IndyCar fans who fear a successful drive to get a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Iowa Speedway will somehow crowd out the IndyCar race there can rest easy, according to the track's president.
Jerry Jauron, president and chief financial officer of Iowa Speedway says his track and IndyCar enjoy a "special relationship."
Jauron said the IndyCar race sponsor Iowa Corn Growers has been a "great partner" in promoting the IndyCar race and that discussions to extend their relationship into the future are well underway. Iowa Speedway continues to talk to IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard about a "minimum of a three-year extension." The possibility of a a double-header at the track is also still being explored, Jauron said.
"Again, IndyCar is here to stay at Iowa Speedway," said Jauron.
Jauron's unequivocal support of the IndyCar race should help ease some anxious IndyCar fans who wondered if Iowa Speedway would one day cut the IndyCar race to make room for a NASCAR Sprint Cup event.
Those worries surfaced again when the track changed ownership a few weeks ago, essentially transferring from one family to another. The Manatt family, owners of Manatt's Inc. heavy construction company based in Brooklyn, Iowa, sold to the Clement family, led by Conrad Clement. The Clements are natives of Newton, Iowa, and owners of Featherlite trailers which supplies trailers to many race NASCAR and IndyCar race teams. Conrad Clement has been involved with racing for more than two decades and has a good relationship with NASCAR leaders.
The track sale was very much part of the Manatt's original plan, Iowa Speedway officials said. The Manatt's were involved in building the speedway, but always planned to sell their interest after about five years. Track designer Rusty Wallace also has a minority ownership in the speedway.
When Clement took control, he and other track leaders reiterated Iowa Speedway's long-standing of attracting a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Iowa Speedway got its first NASCAR Nationwide date in 2008, and in 2011 received a second Nationwide race.
Jauron said the first Nationwide race held this year on May 22 drew 36,000 fans and Jauron estimated the second Nationwide race on Aug. 6 would draw another 45,000. In 2010 the track's single Nationwide Race drew nearly 56,000 fans. The IndyCar race at Iowa Speedway on June 25 drew more than 37,000.
Iowa Speedway has 30,000 permanent seats and then uses temporary seating set up as extensions of the grandstand to accommodate larger crowds. Jauron said the planning and lessons learned from hosting 56,000 fans for Nationwide races makes them ready to take on a Cup race, which he estimated could attract up to 80,000 fans.
Jauron said the speedway has started working on plans on how they would accommodate such a huge crowd if a Cup race eventually comes their way.
"We're building on that floor plan (used to accommodate 56,000 for the Nationwide race), and extending it out to possibly 75,000 to 80,000 people, and we are very confident we can do that," he said. "The hard work early on was to get 50,000 to 60,000 fans. We've done that. Now to add another 20,000 to 25,000 to that, although not easy, we’ll get it done."
Jauron said while working toward getting a Cup race -- with track co-owner Rusty Wallace leading the charge -- it's critical not to lose sight of what's most critical for the future of the speedway AND attracting a Cup race: fan experience.
"We feel that our team here at the track is as good as there is in the country and our overall fan experience; the feedback is incredible," he said. "At the end of the day, it’s not just filling grandstands; it's when the race is is over you want the fans going home chomping at the bit to come back. So far, knock on wood, that’s what we have on Iowa Speedway. I think the fans would come back for 40 weekends a year if we could make the weather cooperate."