Iowa Speedway rekindles magic memories of short-track racing


In 1983, I attended basketball camp at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. It was a wonderful camp. The snack bar was stocked with Whatchamacallits and Astro Pops, I played several games of basketball per day and the NCAA Division III players who served as counselors seemed like Julius Erving and Moses Malone.

We stayed in dorms. Each morning, the staff woke us by blaring the song "Our House" by the British new wave group Madness. There was, however, no madness for me at that camp, and for that week, their house was my house. I loved everything about it.

To this day, some 34 years later, as soon as I hear the first note of that song, I immediately smell the aroma of those dorms, feel the buzz of a day of hoops and anticipate the savory taste of my first scoop of Fruity Pebbles from the dispensary. It's the magic of music: It allows us to be transported into a time we hoped could be frozen around us.

And, to me, sports does the same thing.

Think about this: When you watch your favorite sports team, aren't you hoping to recapture bliss that passed through you long ago? Seeing your team win reminds you of jumping up with your dad or begging your mom for a bedtime extension so you could see your team’s colors fly high on “Monday Night Football.”

Sports takes us back in time. The jingle for "This Week in Baseball" makes us long for the bubble gum dust in a pack of Topps trading cards, while eBay tempts us into bidding on cross-training shoes that, while others may question our nostalgic impulse, allows us to find comfort that, indeed, Bo knows.

All of this takes me to this weekend and Iowa Speedway.

I love the atmosphere of Verizon IndyCar Series road racing and was again amazed at the campers and tents that lined the horizons of Road America for the KOHLER Grand Prix on June 25. The Wisconsin landscape is the perfect complement to cornhole players and barbecue smoke that surround the picturesque course filled by the Indy cars. It was again a home run weekend.

The electricity of Long Beach and the marina backdrop of St. Petersburg accentuate a festival-like atmosphere as the residents soak in the celebration of speed for the Verizon IndyCar Series street-course races on their native grid.

To me, however, it is oval racing – notably on a short track in the early evening – that brings out the nostalgia in a race fan. So many that fell in love with racing did so while watching their first dirt track A Main, while the track lights danced off the foil wrapping of your tenderloin.

You held your breath at the cars going side-by-side and developed your fanaticism of your favorite driver. Not because their road jerseys were the same color of your first Little League team, but because they dared to make a lane in a place where victory hides and hesitation is for those allergic to the podium. You remember seeing the bottom of the bleachers as you looked up to grab your dad's guiding hand into the racetrack, and the sights, sounds and scents of the track birthed in you a madness that has never left. Whether in Eldora, Kokomo, Winchester, Jungle Park or the Chili Bowl, their houses of racing became your houses of racing.

That's the magic of watching the Iowa Corn 300 this Sunday (5 p.m., NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). The most diverse race car series in the world, in the heartland of America, on an early weekend evening, looking for that lane that takes them past the traffic jam for second and into the fast track to victory lane.

It's the most sophisticated form of American motorsport blended with the most basic of summer pleasures. It's magical. Almost like a bowl of Fruity Pebbles.

From the fans