Iowa Speedway's short oval and equally frenetic roval course have been fixtures on the racing calendar since opening in 2006. Designed with input from famed NASCAR-star-turned-commentator Rusty Wallace, the 7/8 mile oval near Newton, Iowa, has played host to NASCAR's lower division series as well as the IndyCar Series.
The oval course is a bustling short track, modelled after the Richmond International Raceway - perhaps not co-incidentally just the sort of track that Wallace excelled on. The tri-oval has a width of 60 feet with 12-14 degree compound banking in the turns. The front stretch features 10 degrees of banking and the backstretch has 4 degrees of banking. Unusually, the backstretch is overlooked by a two tier recreational vehicle viewing area, which boosts total capacity to around 40,000 spectators.
Construction of the $50 million facility began in late 2005, though there was a temporary delay when the City of Newton rejected a $1.7 million contract to build roads to the circuit. The council had demanded assurances that the construction company, Manatt's Inc, had the necessary funding in place before it would commit to paying for the roads. It had become dissatisfied with proof of financing documents from speedway developers U.S. MotorSport Corp. However, the crisis was averted when the city received a letter from Brad Manatt, the president of Manoco Corp, the parent company of the construction firm. He revealed a loan had been secured from Wells Fargo Bank to finance the construction, with legal documents set to confirm the deal.
Cconstruction resumed, with crews laying about 180,000 tons of rock around the entire facility. The speedway was the first track to have the SAFER Barrier installed around its entire perimeter and was also the first to use a second generation of the safety barrier, which does not have a concrete wall behind the energy absorbing structure. Paving of the racing surface was completed in late July 2006.
Aside from the oval, an Alan Wilson-designed 1.3-mile road course was squeezed into the infield, which also boasts 1/4 and 1/5-mile ovals and a 1/8-mile drag strip.
The circuit hosted its first event, the Soy Biodiesel 250, in September. Woody Howard won the race, which formed the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Four Champions playoff. The first season rounded off with the finale of the ARCA Racing Series, won by Rusty's son, Steve Wallace.
The first major event came in 2007 with the inaugural visit of the IndyCar Series for the Iowa Corn Indy 250, won by Dario Franchitti in a near photo-finish from Marco Andretti. A Grand Am sportscar event the same year was run under the lights as a night race but the compact and twisty nature of the short lap did not make for great racing and the experiment was not repeated. The track was however awarded a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and a Nationwide Series race in 2009 as it firmly established its position on the lower rungs of the stock car racing ladder.
On July 5, 2011, it was announced that the Manatt family had sold their majority interest to the Clement family, owners of Featherlite Incorporated, manufacturers of team transporters and coaches. Wallace retained his minority ownership and seat on the board.
Rumours that the track was being considered for a NASCAR Sprint Cup round surfaced periodically and in 2013 a bill to allow $8 million in upgrades to the speedway toward that goal began circulating in the Iowa legislature. However, financial difficulties began to mount for the new owners and in November 2013, the facility was bought out in its entirety by NASCAR itself. The stock car governing body apparently paid around $10 million for the facility according to tax filings, but stated that it had no plans to move a Sprint Cup event to Iowa.
Outside of racing activities, the circuit hosts several driving schools year-round, including a branch if the famed Richard Petty Driving Experience, where visitors have the opportunity to experience the speedway from behind the wheel of a stock car.