IOWA

Davenport Speedway (1952)
Sioux City Dragway (1952)
Nevada Airport ​​(Ames) (1953)
Mason City Municipal Airport (1955)
Dubuque "Drag Strip" (1956)
Ames Drag Strip (1957)
Greater Des Moines Drag Strip/Des Moines Dragway (1957)
Hamburg "Drag Strip" (1957)

Waucoma Drag Strip (1958)
Hawkeye Downs Speedway (Cedar Rapids) (1959)
Sportsman's Park Drag Strip (Keokuk) (1960)
Iowa Dragway/Humboldt County Dragway (Humboldt) (1963)
Eddyville Dragway (1965)
Neita Raceway/Cedar Falls Raceway (1965)
Lee County Dragway (Keokuk) (1969)
​Iowa State Fairgrounds (Des Moines) (1980)
​Mason City Speedway (1981)
Tri State Raceway (Earlville) (1998)
Iowa Speedway (Newton) (2007)
Rolling Thunder Drag Strip/Mid-America Motorplex/Midlands I29 Dragway (Pacific Junction) (?)
 
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Dragster at Des Moines Dragway. Photographer unknown

Ames Drag Strip

 
The opening event of the Ames Drag Strip was held on May 30, 1957. It was sanctioned by the Automobile Timing Association of America and races conducted by the Nightcrawlers car club . The strip was located two miles south of Ames just east of Highway 69, across from where Lowes Home Improvement store is now. When it opened, the strip had a 60-foot-long concrete starting pad, but the rest of the quarter-mile track was oiled dirt. More than 1,000 spectators watched the racing on July 7. The 1958 season opened on May 18. On June 15, Bob Ryan of Madrid turned in the fastest time of the meet with 15.68 seconds in his fuel-injected Corvette. On July 20,  450 people watched more than 100 cars compete. Lou Bredesky took top eliminator in 14.72 seconds in his Model T roadster. The races in 1959 were jointly sponsored by the Nightcrawlers club and the Ramblers club of Waterloo. They held a 2-day event on September 6-7 that had a lot of support from the Ames business community.   Read the recollections of a DSL reader who attended the races there .
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August 11, 1957
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July 4, 1958

Davenport Speedway

 
As a special attraction, drag races were held on the half-mile dirt track located on the grounds of the Danvenport fairgrounds at a couple of races in May-June 1952. Late model stock cars, no older than 1950, participated in the racing. The drag races were open to any spectator who wished to enter. They were held between the midget racing lap races. Cars started at the left turn and raced two-by-two to the finish line in front of the grandstand.  At the drag races on May 30, 1952, Don Doty won the drag races in his Oldsmobile 88. The track is still operating at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds.
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May 18, 1952

Dubuque "Drag Strip"

 
A drag strip in Dubuque was reportedly 600 feet wide and 3,000 feet long. With these dimensions, it had to have been an airport runway racing strip. The racing likely was conducted at the old WWII airfield, which was eight miles southwest of Dubuque (now Dubuque Regional Airport). More research is needed.
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Eddyville Dragway

  • Years of Operation: 1965-present
 
This 1/8th-mile drag strip was built on sixty acres of land, eight miles south of Oskaloosa. John Rempe built and owned this track from when it first opened until 1993, when he sold it to Carl Moyer from Ankeny. Moyer totally rebuilt the facility with a much larger pit area, and modern amenities. The track was purchased in 2006 by Scott Gardner (the owner of Cordova Dragway in Illinois) and Gerald Kramer from Pella. In 2014 Gardner sold his part ownership to Kramer. It operates today, called Eddyville Raceway Park, under IHRA sanction. On Sunday, June 12, 1966, Nile Cornelison was booked to make three exhibition runs in his "Voo Doo" dragster. On Saturday night, August 3, 1969, a record 161 cars  competed in front of a capacity crowd. In 1982, Tommy Ivo raced at the track with his 4-engined dragster. Eddyville is where fuel driver Tommy Johnson, Jr., first started racing.
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1972
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Eddyvill Dragway, ​ 1971 topo map
CLICK HERE to see video footage of Eddyville Dragway 2009, 5:45 minutes

