Nationwide Race In Iowa Has Set Rusty’s Tongue To Racing
By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
Newton, Ia. – Rusty Wallace looked like a proud papa Thursday morning moments after landing at the airport overlooking Iowa Speedway.
As 51 teams began preparations for this weekend’s inaugural Nationwide Series race at the .875-mile D-shaped oval, one of Wallace’s first duties was to brag to a group of reporters about the track he helped design.
Merely a dream earlier this decade, the facility located 40 miles east of Des Moines is set to host NASCAR’s junior circuit on Saturday followed by a visit from the Camping World Truck Series on Labor Day weekend.
“This is the day we’ve been waiting for for a long, long time,” said Wallace, who will provide commentary on ESPN’s coverage of the U.S. Cellular 250 at 4 p.m. eastern on Saturday. “If somebody would have told us that we’d have a truck race and Nationwide race both in the same year, I wouldn’t have believed it.
“But it worked out perfect for us with NASCAR’s decision to leave Mexico. That left that (Nationwide) date open and they come to us and said ‘we’d like to give you this date.’ And we get a phone call two weeks later saying that Mansfield, Ohio can’t (host the truck race) because of financial constraints. We’d love you to have that date.
“They could have taken it anywhere. They gave it to us. So now to have a truck date, a Nationwide date, Indy cars, ARCA, concerts and ASA cars. We’ve got a full inventory of stuff here.”
To accommodate what is expected to be the largest crowd to watch a motorsports event in the state of Iowa, track officials have installed 25,000 temporary bleacher seats for the weekend.
Speedway president Jerry Jauron believes nearly 58,000 race fans will converge on the small town of Newton on Saturday.
The largest crowd in track history was recorded in June when more than 40,000 spectators packed Iowa Speedway to watch the Indy Car Series.
“We’re looking at 16,000 to 17,000 more people, which, if we do the math here, it’s 6,000 to 7,000 more cars,” said Jauron, who pointed out that Iowa Speedway has season ticket holders from 25 different states. “So, that’s the reason we’re opening our parking lots at 6 a.m., 9 ½ hours before we go green.”
Wallace admitted that he and the Iowa Speedway staff learned from the mistakes of other new ovals and intentionally avoided asking NASCAR for a Sprint Cup date when they began booking dates.
“We were on our hands and knees two years ago pleading just to get a truck race,” Wallace said. “And with all the controversy that was going on with Texas Motor Speedway and with what’s going on with Kentucky with the lawsuits and stuff, I said ‘let’s never even mention the word Cup around anybody.’
“We would be so grateful just to get a truck race or a Nationwide race. To go out and ask for a Cup race? That’s a big statement. You have to pay a really big purse to get a Cup race. Can we put that many people in here? Will they come? I don’t know.
“So we want to get a good snapshot of what this particular race looks like and what the truck race looks like. And down the road if the support’s there and NASCAR wants to have a Cup race, we would entertain it, for sure.
“But I will tell you that none of us were thinking that when we did this. Our biggest thing we wanted to do was get a truck race. To get a truck race and a Nationwide race, we’re pretty fortunate.”
With only a slight chance or rain and temperatures expected to be a comfortable 80 degrees on Saturday, the only potential pitfall Wallace envisions is traffic.
But if traffic flow patterns work as expected, the former Cup champion will have another smile on his face late Saturday afternoon.
“(The fans) are going to leave happy,” Wallace predicted. “They’re going to see a side-by-side exciting race. And I hope we don’t have any traffic problems that makes them feel ‘oh, I’m not going back because of the traffic.’ But I think we’ve got that worked out.”
– Jeff Hood can be reached at email@example.comOne Comment