Is It Heaven? It’s Iowa

by Jim on July 31, 2010 · 9 comments

You remember that line from Field of Dreams? I may give Rusty Wallace a bad time for his work in the broadcast booth, but he helped make something special at Iowa.

For the past several seasons, we’ve been talking about declining attendance and declining ratings. No problem with that here. The place was full, the racing was good and everyone from the drivers to the crowd was having a good time.

A memo to NASCAR (using another movie line), “If you build it (they) will come.” These are the kinds of tracks NASCAR needs in markets where they will be appreciated. The folks around Iowa know they’ve been given something good and they’re supporting it. The economy is bad, the money is tight; given that people will spend the money if value exceeds price. A good and successful race is not the exclusive property of the South (though they sure set the standard at places like Darlington and Bristol).

Wallace thought this track out well with the progressive banking and the three grooves to pick from. Yeah, Kyle Busch spanked the field, but there was still good racing for the lead early between Shrub and Trevor Bayne. Justin Allgaier was also doing some good racing late with Michael Annett, I believe it was.

To get back to where NASCAR wants to be may cost some money. There’s no getting around the fact that building a track is expensive. It may also seem like building outside major markets is counter-intuitive. At the same time, racing off the beaten path is what built NASCAR. For example, they talk every now and then about building a track in Oregon. Now, I know this place has a reputation for tree-hugging liberals. That’s Portland, folks. You come to Southern Oregon, where I live, or out to Eastern Oregon- it’s a different ballgame. You get some hairy protester hiding in a tree, he’ll come down with it! I think you could do the same thing in places like Bakersfield. Heck, build a good short track in Fontana! If you give people a good product, that is the race, you can get 100 grand to come to a race in Southern California. Maybe not two of them, but one for sure.

I think it was Dave Burns, or one of the guys on the ESPN crew, maybe it was Ray Evernham, talking about the race day event being the atmosphere like you’d find at a Big Ten game. People in places like Iowa will support this kind of racing.

Kudos to Rusty and all the folks involved in launching Iowa. There’s a blueprint there for how to do it right. 


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{ 9 comments }

1 Pat388 August 1, 2010 at 9:52 am

It was a really great race to watch. Rusty knew his stuff and really came up with a good track. I immediately noticed the size of the crowd! That in it’s self was amazing. What I liked best was it seemed that many of the Nationwide regulars did good. The Cup guys didn’t have the big advantage of running many races on this track so therefore we had a more level playing field. Hope Nascar was watching!

2 Keith August 1, 2010 at 11:48 am

Wow it filled up the 25,000 seats. It was such a big crowd. It was possibly the smallest crowd NNW had all year. You guys are nuts. I have nothing bad to say about the track or the people of Iowa or the surrounding area but come on you act like it was a crowd the size of the Daytona 500 because there were no empty seats.

3 Jake August 1, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Acually, keith it was close to 60,000. Get your facts straight. I’ve been to multiple Sprint Cup races, and the atmosphere at Iowa was as good, if not better than those Cup races.

4 Jason August 1, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Wow Keith, you should try looking at the attendance numbers before bashing. There were 56,000 people in attendance, not 25,000.

5 Keith August 1, 2010 at 2:29 pm

The official Iowa web site says there are 25,000 seats.

6 Keith August 1, 2010 at 2:32 pm

http://www.iowaspeedway.com/aspx/RacePage.aspx?pid=2

Just stating what the speedway says. Like I saisd I have nothing against the place.

7 scott August 1, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Iowa speedway had a great crowd last night. They need to work on parking, but thats with any facility.

8 Brad August 1, 2010 at 5:41 pm

the key word in that keith is that 25000 are permanent seating. They brought out 30000 in temporary seating for the big events like the IRL race and the Nationwide race.

9 Kyle August 2, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Keith…Iowa Speedway has 25,000 permanent seats…HOWEVER for the NASCAR races they bring in another 25,000+ seats…please, get your facts straight.

The race was sold out…estimated 55,000 in attendance…for the SECOND STRAIGHT YEAR. There have only been two Nationwide races sold out in the past two years…both at Iowa (according to the way I understood it from the track announcer).

I was in attendance (Turn four, row 6) and I loved every minute of it.

It had outstanding racing and there was always someone side-by-side. Yeah, it was for like 20th and TV probably wasn’t showing it, but still, side-by-side everywhere.

The on-track product is there, not only for Nationwide but Trucks and the IRL as well as the short-track divisions that race there.

This is an outstanding track, in an outstanding community in a place, as Jim said, supports it.

Yes, numbers wise, Iowa isn’t the best TV/Radio market. However, at the same time, we buy tickets and spend the whole weekend at these deals. We could hands down fill the track for a Cup race, probably could draw close to 100,000. However, due to politics, tracks like Auto Club Speedway will continue to stay on the schedule. Sorry, but when the excuse is “California has a lot of stuff going on so there is a lot of things to compete with” then that actually tells me that the race would be better off elsewhere…aka Iowa Speedway.

With all of this said though…they do need to do something with parking, as Scott eluded to. While when you have 55,000, you don’t expect to just be nonstop traffic back home, however, I had to wait two hours before I could even leave my parking space…which was in a bean field.

This could be fixed with some actual paved parking lots and a better surrounding road infrastructure. The interstate and highways around the speedway are only four lanes. I know that’s not necessarily Iowa Speedway’s problem (except for the parking lots) but I am sure the state of Iowa would be willing to expand that infrastructure because that race is bringing in a lot of money to the state and local area.

If they do that…then outside of politics, there isn’t any reason the Cup Series shouldn’t be visiting the track every year.

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