Auto Racing

Racing at home

Ballards build go-cart track that will open to public soon

While Nitro Speedway near Marengo still is a few months away from opening, they will have grandstands for spectators wit
While Nitro Speedway near Marengo still is a few months away from opening, they will have grandstands for spectators with the hopes of hosting leagues and parties. (Ballard family)
/

Stephanie and Nathan Ballard have a love story born in auto racing.

So it’s only natural that the two — now the parents of two young children — are planning on opening their own go-cart track.

A 30-year-old from Marengo, Nathan started racing cars when he was 14 after helping his cousin Martin race at Hawkeye Downs Speedway.

“That’s all we did was race on the weekends and work on the car during the week,” Ballard said. “It gave me a little interest to get my first car going when I was old enough. I started in the hornets and it’s just adrenaline and something we do as a family now that we’ve grown into that.”

Stephanie and Nathan were classmates at Iowa Valley High School when Stephanie’s grandpa, Wayne Kanke, entered the picture.

“I was racing on asphalt and Wayne wanted me to switch to dirt,” said Ballard, who married Wayne’s granddaughter eight years ago. “We became good friends and he got me into hobby stocks, owned my first car and got me going.”

Nathan’s father, Tom, has taken over ownership of Ballard’s cars since and they’ve continued the vision Kanke saw all those years ago.

Ballard has won several championships at Benton County Speedway and won races on asphalt and dirt with Stephanie by his side.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“I’ve basically won in about every class,” Ballard said. “One advantage I’ve brought to the dirt is that asphalt racing makes you a lot smoother on dry slick nights like we’ve had lately. It takes a smooth throttle and asphalt racing helps me with that.”

Now, the Ballards are ready for two new challenges.

“This will be my last year in the hobbies,” Ballard said. “We’ve just been in here so long that we’re going to jump up to a stock car.”

Along with Tom and Nathan working long hours on the car, Stephanie and the kids will be involved with Nitro Speedway, a venture the crew kind of stumbled upon.

“Basically we got a couple of go karts and were just messing around,” Ballard said. “We have a farm and one day we used our road grater and dirt scraper to build a dirt track. We raced on that for about a year and we couldn’t keep the dust down so about six months ago we decided to make it into an asphalt track.”

Nathan, who manages the truck fleet for Amana Farms, decided a full-time job, racing at a high level and juggling a family wasn’t enough, so he decided to open the track to the public and get some of their investment back.

“We have so much invested in the concrete and it kind of just blew up from there,” Ballard said. “People want to do leagues and come out on Fridays and Saturdays and it’s blown up way more than we ever thought it would.”

The Ballards are planning to host parties and leagues and see what happens, without abandoning their first love.

“There will be some grandstands and ticket booths,” Ballard said. “We might get a concession stand, we just have to see how it grows with baby steps for now because we didn’t even plan on doing any of this.”

They have 20 high-end karts and plan on selling 25 laps at a time for around $12.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“Our main thing is to get people back,” Ballard said. “We want to make money, but we don’t want to gouge people. It’s all about the kids to me. Get them out there and have some fun because we have a ball as adults racing big cars. My dad and I just have fun out there. It’s a good time.”

The Ballards don’t have a set open date, but hope it’ll be “in the next few months,” according to Nathan.

The track itself is built and located at 2469 110th street near Marengo.

“We will just start with weekends because we still like to race and work on our car,” Ballard said. “It’ll be a lot of work, but I think we’ll have fun with it.”

Comments: justin.webster@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.