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"Sprint Car Capital of the World"

Updated on July 10, 2015
Carol Reed profile image

Carol graduated from Indian Hills C.C. with an AAS in H.I.T and an AA in Arts & Science. A Social Media Booster for Wine Diamonds Film.

Changes Over the Years

I remember going to the Knoxville, Iowa, Sprint Car races with my father and my brothers throughout my childhood. This was a time when we sat on wooden benches. We made a game out of selecting our cars.

My dad would ask, “What car are you picking?”

I would say something like, “the number 5 car.”

We cheered for our favorite cars until one of them crossed the finish line; where the man that stood on something like a scaffold above the track waved the black and white checkered flag with large jerks back and forth in front of him, displaying the importance that the flag resembled. A fan doesn’t want to see the flagman wave or point a black flag at their favorite driver because this means it’s the pits for the car and of course the driver.

I watched the wooden benches gradually replaced with metal benches. As I grew, my choices changed. I started out screaming, “Go Earl Wagner! Go!” And then my cheers were focused on, Jerry Blundy and a few years later, Joe Saldana became my favorite driver.

I watched the sprint cars transform from no wings to wings, for a safer sport.

As a teenager, I went to the races with my dad and/or with my friends. There were times when I was able to ride in one of the tow trucks with a friend of mine, Gary Lenger. This gave me an excitement of being on the track but pushing the cars made it harder to see the whole race.

The fans started rooting for Doug Wolfgang but it took me longer to conform. In my mind, he was hogging the glory and I wanted others to win, however he started growing on my supporter side until I moved away from Iowa.

I witnessed the trend go from all men racing to one woman in the race and now the population has increased . The sprint car drivers have traveled from not just the United States but from other countries. During the Nationals, the fans travel to these races from other countries also, making this their vacation time. This has brought lifelong friendships and wonderful historical stories between the locals and the travelers.

When I moved back to Iowa in 2002, I drove into Knoxville during the Nationals. I couldn’t believe this was the same town I grew up in. Campers were parked along the side streets, in parking lots and in residents’ driveways. Tents occupied the majority of the yards along highway 14 and most of the side streets. I found that the bleachers multiplied to the other side of the track. Enclosed rooms, called suites had been built at the top of the bleachers on both sides of this oval dirt track.

Once in a while I found myself back in the stands or in the suites with my dad, brothers, daughter, son and other family members, unfortunately not all at the same time, predicting our winners and then cheering for them through each of the flags. One thing a person is sure to hear in the stands is both, loud proud shouts and screams of disappointments. My daughter became a Danny Lasoski fan while I was a Terry McCarl enthusiast. The older I got the harder the metal benches seemed to be so I found myself only a spectator if I was lucky enough to sit in one of the suites with comfortable chairs and plenty of room for family and friends.

Riding in the pace car can be as thrilling as riding in the tow truck. I wasn’t the only one riding in the pace car for the first time. If I remember right, there were at least five of us. My dad was so excited he did what he often did, when he thought something was cool, he was all smiles and gave the two thumbs up as we zoomed around the track.



"Sprint Car Capital of the World"

Over the years, I have heard that the Knoxville, Iowa race track is the “Sprint Car Capital of the World” but for some reason it seems like this bragging right muffled for a while. I’m glad to hear this phrase revving up again.

Want to learn more about the Sprint Cars?

Sprint Car Hall of Fame
Sprint Car Hall of Fame | Source

Population of Knoxville, Iowa before Nationals.

Sprint car drivers and followers journey from overseas to a town with an approximate population slightly over 7,300.

Knoxville, Iowa Sprint Car Races (YouTube)

Distance Traveled

How far do you travel to go to the Knoxville, Iowa, Sprint Car Nationals?

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Sprint Car Museum

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Check out the stories in the Hall of Fame,
Check out the stories in the Hall of Fame,
Check out the stories in the Hall of Fame, | Source

Suites & Hall of Fame (Turn 2)

Suites Overlooking the Racetrack
Suites Overlooking the Racetrack | Source

"Sprint Car Capital of the World!"