Greater Des Moines Drag Strip/Des Moines Dragway

 
This drag strip was built by Dennis and Larry Day on the farm of their father, Ernest Day, located four miles northwest of Des Moines and 3 1/2 miles south of Grimes. It was 3,500 feet long by 60 feet wide, the quarter-mile being paved, but the shutdown was oiled dirt. Races were sponsored by the Greater Des Moines Council of Automobile and Motorcycle Clubs. They were shooting for a May 30 opener, but delays pushed it to a 2-day opening on July 13-14. Mayor Ray Mills dedicated the strip before the Sunday, July 14, race, seen by 3,000 spectators. Frank Galuska of Monmouth, Illinois, took top eliminator in his dragster with a top speed of 110.42 MPH on August 4. George Roseland of Omaha took top eliminator in the automobile division with a winning run of 110.70 MPH on the following week. Then followed Duane Burson, also from Omaha, who took top eliminator in the automobile division over 165 entries with a clocking of 118.42 MPH. George Bowles from Moline, Illinois, won top eliminator and set a new track record of 119.20 MPH on September 1 before a crowd of 2,500 people. More than 300 cars competed at the 2-day event. This was more than competed at the Nationals in Oklahoma City. Frank Galuska returned from Illinois on September 15 to win top eliminator and set a new track record of 120.96 MPH. On September 22, Bob Johnson got top eliminator in his dragster with a clocking of 107.84 MPH and 12.57 ET. Bob Elic of Omaha set a new strip record with a run of 121.78 MPH in 11.12 seconds. Gene Stanley from Omaha took top eliminator on September 29 with a 12.65 ET and 120.00 MPH. Earch week, racers were drawn to this Iowa track from different states, many winning class and eliminator trophies or setting new records. Such was the case on October 13 when Bill Barbour from Omaha broke the track record with a run of 124. 65 MPH. The 1958 season opened on April 5-6 with a 2-day race. That season continued the trend of large crowds and numbers of racers.  Night racing started on Saturday, August 2, 1958, but only cars with headlights could compete to augment the strip's lights. The 1958 season closed on October 26 with Howdy Williams from Omaha taking top eliminator and breaking the old track record with a 129.49 MPH run. The 1960 season opened on April 24 with another out-of-state racer winning top eliminator and breaking the strip record. Dick Witherby of Rockford, Illinois, turned 140.62 MPH in 11.21 seconds before 2,995 fans.  From 1961 to its close in 1967 it was called Des Moines Dragway. Missourian Lou Cangelose obliterated the old strip record on April 29, 1962, in his A fuel dragster with a 9.02 ET at 173.01 MPH. In mid-1961, the strip was paved for its entire 3/4 mile length. On May 13, 1962, 3,000 fans watched Art Arfons go 225 MPH in 3.79 seconds in his "Green Monster" jet dragster. This was an unofficial world record, but unfortunately he couldn't back it up. Rod Stuckey set a new track record of 181 MPH on May 30. Things were shaping up for a great season in 1962 until burglars spoiled matters and stole the track's timing clocks in June. This misfortune  and other problems caused Ernest Day to nix any further races until September 23, 1962. It re-opened then with Bob Johnson as the new track manager. Johnson took a more conservative financial approach to operating the track, choosing not to book the big-name racers like those appearing in early 1962. It was sanctioned by AHRA in 1964. On July 5, 1965, Ed Stoffles of Milwaukee won top fuel eliminator and set a new track record with a 184 MPH clocking in 8.43 seconds. A housing development started in 2000 obliterated the old drag strip.
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1990 aerial view of Des Moines Dragway
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This first newspaper ad promoted the race on July 21, 1957
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The first night races were held on August 2, 1958
Rod Stuckey won by default in this 1962 pairing when Lou Cangelose blew his engine. Two thousand spectators saw Stuckey also set a new strip speed mark of 181 MPH.
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CLICK HERE to see short 8mm video clip of Des Moines Dragway in 1960s, 18 seconds, no sound
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Two motorcycles race down the track on the opening weekend of racing at Des Moines Dragway. Plowed earth and snow fencing separate the spectators from the dirt return foad (foreground) and the strip. Photo published in ​​​Des Moines Register, July 15, 1957
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Des Moines Dragway, 1966 topo map
Bob Johnson of Des Moines leaves the starting line at the Greater Des Moines Drag Strip in his Ford flathead-engined dragster. Photo published in ​​​​​Des Moines Register, July 29, 1958

