Iowa is a good track for us. Dan Wheldon won there in 2008 and Dario won in 2009. Dario also won in 2007 (the inaugural year for the race) before he started driving for Ganassi. Since he didn’t compete in the IRL in 2008 he is undefeated there. So we leave with high hopes for a great weekend. It’s an easy drive to Des Moines, even after having to turn around and go back to the house 15 minutes after we started. I forgot the MAGIC PASS. This is the one and only thing I absolutely have to have for every race weekend. It’s the team credential that gives me access to all IRL races. I feel like a complete idiot.
The Iowa race is in Newton, about 30 miles east of Des Moines. Hotels in the Newton area are scarce and completely booked up by race teams. Consequently the best option is to get something on the east side of Des Moines. The Holiday Inn in Altoona is close to ideal, but also full for the weekend. So I found a Baymont Inn and Suites that was conveniently located by the freeway and reasonably priced. For a reason. It’s a dump.
Booking hotels online is always a crap shoot. I look at tripadvisor reviews and hotels.com reviews and check out the photos posted online. Usually this works out okay, especially when booking a name brand. Not always. The Baymont was rated 8 out of 43 hotels in Des Moines on tripadvisor. Seriously? To be fair, it looked like it was a nice place about 30 years ago. The lobby reeks of fading grandeur, with twin curving staircases and a large chandelier. The room was straight out of the 70’s with a stained and faded floral sofa, bad wallpaper and the oppressive smell of cheap air freshener. When the air freshener smell faded, we realized why they used it with such a heavy hand – the room had an unpleasantly musty odor. The bathroom was equally sad with a cracked formica countertop and tiny slivers of soap more suited for elves than adult humans.
I will give them points for trying. The TV was relatively new, the room had a mini frig and the wifi was about the best we’ve ever had. The staff was professional and the breakfast was pretty good. They obviously haven’t given up yet, but it’s only a matter of time before the entire place slips into a state of irretrievable decay.
Sadly, the race didn’t turn out much better. On the plus side, the team hospitality was set up (for a certain nameless executive who was unable to attend due to severe storms in the area race day) and we got to hang out with Harbo and Curt the friendly Canadian. Dario dominated the day but was taken out by a broken gearbox late in the race – the first mechanical failure for the team in 2 years. Scott suffered from some pit lane contact that caused one of his tires to go down, resulting in some limping around the track until the next pit.
Race results – Scott 6th, Dario 18th. Ouch!