Former president of MRN radio, David Hyatt knows what it takes to give the fans what they want after 20 plus years at the helm. He brings that same mentality to his current role as president of Iowa Speedway, now in just his second full season in the position. With the races in 2019 scheduled the way they were, the race track ended up with doubleheader race weekends back-to-back, making for a very busy couple of weeks hosting the NTT Indy Car Series, the ARCA Menards Series last week and both the K&N Pro Series and Xfinity Series under the NASCAR banner this week. But as the saying goes, sometimes you have to make lemonade from the lemons you are given and Hyatt saw this as an opportunity to maximize fan interaction, thus Iowa Speedweeks was born.
“Ideally, we’d say that it kicks off more than just our Iowa Speedweeks because Knoxville starts their Nationals run next week, so 360 Nationals next week down there, then they go to their 410 Nationals (Sprint Cars) the week after,” said President Hyatt on opening up the campground for the entire week between races, free of charge. “So, in theory, you’ve got a month of nationally centered motorsports happening right here in central Iowa and we kicked it off.”
Per capita, the state of Iowa has more race tracks than any other state in the country. By volume of tracks, it is fourth among all 49 states that have active tracks, behind only California, Texas, and Pennsylvania. So the fans are there, its a matter of engaging them, getting them to the track, and allowing them to get the most out of their time with the event and activities. As the fan responses filtered and the number of people that indicated they would be coming, David Hyatt decided it needed to be taken to another level.
“So we first started looking at what we can do in our own backyard,” says Hyatt reflecting on planning the week out. “While you’re on property, let’s find some things to do, doesn’t have to be a lot but a few things that make you feel welcome. Then we decided to get with the community surrounding us and see what could be going on in your town, downtown in Newton for example with some of the merchants. How do we drive some of the traffic, what are some of the fun, festive things that can make the event feel much bigger and with much more participation.”
On the premises, those activities include a bags tournament, a couple of movie nights, and a small concert in conjunction with a cookout. All events were open to the public, again with the intent to engage with the local community as well. And they brought some of the spotlight and party to them as well.
“We kicked it off to include our partners over in Des Moines,” said Hyatt on including the surrounding community in its campaign. “The kickoff date was bringing some of the Indy Car transporters and Ed Carpenter’s race car over to one of the downtown parks in Des Moines so folks could come out the lunch hour and mill around. See the cars, see the colors, and see what was going on. That kind of opened it up and kicked it off.”
The week was highlighted by a charity golf tournament. The inaugural Celebrity Newton Cares Classic supported some great causes and received high praise with many participants promising to return as the outing looks to become a staple of the future for the racetrack. A committee meeting to plan and organize for next year is already set.
“We had a handful of our drivers participate. We had a number of other Iowa based celebrities or celebrities with Iowa roots came and participated, all for a good cause,” says Hyatt on the involvement with the charity event. “We supported the United Way of Jasper County which supports 24 charitable agencies here in the county. The Friends of Newton Parks which maintains some of the park systems we have here in the city of Newton. And then we also supported our own Iowa Speedway Cares which is part of the NASCAR Foundation chain of charities.”
Hyatt’s process of working with and for the fans never ends. Plans are in place to formulate and create a statewide promotors association. He has already worked with a dozen or so tracks in doing joint promotions, showing up personally to give away season tickets to Iowa Speedway and putting up banners during their events advertising the dirt tracks. That is all highlighted by this morning’s announcement of next year’s schedule which will include bringing the NASCAR Wheelen Modified Series to Iowa for the first time, as far west as they have ever been. Saturday morning the announcement was first given to season ticket holders at the speedway before it went public.
That brings about the question fans ask and want the most, when will Iowa Speedway get a Monster Energy Cup Series race?
“We feel that we’re gonna have the best opportunity that we’ve ever had as we get through the end of the current sanctions or current operating agreements,” said Hyatt on the possibility of getting a Cup race in the future. “We have put our proposal together, we’ve shown, done an analysis, we know what we need to do, we know what it will do for us, we know what we believe it will do for the sport…I believe that our shot is as good as its ever been, probably better than its ever been.”
If anybody can make it happen, track president David Hyatt is certainly the one that can get it done.