Completed in 2005 at a cost of approximately $70 million dollars, the Iowa Speedway outside of Newton in Jasper County boasts some pretty impressive facts. First, it's the only track that is owned by and raced at by NASCAR. Secondly, it's the only track that is designed by a former driver and that would be NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Wallace. Third, it's the only 7/8 of a mile asphalt oval in the entire world. The track has a capacity of approximately 30,000 fans and they host many events throughout Iowa's warmer months.
On a recent Saturday, I spent an entire afternoon and evening at the venue with a group of DSM Hummingbirds, a group of community builders that seek to promote and encourage Iowans to explore and take in the many unique and terrific places and events that are located here.
We were given tickets and passes to check out the pits and garages and had full license to roam the various concourses. We also had access and use of a suite, which was a pretty nice perk, and got some pretty sweet SWAG.
One thing that became clear to me pretty quickly, in the many hours I spent there that day, is a lot more going on there than just racing.
There is live music, games (giant checkers and life-size beer pong), vendors, food and beverages for sale, and interesting things to look at, including antique vehicles.
As my group explored the concourse, we found that there is a lot of sponsors seeking to grab the attention of the fans.
There was even oversize lounge chairs.
There is a place to play basketball and we even came across a Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show.
Throughout the concourse, you could find vendors selling food and beverage. However, of course, a lot of fans tailgate in the free parking lots ahead of the races and thus, like any football game, are enjoying beverages and food before they enter the gates.
I did appreciate some of the clever names for the food stands.
Eventually, we got on a tram (John Deere tractor pulling a cart) and headed into the infield to see the garages, pits, victory lane, and more.
We had to go through a tunnel to get to the infield.
Once in the infield, we explored the area and enjoyed checking out the garages. It's like a whole different world.
There is a lot of permanent and temporary infrastructure that is needed to support a race and the many team members that accompany each driver and car.
We got to look into one of the cars.
We also had the opportunity to look into the garages.
Other fans were checking out the "Fan Walk".
Since the race this particular weekend was sponsored by M&Ms and Casey's General Store, the victory lane was quite a fun place to get a picture
The winner would get to take this baby home.
While in the infield, we also witnessed the race officials inspecting the cars. It's important to make sure that the mechanics haven't modified a car in such a way that might give a particular driver an illegal advantage.
The infield does offer some great views of the stands, press boxes, and suites.
As the day progressed and it got closer to race time, a few vehicles came out to do some warm-up laps. It's quite loud and I'd recommend some hearing protection.
They even served as some always delicious Casey's Pizza. Casey's Pizza is the official pizza of the Iowa Speedway.
There was some M&Ms too.
Unfortunately, some severe weather moved in and brought both some steady winds and plenty of rain.
As you can see, a lot of fans camp at the Speedway.
This caused a significant delay as we waited for the weather to move out and then we had to wait to have the track dried down. That, in itself, was fascinating. Several trucks with massive blowers work to get rid of the moisture.
While a lot of my group waited in our suite, some of us headed down to the Newton Club, which is on the first floor of the grandstand. It's a private race club and there is food and beverage and also great views of the track.
Unfortunately, the delay continued on for awhile and they moved up the Kansas concert, which was supposed to be held at the conclusion of the race. Kansas, one of the truly iconic bands of the 1970's and 1980's, played for about an hour. Their set included some of their famous hits like "Dust in the Wind" and "Carry on Wayward Son"
While the concert was terrific, they announced as soon as it was over that the track was not in sufficient shape. Thus, the race would be moved to the next day. However, of course, some things are just out of your control and the weather is one of those things.
I could have come back the next day with my ticket and gotten in for free, but I had other plans and couldn't make that work. For those that did come back, the race roster looked pretty impressive.
Despite the weather and delays and race postponement, it was still an amazing day spent with great people. The Iowa Raceway is a world class facility. I wouldn't proclaim to be the biggest race fan in the world. Most of my prior racing viewing experiences starts and ends with the Primghar Jaycees Figure 8 Races. However, I went to a race at the Speedway in 2014 but showed up right before it started and I discovered during this visit that there is a lot I missed out on.
If you are looking for a different family entertainment experience this summer, I'd encourage you to give the Iowa Speedway some consideration. Check out their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to date with what is going on. I think, even if you are not the biggest race fan like me, you'll be pleasantly surprised by what you'll find. It will be a fun day with family or friends.