a fun time. I always love coming here.”

Not only do teams enjoy competing at Iowa Speedway, the racing action itself is typically good — Gibbs’ recent dominance notwithstanding.

“It’s so different where you run at on this track, all the bumps, it has a big personality on this track,” Gibbs said.

“It’s not really like anything we race at,” Venturini added. “It is similar to Richmond Raceway. It is a nice racy track that usually puts on a good show. It is good that it has got its own surface, which usually makes for better racing. “It still has a lot of attraction to drivers ’cause it’s a great racetrack; it’s racy so those skills coincide with other tracks they’ll go to.”

So, if the racing is good but the area isn’t big enough and the attendance is abysmal, what are some solutions to make Iowa a prominent destination on series’ schedules?

First, continue to run the ARCA race as a combination race with the East series. ARCA car counts have been scrutinized, and the East regulars competing against the main series drivers increases both the quality and quantity of competition.

See also
Can ARCA Keep Its Car Counts on the Rise?

Next, run that race on a Friday night as part of a combination race weekend. Short track racing under the lights has always been popular.

Although both the Xfinity Series and Truck Series previously raced at Iowa, the Truck Series raced at nearby Knoxville Raceway this year. Knoxville is only about 30 miles south of Iowa, so it is not sensible to run two summer races at two close tracks.

See also
Truckin' Thursdays: Should the Truck Series Return to Knoxville Raceway?

Rather, run the ARCA race on Friday night, then run the Xfinity Series race at Iowa on Saturday night. The Xfinity Series raced at Atlanta Motor Speedway this year on Saturday, July 10. Would fans prefer to sweat in Atlanta or at least enjoy short track racing on a summer night at Iowa? Personally, I would favor the Iowa choice.

Most of the ARCA race winners at Iowa have been successful in moving up the NASCAR ladder. So an Xfinity Series race paired with an ARCA race would give those drivers the chance to race on the track again. Moreover, some of the inexperienced Xfinity drivers might compete in that ARCA race to log more laps there.

In addition, Iowa desperately needs industry-wide promotion. Yes, there were a few big names at the ARCA race, including NASCAR Hall of Fame member Joe Gibbs, but NASCAR must promote Iowa.

Gibbs won, but did any JGR Cup driver tweet congratulations to him or promote the notion that NASCAR should be racing at Iowa? Did any Cup driver openly advocate for NASCAR to return to Iowa during the ARCA race? No.

For Iowa to be successful in the future, NASCAR as an industry needs to encourage the promotion of the track. It is hard to become passionate or advocate for something when there is silence.

See also
Losing Iowa Would Expose Truth That NASCAR Ignores Short Track Racing

If NASCAR is not racing at Iowa, then series executives have truly ignored short tracks on its schedules. Instead, they are focused on turning a short track into a dirt track, adding more road courses to the schedule, and reconfiguring Atlanta without consulting drivers.

Share this article

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

14 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sally Baker

Cup and X series should be racing at this track!

Mike

“The track, owned by NASCAR,…”

Therein lay the problem and the solution. The conglomerate has created a whack-a-mole game for trucks/xfinity/cup races. Racing at Iowa will be at the expense of some other track. So who’s the sacrificial lamb?

Personally I’d lose New Hampshire, Kansas, Las Vegas, Texas, and one trip to Pocono. And add North Wilkesboro, Rockingham, Iowa, Eldora (or Magnolia Speedway), and Nashville Fairgrounds.

Last edited 1 month ago by Mike
Johnny Cuda

Mike,
Need to keep New Hampshire on the schedule for those of us up here in New England. Attendance is still pretty good – better than a lot of other tracks on the circuit. Racing is good at NHMS.

David Edwards

There are reasons that they aren’t racing at the tracks you mention. Primarily that they aren’t owned by NASCAR or SMS. And to cut a race at one of the SMS tracks is perceived to be a opening for a lawsuit.
I think the question is whether there will be a contraction of the schedule and if it happens what tracks will it effect? My guess is any track not owned by NASCAR or SMS will be in jeopardy.
But time will tell.

Bill B

You hit the nail on the head with lawsuit situation. If the sanctioning body wasn’t in the track owning business as well, they could move races wherever they wished.
I still don’t see the season contracting with regards to number of races. They could play around with double header weekends (like Pocono)to contract the length, but cutting races cuts revenue and they will be much less willing to do that. How would you cut races equitably to keep lawsuits from popping up in that scenario?

Last edited 1 month ago by Bill B
David Edwards

Think TV will ultimately answer that question.
But where is the line? Reducing revenue vs reducing cost?
It appears to me that nascar has realized. Or someone has. That competing against the Olympics and the NFL are losing propositions. If you add college football and the World Series than contraction is inevitable.
But the smart people will figure it out.

DoninAjax

It seems the “smart people” at NA$CAR can’t figure it out.

David Russell Edwards

Of course I was being facetious. Maybe its the TV people who are figuring out that there are, not on a weekly basis certainly, the NFL being the exception, sports that its a loser to put nascar against. Still this year seems to be a first for that, and maybe its because its a Olympic year.

DoninAjax

If you want to see what real racing looks like at New Hampshire, check out the Modifieds from the day previous to the Cup product:

https://www.nbcsports.com/video/extended-highlights-ryan-preece-wins-whelen-modified-race-new-hampshire

Matty

Unfortunately NASCAR is actively pursuing selling Iowa Speedway, along with Chicagoland. Iowa supposedly has pretty severe water drainage issues, and would require millions of dollars to completely redo the infrastructure, ultimately resulting in a full resurface of the facility.

As a midwest guy, I absolutely love both of these facilities, but I do understand the business perspective in play here. Once you add on that NASCAR has done absolutely nothing to promote this track for the past five years or so, and its fate seems pretty clear. It’s a damn shame, as we all found it to be an incredible facility when constructed.

1911_Bandit

I am an Iowa resident. I am very angry that NASCAR chose to completely abandon the raceway in Newton. No Trucks. No XFinity. I hope NASCAR goes broke there. What is the point of owning the Speedway if you won’t race at it?

Justen

With the top 3 series not racing at Iowa this year. ACRA being at Elko, MNwithin the previous month. It is a PR nightmare to get fans in the stands without a household name.

C Yarborough

If nascar doesn’t wake up you aren’t going to have to worry about race tracks.
If NBC starts charging for viewer on pay for view next year nascar not going to have fans to watch.
I for one has been a race fan since the middle fifties. North Wilkesboro was my first and martinsville was my second both dirt.
We had permanent seats at Daytona Rockingham and Bristol until the hotels got greedy with pricing the last year we went to Daytona the motel prices was $250.00 a night the next year they were going to$500.00 a night and had a five night minimum stay starting on Wednesday and ending on Saturday night which means that we had a 600 mile drive so we had to stay another night and tickets also increased each year also then you had to pay a high price for parking. On the hotels they in in three years they went from 125.00 to 500.00.
Wake up nascar you are beginning to start getting fans back so don’t let NBC screw it up.

Kenny F

I was planning a trip there last year to see the Whelen Mod race, unfortunately COVID forced cancellation. I would love to see it happen in the future.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com

Frontstretch