The name Iowa Speedway might not ring a bell for some, but for those who have followed the NASCAR racing scene for nearly a century, the place will always be associated with some of the most memorable moments in the sport’s history.
The present-day racing facility in Newton, Iowa opened in 1910 and initially struggled for recognition, drawing only 10,000 spectators a year. But thanks in part to the storied career of driver Arnie Krueger and the popularity of stock car racing at the time, the speedway shot to national prominence at the end of the 1920s.
By the 1950s, more than 300,000 spectators came to see the high-speed action each year. In fact, the speedway even surpassed the popular DuPont Circle races in Washington, D.C., as the country’s largest gathering of spectators by the 1960s.
It wasn’t just about watching the cars go by, either. After the races were done, fans would often stay at the nearby hotels and eat at the local restaurants. It was a different matter when the track was closed in the winter months because of the cold weather.
These days, thanks to the popularity of eSports and competitive gaming, the speedway‘s traditional fan base has shrunk. But despite the changes, the track still manages to thrill and excite fans old and new each time the lights go out on the final lap.
Arnie Krueger’s Record-Breaking Run
One of the most recognizable figures at the Iowa Speedway is Arnie Krueger, who began racing at the track in 1924. During his 57-year career, Krueger became an eight-time winner of the sprint car championship and accumulated more than 150 international wins across five continents. His best year was 1947, when he drove for the legendary Fred Funk and won the championship. That same year, he set a world record for the standing start that stood for more than a decade.
Krueger was also known for his aggressive and outspoken nature. During his time at the track, he was suspended four times for reckless driving and threatening behavior. But it was his devotion to his craft that endeared him to fans.
The Evolution Of Spinning Tires And Superchargers
The Iowa Speedway wasn’t the only one that saw a change in the way it did things in the 1920s. All of motorsport underwent an evolution during that decade, as new technologies and innovations came into play. The spinning tire and supercharging are just two of the many examples.
In the case of the tire, the introduction of bias-ply tires in 1922 made it much easier for the drivers to maintain traction on the track, no matter how fast they went. Before then, radials were the only choice, and they had a tendency to wear out quickly. The bias-ply tire debuted in a Formula One race in Paris and began to be used in other major events around Europe and North America throughout the decade. It wasn’t until the late 1930s that the radial tire emerged as an affordable and practical option for the ordinary consumer. The invention of the supercharger in the early 1920s not only made it possible to run larger engines in an efficient manner, but the high speeds made possible by the technology put a premium on speed over distance. This, in turn, reduced the need for pit stops and, thus, increased the speed of the race. Teams began to use the devices on the track, and it wasn’t long before all of motorsport followed suit.
The Impact Of TV On Race Day
Back in the day, before the days of electronic entertainment, there was only one way for fans to follow the races live: through newspapers and other such sources that provided race results and summaries after the events. Even those who followed the sport through radio had to settle for delayed broadcasts of the races, as TV coverage didn’t arrive in its modern form until the 1950s. Thus, the presence of the television camera on the scene was completely transformative. Before the outbreak of World War II, TV cameras were relatively small and lightweight; now, they’re as big as a suitcase and can weigh nearly as much as the driver. That’s a lot of extra equipment for a driver to have to navigate through a race, not to mention the extra attention drawn by the TV cameras.
The Birth Of The Modern-Day Race
There were numerous reasons why the early years at the Iowa Speedway were so special. Not only did the track see some of the greatest names in the history of motorsport compete for glory, but it was also the birthplace of the modern-day race. The first official NASCAR race took place on August 4, 1914, and it was organized by W.C. Bradley, Sr. The following week, Mr. Bradley published an article in the Des Moines Register announcing that he had created a new sport: automobile racing. The article stated that the sport would combine the skill and speed of horse racing with the excitement and unpredictability of balloon racing.
In the years that followed, the sport grew in popularity, and on October 21, 1922, the track staged its first official 500-mile race. That same year, the track held its first Monster Trucking Derby, with over 30 trucks and trailers competing in the event. The annual racing event became one of the highlights of the season, attracting people from all over the country and even some from overseas. Teams from Canada, the UK, and Australia would regularly send their top drivers to compete in the Monster Trucking Derby, as it was one of the few motorsport events they were allowed to enter. But as time went by and world transportation shifted to the automobile, the event began to shrink, and it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that it became an annual tradition once more.
The Track’s Legacy
It would be difficult to overstate the significance of the Iowa Speedway in the early days of NASCAR. While the track is now located in a small town outside of a small city, it began its life in a small town, and for more than a century, it has played a prominent role in the sport’s growth and development. In fact, the word “speedway” was probably derived from the track, as it is thought to be a combination of the words “speed” and “road.” The history of NASCAR is firmly tied to the development of the track, and the early years saw some of its greatest stories and moments. It was truly a place where dreams came true for those who worked there and followed the sport closely.