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.