During the formative years of the 1950’s and 60’s, the long-term survival of racetracks and makeshift airport runway facilities were hit or miss. Some stood the test of time and survived competition from other tracks and the nagging neighbors, while others shot up like a firecracker and fizzled out. It wasn’t uncommon to see a track exist for less than five years and close, never to operate again. Others, such as the Des Moines Dragway , located in the capital city of Iowa, were able to get a solid decade in before succumbing to progress, pressure, or a wealth of other causes.
The Des Moines Dragway in fact operated for 11 years, from it’s grand opening in 1957 until 1967, closing it’s gates during perhaps the greatest years of the sport. A reported 3,000 racers and fans took in the drag races at the Greater Des Moines Drag Strip – as it was known from 1957 to 1960 – on opening day in ’57. During those 11 years, some of the greats graced the quarter mile of blacktop in Des Moines.
Spectators paid just $1.00 to get in the gate, with a pit pass setting one back $1.50 and the price to race your car a whopping $2.50.
A farmer named Ernest Day built the track at the urging of his eldest son and with plenty of local racer interest, and according to historians, the track closed in ’67 when Day simply moved away. The track was located at 128th and Aurora in Des Moines, in what is now Urbandale. The entire racing surface remained untouched for more than 30 years, when a housing development constructed in 2000 first saw the removal of everything from the eighth mile on, and by June of 2003, the once glorious strip was but a memory, buried under neighborhoods of new homes.