Nick McCrady had never been to the Dubuque County Speedway before this winter.
But, when he beheld the 3/8-mile track for the first time, he liked what he saw.
So much so that McCrady and his wife, Amanda — co-owners of Trackside Promotions — decided to sign on as the Speedway’s new promoters. Three races into the 2019 summer season, so far, so good, but McCrady said he has big goals in mind.
“Awesome facility here,” McCrady said, Sunday, during this week’s slate of seven feature races at the fairgrounds. “So far, it’s going in the right direction. There’s always more that we can improve on, staff wise, track wise, but we’re going in the right direction.
“I want to fill the grandstands back up with people and show that we’re trying to put on a family show. Whether it be for the kids or grandpa. We want to put on a show for everybody, and I want to make it something that on Sunday night, people can’t wait to come to the races. We try to put on an efficient show: Get people in here, put on a good show, and get people out because it’s Sunday night.”
Although early in the year, the McCradys’ stamp for well-run racing has already come forth. Last week, Dubuque County featured 116 drivers — the most the Speedway has seen in years. On Sunday, another 76 took the dirt track, and some of Dubuque’s seasoned drivers are noting the new promoters’ impacts.
Hazel Green, Wis., native Jason Roth won the Peosta Warehousing Logistics IMCA SportMod and Jaden Fryer of Freeport, Ill., took checkered in the Merfeld Brothers Automotive IMCA Modified in two of Sunday night’s marquee races. Also featured in the Modifieds was former NASCAR driver Ken Schrader, a driver who has also frequented Trackside’s races in Maquoketa. Later this year, Trackside has lined up a World of Outlaws stock car event on June 23, a race that will feature another NASCAR alum in Kasey Kahne.
Roth was second in preliminary heats but staked the lead in his feature shortly after the green flag. From there, he and the No. 31 car led all 15 laps, crossing the finish line before the rest of the field could make the final turn.
A five-time winner in Dubuque last year, Roth said he’s embraced the change in promotions teams.
“We need this,” said Roth, adding that Sunday’s win was a nice bounce back after a crash last week kept him out of contention. “These guys will get it. People need to be patient with them because it’s a new track for them.”
After several cautions, Fryer won his 24-car, 20-lap feature by holding off Shannon, Illinois’ Bryce Garnhart in a race finale that wipe out eight drivers by the time the checkered flag was raised.
The McCradys brought with them from Maquoketa track announcer Rob Hinckley, who said that there are “high expectations” for the new team in Dubuque. But he added that the group runs a fairly tight ship, something that made them successful down in Jackson County, where there’s also been an uptick in car counts. Maquoketa Speedway saw 116 cars a week ago.
“They’ve found their niche,” Hinckley said. “They don’t copy off of other race tracks. They put their own program together. They run their program the way they want to and it’s been very successful down there also.”
Nick McCrady said his team set a “precedence” in Maquoketa that keeps drivers coming to the tracks. The couple stresses the entertainment factor with each event, and he doesn’t like to beat around the bush when it comes to transitioning from race to race.
“How we treat our drivers, our fans, employees — that’s what makes people want to come back,” McCrady said. “I can’t stress enough that we’re in the entertainment business out here and we’ve got to put on a good show to put butts in the seat.”
Rounding out Sunday’s other winners were: Kyle Merkes (Farley, Iowa) in the IMCA Stock Car; Mitch Bielenberg (Charlotte, Iowa) in the 4-Cylinders; Luke Merfeld (Dubuque) in the Eichman’s Bar & Grille IMCA Late Model; Daniel Wauters (Iowa City) in the Kinsella Concfrete IMCA Hobby Stock; and DJ Sweet (Georgetown, Wis.) in the 9:1 Limited Late Model.