Outside of the Track

Before races it's wall to wall people and bumper to bumper cars. During the races, one may find Mud on Hwy 14, less people walking outside of the track and less cars.
Before races it's wall to wall people and bumper to bumper cars. During the races, one may find Mud on Hwy 14, less people walking outside of the track and less cars. | Source

Saturday Race Nights & More.

A markerHwy 14 Race track Knoxville, Iowa -
Knoxville, IA 50138, USA
get directions

"Sprint Car Capital of the World" 360 Races "World of Outlaws" Sprint Car Nationals

Fan of Sprint Cars?

4 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of Sprint Car Races

Years Attending Knoxville, Iowa, Sprint Car races.

How many years have you been going to the Knoxville, Iowa races?

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Drawing of a Sprint Car Outside of the Track....

Art Work
Art Work | Source

Favorite pass time during the week of the Sprint Car Nationals.

What do you like to do when your not at the races?

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Marion County Fair (July)

Knoxville Speedway Embraces Other Events
Knoxville Speedway Embraces Other Events | Source

Just about anyone can be a driver in these cars.

A markerSlideways Carting Center Hwy 14 -
Slideways Karting Center, 1230 Iowa 14, Knoxville, IA 50138, USA
get directions

Better than Go Karts. These look like miniature Sprint Cars.

Yearly Nationals Parade (Aug.)

Never know who or what you will find on the Square during the Sprint Car Nationals Parade.   http://www.traveliowa.com/calendar/?id=1613887
Never know who or what you will find on the Square during the Sprint Car Nationals Parade. http://www.traveliowa.com/calendar/?id=1613887 | Source

Iowa State Fair (Aug.) in Des Moines, Iowa

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Have fun at the Iowa State Fair too.
Have fun at the Iowa State Fair too.
Have fun at the Iowa State Fair too. | Source

Please, share your stories.

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    • profile image

      Matt Ellis 22 months ago

      I grew up in Knoxville but never got into the races. Your post made me excited about the whole environment of the cars, the races, the people, and Nationals.

    • Carol Reed profile image
      Author

      Carol Clarke Reed 22 months ago from Remote

      Thank you, Matt. There are other local people that haven’t been drawn into this sport. Maybe, “late bloomers, maybe too exhausting, or just not their entertainment. Some choose to rent their homes and evacuate the area during the Nationals to drive towards the amusements they enjoy; while many homeowners share their living spaces and passion for sprint cars with friends, year after year. Who knows, perhaps this year the green flag will greet not only seasoned drivers and followers but also rookies both on the track and in the audience. Thanks again for sharing.

    • profile image

      Bobbi (VanderSluis) Johnson 22 months ago

      I grew up in Knoxville and lived at the opposite end of town. I, too, remember going to sleep listening to the races on Saturday nights. I've been away for decades, but visit every few years. I'm amazed at the changes at the track and fairgrounds. I've lived in different areas of the country and when the topic of races come up, I always speak of my roots and Knoxville being the "fastest 1/4 mile track in the country" as it was touted to be at one time. I plan to come back some time just to enjoy the thrill again. And to see if I remember anyone who still frequents them. Great article

    • Carol Reed profile image
      Author

      Carol Clarke Reed 22 months ago from Remote

      Thank you very much, Bobbi (VanderSluis) Johnson, for sharing your story and for the compliment. I know I was shocked the first year I had returned during the Nationals. Tons of people walking through the large Hy-Vee Parking lot across from the Racetrack / Fair Grounds with vendors lined up all over.

      I have a friend that has a corn dog stand. I'm not a big fan of corn dogs but their corn dogs are great! And I’m not just saying this because they are friends. I know people have made a point to stop in there every year they go to the Nationals to eat their corn dogs.

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