116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARENGO — Tom and Nathan Ballard aren’t just father and son. They are best friends.
So when Nathan had an opportunity to buy Go Karts for a “reasonable price” from Chapman Fun World, located on Williams Boulevard in Cedar Rapids from 1953 to 2001, his dad suggested they build a track with their road grater.
“We built this in our backyard,” Ballard said. ”So to have people comment on how nice our establishment is, that to me is a dream come true.”
Four miles northeast of Marengo, Nitro Speedway is located on Ballard’s property at 2469 110th Street.
Originally just a dirt track for personal use, the Ballards quickly decided it was too dusty and needed to be paved. That’s when they realized they might have something worth sharing with the community.
“We had the idea to make it concrete and it kept evolving until we had a track to open to the public,” Ballard said. “My dad owns it. He took my crazy idea and went along with it the whole way.”
Built with their own children’s safety in mind, when it came time for the inspection to gain the needed permits, the Ballards passed with flying colors.
“Since it’s a Go Kart track in Iowa, it’s considered an amusement park,” Ballard said. “There are a lot of restrictions and inspections, but all of the time and effort we put into it paid off. We did it right the first time and we were able to open when we wanted to.”
Now the track is surrounded by 900 Hoosier tires and a guardrail for safety with bleachers and a concession stand for comfort and convenience. They even have umbrellas to fend off the hot summer sun.
“At this point we want to put all of the profits back into it to make it bigger and better,” Ballard said. “We built it for our own personal use, so we’re not out to make a killing. We just want to see other people have fun and share our track and go karts.
“That’s what it’s all about to us.”
The track is open Fridays and Saturdays from 3-8 p.m. and Sundays 3-6 p.m., although birthday parties and other private functions can be booked in advance for other days and times through the track’s Facebook page.
Drivers can get 25 laps each for $12, a price Ballard is confident in.
“We’ve never had someone come out and not ride twice,” Ballard said. “That tells me that it’s a success and we have it cheap enough to have fun and want to do it again. It’s all about return business and having fun.”
That and the Ballards spending time together.
“My dad and I do basically everything together,” Ballard said. “There’s obviously some butting of heads, because I think I know everything and sometimes he has to remind me that I don’t. It’s been an awesome experience to have that time with him.”