Hamburg "Drag Strip"

  • Years of Operation: 1957
  • Status:  Exact location unknown
 
Albert Propp gave the Hot Heads car club a strip of land on his farm to use as a drag strip. Little else is known, and more research is needed.
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Hawkeye Downs Speedway (Cedar Rapids)

 
In 1959, big-time stock car racing capitalized on the popularity of drag racing. They began holding drag races in conjunction with some of the major stock car races around the country. On May 16, night-time drag races under the lights were run in conjunction with the Hawkeye 300. They employed a 440-foot length on the straight-away for the drag strip. Electronic timers were installed to measure times to 1/100 of a second. They awarded trophies to 20 class winners in categories ranging from stock to gassers, altereds, and roadsters. The event proved successful and they held another drag race after the Sunday afternoon stock car races on July 5. One old racer recalled:  "I ran my truck at the Iowa Speedway a few times. It was a bit hairy at the top end, hit the brakes hard and turn left fast. I think that was the demise of the drag racing there. The racing was short lived. It only lasted for two seasons as the interest died quickly. My guess was the shut down and the track managers didn't want to work with the drag racers much. . . . Best I ever ran was 89 m.p.h. and I was all over the place with bias ply Mickey's. Still a blast while it lasted."
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July 5, 1959
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Iowa Dragway/Humboldt County Dragway/North Iowa Dragway ​(Humboldt)

  • Years of Operation: 1963-present
 
Newspaper reports touted this as being the first sanctioned drag strip in Iowa. But they were misinformed as the Sioux City strip had been sanctioned by NHRA as early as the mid-1950s. It's opening day race, under AHRA sanction, occurred on May 26, 1963. It was built on land leased from Denton Myers, located three miles east and a half-mile north of Humboldt. George Drown and Louis Vaudt built and owned the 40-foot wide, half-mile long asphalt track. They operated quarter-mile racing, with a quarter-mile for shutdown. They began with 87 classes of racing. Two thousand people turned out to watch the opening day of racing. A dragster from Fort Dodge won top eliminator, turning a best run of 10.20 seconds at 158 MPH. In April 1968, Hot Rod Magazine listed it as being under NHRA sanction. Bob Johnson was the track manager in 1968. Jim Sturtezenburg operated the track from 1968 to 1975. From 1967-69, the track was called Western Dragway. On Saturday night, July 29, 1972, Don Prudhomme faced Tom McEwen in a best-of-three match race. Mickey Thompson appeared at the track two times in 1972. John and Shirley Williams took over the track in 1975. After John passed away in 1989, Shirley ran the track with the help of her family. She married Chuck Mortensen in 1991 and they operated the track together until 2015. From 2015 to 2017, the track operated under the name Iowa's Oldest Dragway. James Barhite and Dennis Quillen took over management of the track at the end of 2017. In 2018, the track was renamed North Iowa Dragway, operating under AHRA sanction.
 
 
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This 1964 newspaper ad promotes a race when the strip was known as Iowa Dragway
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During the three years when it was known as Western Dragway, races were promoted in the classified ads. This ad promted a 2-day race in 1967.
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April 1, 1973
CLICK HERE to see video footage of Humboldt County Dragway, 2007, 2:02 minutes

Iowa State Fairgrounds ​​​(Des Moines)

 
Newspapers advertised what they called spectator drag races at the State Fair half-mile dirt oval every Saturday night beginning in June 1980. In the races, cars were paired against each other, but it is not likely they were actually racing on just a straight-away, so technically this probably wasn't drag racing. Lefty Robinson ran the program.
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1980

