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May 11, 2014 - 06:23 AM
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New Iowa Speedway President Prepping For 2014 Opening Event
Posted by: ASkyler on May 11, 2014 - 06:20 AM
Feature Articles
New Iowa Speedway President Prepping For 2014 Opening Event

By Jim Pedley, NASCAR Wire Service

Jimmy Small knows exactly what question to expect more than other, as he starts his first season the new president of Iowa Speedway. That question is: Just how old are you?

To meet him is to understand why that question has greeted Small just about everywhere he’s been since being tapped by NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France to run the Newton, Iowa tri-oval for the Daytona Beach-based company.

Small is 28-years-old and, even dressed in a nicely fitting suit and dress shirt, looks much younger.

But in talking to Small, it becomes pretty evident that Small is a young man with a solid plan and that plan is to make Iowa Speedway an even bigger success story than it was when first opened in 2006.

During a visit to Kansas Speedway to take in Saturday’s 5-Hour Energy 400 Sprint Cup Series race, he talked at length about things like engaging fans and making sure the entire state of Iowa knows that the impressive 7/8-mile facility located 30 miles east of Des Moines is their track. The facility's season begins next Sunday with a NASCAR Nationwide Series event, the first NNS standalone event of the season.


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"In meetings, I think people go in and think, ‘Oh, this kid’s a little young,’ " Small said. "But I think I can be, in my approach, very professional in how I do things. I think you have to [especially] be [that way] at a young age and that’s already proved very beneficial so far. I think that comes from just being passionate about the sport."

Small grew up deep in the heart of the automobile culture -- Detroit, Michigan. A Notre Dame graduate, he went to college just down the road from one of the most famous race tracks in the world -- Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Yet it wasn’t until he was headed toward the cold, hard-working world that he discovered the joys of racing.

When he did, he attacked.

He headed south during spring break as a senior at Notre Dame. Not to party and soak in beer and sunshine, but to knock on doors at NASCAR’s headquarters in Daytona.

"Low and behold, I got a call a week before I graduated," Small said. "They flew me down for a final interview and I got hired a couple weeks later."

He started in series operations at NASCAR but quickly moved to other areas of focus.

He remembers when the offer to work at Iowa Speedway, which NASCAR had acquired in 2013 from the previous owners, was made.

He got what appeared to be an e-mail from France last fall after returning from the race at Chicagoland Speedway.

"I thought it was a joke," Small said. "We always have fun games we play at NASCAR where we play jokes on each other to call someone back, so I thought it was a practical joke."

It wasn’t. France told him to mull the offer. He didn’t have to for long.

This year as a rookie track president, Small will supervise a track which hosts such major racing series as the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the IndyCar Series ... even though he looks like he should still be working on mastering slot cars.


On the weekend of the annual NFL draft, it was appropriate that the honorary pace car driver for Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway was a Kansas-born NFL player.

Jordy Nelson was a top player at Kansas State, which is located in Manhattan, about 100 miles east of the speedway.

He went from being a walk-on safety as a freshman to earning consensus All-America honors, including being named to nine first-team All-America squads in 2007 as a senior and being named a Biletnikoff Award finalist. The Biletnikoff Award is given annually to the top receiver in the nation.

In 2008, he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the NFL draft.

After taking some laps in a Richard Petty Driving Experience car as training for driving the pace car, Nelson said, "It was estimated we got up to around 150 to 155 mph on the backstretch. I’m glad I don’t do it for a living."

He said he didn’t really realize that he would actually have a serious job to perform as honorary pace car driver. That would be setting the pace for 43 cars.

Nelson said the Saturday night Kansas race would mark the first NASCAR event he has attended.

"One of the coolest things I’ve ever done," Nelson said of driving the pace car.


Ironically, the only driver in the 5-Hour Energy 400 race on Saturday night who could pull off a weekend sweep of the Camping World Truck and Sprint Cup races was the guy who last fall called Kansas Speedway the worst track he has ever raced at in his career.

That guy was Kyle Busch.

After his victory in the truck race, he said he was not ready to become the Kansas tri-oval’s biggest fan just yet.

He qualified 24th for the race and started in Row 12.

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