The Iowa Speedway in Newton would get eight-million dollars in state taxpayer support over the next four years under a proposal approved by the Iowa Senate Tuesday night. Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, says the money would help the track prepare to host a Sprint Cup race. “The Sprint Cup is the ‘Holy Grail’ of NASCAR racing,” Dotzler says. “It’s the ‘big boys and girls’ race and it’s the one that’s most popular — probably one of the most popular sporting events in America, really.” The Newton track is popular with the drivers, according to Dotzler.
“Last year the Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, after he won the national championship at the Sprint Cup, said we need to come to Iowa,”Dotzler says. “NASCAR needs to change. We need to get back to what racing was about: short-track racing, door-to-door banging racing. And the Iowa Speedway offers some of the most exciting races in the country and they’re excited. It’s a racer’s track.” The Senate proposal would send two-million dollars in each of the next four years to the operators of the Newton track, for marketing and infrastructure improvements.
“Because you draw huge crowds — we had 60,000 at the Nationwide race — they have to put up additional bleachers,” Dotzler says. “There’s rest room stuff; there’s additional parking; there’s a lot of things that need to be done at the track to get it really ‘Cup’ ready and that’s what these dollars would be about.” Dotzler admits there’s “no guarantee” the Iowa Speedway will land a Sprint Cup race within four years. “But the people that are in the know about NASCAR are saying that Iowa’s kind of next in line,” Dotzler says. “They’re looking to Iowa, but we’ve kind of got to get our ducks in a row before they’re going to make that committment and it’s a big committment ’cause it’s a big-time thing and it’s pretty exciting for Iowa.”
Dotzler says the Iowa Speedway owners will invest far more than the state would spend on the track, as getting a big race like this could require an outlay of millions for the rights alone. The proposal to send state tax dollars to the Iowa Speedway was included in a huge bill dealing with a wide variety of taxing, spending and policy issues that cleared the Iowa Senate Tuesday night. No one objected or even mentioned the eight-million dollars for the track during Senate debate and the governor isn’t ruling out the idea.
A spokesman for Governor Branstad says Branstad “will need to review the legislation in its final form prior to indicating the action he will take.” A spokeswoman for Republicans who control the debate agenda in the Iowa House says the G-O-P “will take a look at” the proposal and “then make a decision.” The Iowa Speedway has permanent seating for 30-thousand fans and held its first race in the fall of 2006. The track itself is seven-eighths of a mile and was designed by driver Rusty Wallace. Senator Dotzler, by the way, has eight season tickets to the Iowa Speedway and describes himself as a “life-long racing fan.”
“I grew up in racing,” Dotzler says. “My first job was working at a stock car track, selling peanuts and ice cream when I was in junior high school.” Several years ago, before the Newton race track was built, legislators voted to let the track to keep sales tax revenue from sales of tickets and other track merchandise to help finance construction. That tax plan was extended to developers of a sports complex around the Field of Dreams in Dyersville.