Lee County Dragway ​(Keokuk)

 
Ron Saar built this 1/8th-mile strip on the site of the old Sportsman Park Drag Strip. It opened for racing on August 23, 1969. Ron, Jerry, and Gayle Saar were owners of a speed shop in Keokuk. In 1970, the track began holding its Spring Festival of Drag Racing, a tradition that would persist every May. At that first event, Jerry Smeltlzly set a track record of 5.15 seconds in a funny car final against Arnie Beswick.  During its years of operation, it was sanctioned first by AHRA, but also came under NHRA sanction at different times. Ron's brother, Jerry Saar, was a staple at the track, racing his funny car. The upper floor of the timing tower was reportedly a refurbished chicken coop. 
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CLICK HERE to see 2013 KHQA-TV report about effort to restore Lee County Dragway, 1 minute
1996 aerial view of Lee County Dragway
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CLICK HERE to see video footage of Lee County Dragway, 5:20 minutes
Lee County Dragway, ​​ 1975 topo map
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CLICK HERE to see video footage of Lee County Dragway, 1969-88, 1:23 minutes
May 27-29, 1972

Mason City Municipal Airport

 
The Road Gents car club received preliminary approval in November 1955 to use one of Mason City Airport's runways for drag racing.  They had to abide by certain restrictions. These included obtaining insurance for spectators, changing runways when necessitated by changes in wind direction (for airplane traffic), and orderly entering and exiting the airport in a group.  Further discussions were forthcoming. More research is needed as it is not known if the Road Gents followed through with all the mandated requests and actually raced at the airport.
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Mason City Speedway

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At the season opener, newspaper ads promoted what they referred to as a spectator drag race, where two cars would race against each other on the half-mile dirt semi-banked oval track located at the North Iowa Fairgrounds. It isn't clear from the ads if the cars would just be racing down the front straight-away stretch in front of the grandstands, or whether they might go all the way around the oval, which technically would not be a drag race in the common understanding of what a drag race is. Tom Hovland's top fuel dragster, that had recently won the NHRA Springnationals, was going to be on display at the May 24th opener, too.
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May 24, 1981

Neita Raceway/Cedar Falls Raceway

  • Years of Operation: 1965-present
 
This strip was built by Lavern "Red" Droste (president) and Raymond Steward (vice-president). Located four miles north and a quarter mile west of Cedar Falls near Highway 218, construction was scheduled to be finished in time to start racing on May 1, 1965. Sanctioned by NHRA, the strip was 3,900 feet long by 60 feet wide. The first race was held on Sunday, July 11, 1965. The Power-Richley-Mauer AA/FD had the day's fastest time of 8.54 ET and 186 MPH. Jerry Leik took top gas eliminator and Massey-Roth-Saylor took competition eliminator in their A/A roadster. A big 2-day race was held on August 7-8, 1965. The purse of $6,000 was a big draw. Tom Hoover took top fuel eliminator and set the track record with a time of 8.14 and 189.86 MPH. On July 3, 1966, there was a featured 2-out-of-3 funny car match race between Dick Dyke's '65 Dodge Coronet and Gary Ostrich's '65 Plymouth. On August 12-13, 1967, five new NHRA national records were set during a divisional points meet. In 1977, Tony Fox and Mabel Lewis took over the raceway. In 1984, it was renamed Cedar Falls Raceway.  It currently runs under IHRA sanction (2016).
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August 7-8, 1965
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Two stock cars leave the starting line at Neita Raceway. Photo published in Waterloo Courier, June 29, 1969
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CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Neita Raceway, 1967-68, 10:02 minutes, no sound/music only
August 23-25, 1985
Neita Raceway, ​​​ 1973 topo map

Nevada Airport (Ames)

