Tunis Speedway--1948-1983, Waterloo, Iowa
Historic Speedways and Ghost Tracks
I've begun work on a book that will detail the history of Tunis Speedway in Waterloo, Iowa, a track that operated for over 35 years and produced some pretty impressive dirt track drivers, many of whom went on to bigger competitions and venues throughout the midwest. Waterloo happens to be home to the world's largest tractor factory (John Deere) and many of these drivers honed their mechanical skills on the production lines of that plant or in shops that provided services to the company. Below is a basic chronology for the track:
1938Jud Tunis purchases
52 acres of land with money borrowed from his wife Marie. The property sat on theoutskirts of Waterloo at that time and he paid $200 per acre to acquire it. Everyone called me a damned fool.
1941Builds home on the land.
1947Jud uses part of the land to build a track to race horses. This was a mile track. Jud wanted a track closer than Waverly where he could run his own horses.
1948Jud is convinced to build a mile track inside the mile track for midget racing.
1949First midget races are held. Jud decides auto racing has some promise.
1950The first full size auto races are held. Jud was owner and promoter of the track until 1966.
1966Jud sells a portion of the land to Wells Department Store to build a retail store. He also leases the track to Jim Cordes, Roger Beck and Bill Zwanziger who take over promoting the races.
1975The track is expanded from mile to 3/8 mile.
Early 1980strack is closed. Land is sold to developer from Cedar Rapids who never completes the project.
Facts about the track
Would seat 5000 spectators in the stands and many times did just that.
Admission was $1.50 to $2.50 per person throughout the time the track was operating.
No race car driver was
ever killed on the track. A thrill show performer was killed when a dynamite trick did not work correctly and a young boy died when he fell from a horse while on the track.
Jud conditioned the track himself. Each spring the track surface was rebuilt. He was quoted in 1965 (Des Moines Register, May 24) as saying It takes a good rich soil on top of clay to make a good running surface. You cant do it with sandy soil. You need soil that will knit together. We go below the frost line every spring and plow it up and then repack it with sheep-foot rollers.
Marie Tunis (Jud's wife) was involved in operating the track as a ticket seller and bookkeeper.
More than 50 people manned the staff of the track during races. This included car parkers, ticket sellers/takers, gatemen, pitmen, infield workers, race car pushers, judges, flagmen, tow truck operators, track waterers and security staff (normally off duty policemen). In addition the concession stands were manned with even more people.
Insurance for race events was $600 per event. Prize money typically was about $3000 per race date.
In 1975 there were five dirt tracks attracting drivers between Webster City and Dubuque along Highway 20. The Tunis track was the first of those tracks to be built.
This is just a simple outline of how the track began and developed and I'm slowly gathering information and images from past drivers, their families and people who actually helped make the track function on race days.
I'm seeking any and all information about the track and its significance as a competitive dirt track venue and can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I've also set up a Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/178616285607374/ that contains quite a bit of information I've been able to collect from the over 400 people who have become members of the group. Any help is appreciated!!
updated by @jim-volgarino: 12/05/16 04:08:38PM