Eldora Speedway, located in Eldora, Iowa, is one of the country’s biggest road racing venues. The 4-mile, dirt track is home to the annual Eldora Speedway Festival, which is one of the country’s largest car shows and most popular outdoor music festivals. One of Iowa’s most historic venues, it’s been an important part of American motorsport for more than a century. But who owns Eldora Speedway? And how has the business changed over the years? Let’s take a look.
The Birth Of A Country Legend
The story of Eldora Speedway actually begins back in 1899 when John and Belle Rugg opened a general store in the small town. They wanted to provide their customers with everything they might need, so they set up a meat market, grocery store, and gas station on one property. The Ruggs were certainly country folks who valued practicality and took pride in their store’s country store appearance.
Over the years, the store grew in size and popularity, and in 1919 it was decided that the Ruggs needed an extension to their store to provide more space for their customers. The construction of the current building began, and it was officially opened on May 30, 1920. It was at this point that the country store concept met its match when a young horse named Jack took the reins as a jockey. He loved traveling through Iowa, and on May 24, 1924 he became the first known African-American to win the Indianapolis 500. The store was named in his honor, and it’s remained popular ever since.
Eldora is better known for its annual festival than for its sporting history, but it was at one time a hub of activity in the motorsport world. In the 1920s and 1930s, the store’s back lot served as the home of the National Championship Speedway, where drivers were divided into separate classes based on their engine size. Smaller classes would even race on the store’s front lawn when the track wasn’t available! The store closed in the 1950s, and the track was sold and eventually became the property of the State of Iowa. In 1980, it was converted into a museum and officially became part of the Iowa State Parks system. Today, it’s one of the most historically important motorsport venues in the country, and it continues to grow in popularity each year.
Fast Facts About Eldora Speedway
The largest single crowd to ever attend an event at Eldora was on May 27, 1932 when 250,000 spectators came to see who would win the AAA Championship Trophy. The record was broken in 1939 with an estimated crowd of 300,000. The track’s original grandstand was built in 1914, and it has withstood the test of time. In 1967, a new main grandstand was built and the existing structure was expanded. Today, the grandstands are among the longest in the country, and they have excellent views of the entire track. In the 1960s and 1970s, the speedway was host to the annual All-Star Race, which featured celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. In more recent years, Eldora has been a host to USAC Silver Crown and Toyota Grand Prix of Iowa events. The speedway has also been a part of the Nationwide Series, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and IndyCar Series, and it’s still home to the annual Festival. However, in 2020 it will be host to the Fuzzy Slazenger 100, an all-electric race that’s part of the Electricopia International series. This is a huge step for the speedway, as it will be one of the first events ever held solely on electric power! In addition, it will feature more than 100 electric vehicles, the largest of which will carry up to eight people. We couldn’t think of a better place for electric vehicles to be tested and put through their paces!
Who Owns The Track Today?
In the early 1900s, John and Belle Rugg’s general store and meat market was the epicenter of activity at Eldora Speedway. The store closed in the 1950s, and the track was sold and became the property of the State of Iowa. In 1980, it was converted into a museum and became officially part of the Iowa State Parks system. Today, it’s one of the most historically important motorsport venues in the country, and it continues to grow in popularity each year.
The State of Iowa originally built the track to honor John Rugg’s grandson Ralph, who served as the mayor of Eldora. The city owns and operates the speedway, using state funds and some private investment. The city council voted in 2014 to take the next step and purchase the track from the state, so they can continue to operate it as a legacy for Ralph. The plan is to raise funds for the purchase through a tax-free bond offering, which would be paid back with earnings from the track.
The current ownership group has its roots in Canadian motorsport, where they were involved with automobile racing for more than three decades. They purchased the track in 2015 for a sum that was considered to be a steal at the time, and they’ve built a sports complex that includes an indoor/outdoor track, complete with banked turns, mud pits, and a grandstand. The project took four years to complete and its total cost was $26 million. Currently, the outdoor track is used for practicing and hosting events, and the indoor track is used for training drivers and officials.
The track has a fascinating history that’s tied to the history of motorsport in the United States. From its role as the home of the annual Festival up until the 1950s, through its connection to famous American personalities, it’s certainly come a long way.