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Iowa’s Racing May Be Some of the Worst of the Next-Gen Era

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What’s Happening?

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Iowa Speedway this weekend for the inaugural Iowa Corn 350. While a sold-out grandstand and the general excitement for an inaugural race give this weekend a lot of hype, a bigger question lingers in the background. How will the racing product be on a track with a strange repave?

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  • Iowa Speedway recently repaved the bottom lanes in turns one, two, three, and four. Many drivers and fans have criticized this repave, which could affect the racing on Sunday evening.
  • Being a 7/8-mile short track, the track itself also raises some questions about how racing could be held there. The short-track package has notoriously struggled in the Next-Gen, but Iowa has some aspects that could help rectify this issue.
  • Fans are excited to see NASCAR racing at a new venue. However, they are less enthusiastic about this version of Iowa.

What Can We Compare Iowa To?

Regarding the shape and size of the track, Iowa Speedway’s closest comparison is easily Richmond Raceway. Track designer Rusty Wallace admitted after that Richmond had “A lot of influence” on Iowa.

Pre-repave, Iowa’s older surface was also very similar to Richmond’s grainy surface, which quickly wore out tires. Therefore, the original expectation of Iowa was that there would be significant tire wear similar to a Richmond race, and, with it being difficult to pass on short tracks, the race would come down to tire management and pit strategy.

However, Iowa has variable banking angles, 12-14 degrees in the corners. This, along with the slightly longer length and, therefore, faster speeds, is what separates it from Richmond. Xfinity Series races at the venue saw drivers using all the available lanes, racing near the bottom and up against the wall.

This meant the track behaved more like an intermediate track than a true short track. This should be a win for Iowa, as the Next-Gen car has raced well on intermediate tracks.

However, Iowa Speedway repaved the bottom lanes in the corners instead of keeping the old surface. Jeff Gluck explained on a recent episode of “The Teardown” that this was due to time constraints, and more information on that explanation can be found in the article below.

Regardless of the reasoning for the repave, drivers have criticized the repave job. When asked if he liked the repave, Christopher Bell said “No” when meeting with the media after the Goodyear tire test at Iowa, and Kyle Larson called it a “bummer.” Kevin Harvick called it “one of the biggest f-ups in the whole year.”

This repave can cause major issues with the racing product. The new asphalt will have significantly more grip than the old, forcing drivers into the new asphalt during the race.

Something similar played out in the 2023 All-Star Race. North Wilkesboro Speedway patched up the 42-year-old asphalt with new asphalt in certain spots. As a result, drivers searched for those “Grip strips” throughout the night, meaning there was only one truly fast groove.

Now, there is a silver lining. The most recent repave at North Wilkesboro Speedway was universally praised by drivers and fans for allowing multiple grooves from day one. Iowa still has progressive banking, so maybe drivers could get out of line, at least somewhat, to make passes.

It’s possible Iowa could give fans a nice surprise. However, there is a lot of apprehension about how the racing product will be this weekend.

What do you think about all this? Let us know on Discord or X what your take is, and don’t forget you can also follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and even YouTube.

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