CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Former Iowa Speedway minority owner Rusty Wallace said the track was struggling financially despite sellout crowds and strong local support, and the champion driver welcomes the stability that new owner NASCAR brings to the facility.
"It was a nail-biter every single day up there financially, because it wasn't making money. I was just on the border. It was losing money, it was just hanging on for dear life," Wallace said Tuesday during a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "But everybody who sat in the grandstands to watch the (Camping World) Trucks saw this amazing race, and they saw the stands completely full, and they thought, 'Everything's great.'
"But at the end of the day when it's all said and done, when everybody's in their car driving home, you could hear a pin drop, and we're adding the money up and it's like -- this is how much went out, and there's not enough coming in. Even though it was so great, it wasn't where it needed to be. The loan was super high on the race track, the interest rate was killer high. Stuff like that really hurt it."
NASCAR announced Nov. 27 that it had purchased the seven-eighths mile track in Newton, Iowa, which has 30,000 permanent seats and has hosted Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series events since 2009. During Champion's Week in Las Vegas, chairman Brian France called the facility an "attractive asset in a region of the country that is very NASCAR-centric," and said the purchase would "give some stability to a facility that needs that."
Wallace, who designed the track and remains its public ambassador, said France visited the speedway for its Sept. 8 Truck Series race on the Sunday after the Sprint Cup Series regular-season finale at Richmond. He added that Lesa France Kennedy, NASCAR's executive vice president, had also visited the track to see her son Ben compete in races.
"We had other buyers that were interested in it, but it was just those deals weren't getting done timely enough," Wallace said. "I think what kind of got them so excited was, Brian heard about the track maybe being for sale, and he came out there on Sunday for our Truck race, after all the Richmond scandal was going on, that next day. He watched the race, and we had a great crowd, and everybody was all excited and pumped up, and he went, 'Wow.'
"So then when they heard the track could be bought, I think (France) personally got excited about it. I watched their faces light up, and heard all the positive comments Brian said, and Lesa would say, and (NASCAR President) Mike Helton would say. It makes me feel really good. But it makes me feel great that the race track is in really good hands financially for the outcome of the track."
Wallace was at the Hall of Fame to unveil the car in which he won his 50th race in 2000, which will be featured on the facility's revamped Glory Road 2.0 exhibit. The 1989 champion of NASCAR's premier series was originally a 10 percent owner of Iowa Speedway, and said his share was 5 percent at the time of the purchase by NASCAR.
Iowa will host two Nationwide Series events, two K&N Pro Series events, and a Camping World Truck Series race in 2014. NASCAR said immediately after the purchase was announced that it had no plans to put a Sprint Cup race in Iowa next season or in the immediate future. Wallace thinks that will eventually change.
"NASCAR's got to say what they're saying, but I don't have to. I can say, I think they're going to get one down the road. I know the fans want one bad," Wallace said.
"But knowing how many seats are there, and knowing what's going on -- the thing's going to be great, and it's going to be big. But in order to take it to the next step and be really big, there's got to be some kind of state financial involvement in it. Because that race track brings in over $60 million a year in economic impact. There is no NFL or NBA right there. Our race track is the deal. It's real exciting. I just know what's got to happen to take it to the next step. But we all know, with the power of NASCAR and their expertise running race tracks, they'll make it good."
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