|Rest assured, if the France Family is behind this purchase, IndyCars days in Iowa are numbered, and the number isn't very big.|
In a span of 3 minutes, 5 seconds Tuesday, Newton’s city council ensured that new ownership of Iowa Speedway is simply a signature or two away.
Who, though, will be wielding the pens?
The identities of the third owners of the 7/8-mile race facility that opened in 2006 remain as guarded as plot details for the final episode of “Seinfeld." All that’s certain, to this point, is the tire-shredding show will go on.
Newton mayor Mike Hansen said city officials promised to protect the confidentiality of the dollars behind the deal before a meeting to transfer existing agreements for the speedway and adjacent airport. At the same time, Hansen tried to maintain footing on the tight rope as he expressed confidence to any worried fans or taxpayers.
“I know enough about the new ownership people," he said in his office, “that I’m extremely confident that Iowa Speedway will be successful for many years to come."
International Speedway Corporation (ISC) often has been considered a contender to jump into the Iowa market. The longtime track operator has NASCAR’s first family in key positions (chairman James France, CEO Lesa France Kennedy and board member Brian France — NASCAR’s chairman) and seemed like a logical option.
But ISC spokesman Lenny Santiago told The Des Moines Register on Tuesday his group is not behind the sale.
“We’re not the ones involved in the deal," he said.
Removing ISC from the equation does not necessarily remove the France family, however. The sway of the France name alone makes the possibility particularly appetizing to those dreaming of reaching NASCAR’s top-level Sprint Cup Series.
When I asked a Newton official for a clue and wondered if a country in Europe is a good start, a hearty laugh followed.
Whoever steps in, though, will face some financial mop-up.
Speedway officials confirmed in early September the track faced financial challenges, including timely payments to vendors, and was seeking new financing and partners. The Clement family who founded Cresco-based Featherlite Trailers purchased the speedway from Iowa-based Manatt’s Inc., according to court records, for just more than $19 million.
Track architect and minority owner Rusty Wallace said in September, “NASCAR loves the track. We’ll keep it going. But the money is very, very tight."
Wallace added: “They’ve been spending, spending, spending, keep it going, keep it going, keep it going, but they’re about spent out. We’ve had to really cut costs. If anybody on the planet knew how much the Clement family has given this track, they would be on their knees saying, ‘Thank you.’ "
The speedway’s final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race of the season lacked a sponsor, and the 2014 race schedule has been consolidated or trimmed — depending on a person’s perspective — from five race weekends to three.
The secrecy surrounding all of this, though, is less than surprising, really.
Just remember the cloak wrapped tightly around Iowa-based deals with Google and Microsoft, for starters. Those writing the checks — and those writing the biggest checks, in particular — generally make the rules and do the announcing.
“We experienced that with TPI (Composites), we experienced that with the wind energy folks (when they came to Newton)," said Hansen, Newton’s mayor. “They wanted to be in charge of the release of the information, and rightfully so. They’re the on. Des Moines Register