 
The Iowa Timing Association conducted a couple of quarter-mile drag races on the oiled dirt surface at the Nevada Airport. Dale Ross, of Ames, was in charge of the first drag race which was held on July 26, 1953. Newspapers billed it as the first drag race held in the midwest, but research shows earlier drag races were held in Missouri, Illinois, and Kansas, but this was the first in Iowa. The first race attracted over a thousand spectators and more than 90 entries from Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois. The racers did not race against each other, but were timed individually. Vernard Whatoff recorded the quickest time of 14.3 seconds on his Ariel Square Four motorcycle. With the success of this first race, a second race was held on August 23. Unfortunately it was marred by a fatal freak accident which killed 17-year-old Myrus Gibbs, from Ames. He was helping make preparations for the start of the race, just prior to the closure of the airport to planes. He was hit by a landing plane while driving a motorcycle on the runway. This happened less than a half-hour before the drag races were to begin. Racing in 1953 concluded with a season-ending race on September 20. A couple of drag races were held there in fall 1954. The general location was a mile southwest of Nevada and south of Highway 30. Any trace of the old airport is gone today.
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September 20, 1953
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Navada Municipal Airport, ​​​ 1978 topo map

Sioux City Dragway

 
Organized drag races were conducted at the municipal airport, located six miles south of Sioux City, Iowa, in the town of Sergeant Bluff, beginning likely as early as 1952. An ad for a race on October 10, 1954, stated that the race was put on by the Sioux City Strollers car club. Built in 1942, the airport was a part of an old Army Air Base. It is now called Sioux Gateway Airport. An NHRA regional championship was held there on July 7-8, 1956. Over 100 racers entered, some from as far away as California and Texas. Melvin Heath, from Oklahoma, turned 137 MPH in his dragster. The racing season generally opened in May, under supervision of the Sioux City police. Drag races were also held on a runway at the airport on August 7, 1960. One old timer remembered attending races in the early 1960s:  "The Sioux City drag strip was a runway at the Sioux City airport/airbase. Nothing fancy, although it did have a timing tower as well as some bleacher seating on one side of the track." On August 15, 1965, an NHRA West Central Division points meet was held at Sioux City. Bob Coney was the manager of the strip beginnin in 1958 and into the 1960s. Races at the airport were discontinued in 1973 due to tightened federal regulations for airports. The Strollers car club was involved in getting the racing going in the beginning (see Paul Hutchins' Memories ).
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October 10, 1954
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Bob Schrievers (left) and Zelbert DePriest (right) on the starting line at Sioux City Airbase, 1955. Photo published in ​​​Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, Aug. 18, 1955
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May 8, 1966
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Jim Sudley smokes the tires at the starting line on his 139 MPH run at Sioux City Municipal Airport on July 18, 1965. The Judge's Stand is seen in the background.  Photo published in ​​Sioux City Journal,  July 19, 1965
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Sioux City Dragway, late 1960s, pan to 3:15 mark to see Sioux City
August 27, 1967

Sportsman's Park Drag Strip ​​(Keokuk)

 
Drag races were held on a 1,400-foot long drag strip near an adjacent dirt oval semi-modified stock car track (which also had been named Sportsman's Park) every Saturday night. Although news articles didn't specify, the short distance of this strip probably meant that it was an 1/8th-mile drag strip.  They began at least as early as June 1960. That early date must have been on a dirt-surfaced track as they didn't begin readying the track for its 35-foot concrete starting pad and paving until May 1, 1961. The principal owner/builders were L. R. Jones, Joe Hickey, and Marie Hamilton, the latter two from Keokuk. They hoped to have the strip ready to open on May 14 and to hold races every other weekend. More than fifty entries were expected to compete on July 15, 1961, for $150 in prize money and trophies. One of the racers who competed was Gale Frakes of Galesburg, Illinois, in his dragster. He had been unbeatable at the strip. Research was unable to find any information on racing at this strip after 1961. In 1969, Lee County Dragway (see above entry) opened on the former site of Sportsman's Park.
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July 4, 1961
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Lee County Dragway, ​​​ 1975 topo map

Waucoma Drag Strip

  • Years of Operation: 1958
  • Status:  Exact location unknown
 
A dirt drag strip was located in Waucoma. A race was held there on July 18, 1958. More research is needed.
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July 18, 1958