It’s a NASCAR track but Jimmy Small has seen enough to make sure it stays on the Verizon IndyCar schedule.
Iowa Speedway’s president was still giddy four days after last Saturday night’s Iowa Corn 300 – his first live glimpse of Indy cars.
“It was an incredible race and an even better finish,” said Small of Ryan Hunter-Reay’s amazing charge from 10th to first in the closing nine laps. “I got excited just watching them test, one car at a time, a couple weeks ago but that race was amazing. It’s going to be tough to top.”
Of course the big concern when NASCAR purchased the 7/8ths-mile oval last year was if that would mean the end of Indy cars.
“I had a good meeting with the IndyCar people on Saturday about the future of IndyCar for 2015 and beyond,” continued Small. “This is a major market for IndyCar, it’s one of our three big weekends and we believe it’s really important to hang onto them.
“We bill it as the fastest short track on the planet but it wouldn’t be without IndyCar and we’re happy with our relationship with them. I like where they’re at.”
Starting with the Indy Racing League in 2007, Iowa packed its grandstands those first few years but not since and appeared to be a little more than half-full last Saturday night with a tornado watch and ominous clouds hovering in the Newton, Iowa area. Some fans claimed there wasn’t enough promotion but Small said his promotional budget was “double” that of 2013, and he was also pleased with IndyCar and Verizon’s contributions.
Asked if Iowa could make a go of it based on last weekend’s crowd he replied: “We’re happy with what we had Saturday night and we’re bullish on where we’re headed. I think we’re poised to see a significant growth from a ticket sales standpoint. We got good feedback about the racing, the midway and concerts.”
Iowa certainly had reasonable prices ($30 for a paddock pass and $20 for a lower level grandstand seat) and offers a season ticket package that includes both Nationwide Series races and IndyCar in 2015. The only thing Small can’t control is the weather, and IndyCar has had to dodge rain or go through delays the past four years.
“It didn’t matter that we moved the race from June to July, the weather was still challenging,” he said. “But it sure would be nice to have a clear day with no rain in the forecast. I’ve got to work on that.”