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  • James Hilchen

NASCAR Cup Series debut in Iowa an overwhelming success

Iowa Speedway hosted its first NASCAR Cup Series race, the Iowa Corn 350, on Sunday evening and to say it was anything other than a complete success would be an understatement.

Fans showed up in droves not only for the Cup race on Sunday, but the stands were packed on Saturday for the Xfinity Series race and there was also a great turnout for the ARCA race on Friday. Last October when Iowa Governor, Kim Reynolds, Cup driver Brad Keselowski, and other NASCAR luminaries made the announcement that a Cup race was coming to the speedway, excitement of NASCAR fans in Iowa and surrounding states soared. Cup Series tickets sold out during the presale. The Xfinity race sold out as well and there weren’t many tickets left for Friday’s slate of Cup practice and an ARCA Menards race.

For fans, there were little issues that could be expected for such a large influx of people. Lines to get in could move a little quicker, there could be a few more restrooms, and the logistics of leaving the area with 30,000-plus other people could have been a bit better planned, but all-in-all, it seemed to go very well.

From the driver’s perspective, many spoke highly of the track, having run there in ARCA or Xfinity races. In fact, 10 drivers have previously won races at other levels in Iowa. There was some concern about a repave of turns 2 and 4 and the effect it would have on tire wear. The results and effects of the repave weren’t completely conclusive, but many drivers wanted to come back, including Iowa Corn 350 winner Ryan Blaney, whose mother is from Iowa. Blaney told the Des Moines Register, “…Honestly, it exceeded my expectations as far as race-ability. The crowd tonight was awesome. If that doesn’t make you want to come back, I don’t know what will.”

There was some doubt whether this time would ever come. Iowa Speedway opened in 2006. Despite rumors of the top level of NASCAR coming to Iowa, nothing ever materialized. The speedway hosted numerous events including the ARCA Menards Series and Xfinity Series along with IndyCar series events. In 2019, the track was purchased by NASCAR and hopes once again surged that a long-awaited Cup race would be possible. Those hopes were quickly dampened by the Covid epidemic. Since Covid, an IndyCar weekend has returned. ARCA Menards Series races came back as well but were not well attended.

Attendance wasn’t a problem this weekend. Fans showed up early to take in other activities before the races. At the NASCAR experience area, you could listen to a NASCAR podcast being recorded by driver Corey LaJoie, attend driver Q&A sessions, and get autographs. Drivers made appearances and signed autographs at other sponsors displays throughout the weekend and most fans seemed to leave with at least one item from their favorite driver or team from the numerous merchandise areas.

All things considered, the weekend couldn’t have gone much better if you made the trip to Newton, Iowa and Iowa Speedway..

Will the Cup series race return in 2025 and beyond? Time will tell. But for one hot and steamy weekend in June, the “fastest short track on the planet” proved it can be a player on one of auto racing’s biggest stages.

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