Adams County Speedway History
The Adams County fair grounds were established in 1888 when the land was purchased for the use as a county fair grounds. The exact year a race track was developed along the east side of the property remains in question, but we know from Adams County Free Press archives that horse racing was run through-out the 1930’s on the flat half-mile track. The 1937 Fair included a $1000 purse for horse racing, drawing riders from all over the state.
The August 14, 1952 Free Press includes the report of a new event at that year’s county fair, hot rod races. The event was held on a Sunday afternoon with cars running in seven events on the flat track. A reported crowd of over 2500 turned out for the event. Interestingly enough, harness racing was also a part of that year’s fair.
In the 1960’s stock car racing grew at the fairgrounds, much to the chagrin of the horse racing crowd. By 1968 the racing had taken its toll on the facilities the front stretch was declared unsafe to drivers and crowds, putting a temporary halt to the action. So it was that in 1969 the front stretch wall was improved and racing resumed. Then in 1970 the traditionally flat track was banked for the automobile racing.
Throughout the 1970’s the fair board ran the bulk of the racing events, while occasionally another group or individual would take on the promotion effort. It was in 1983 when Gail Hampel of Nodaway took over the reigns and began promoting the racing program. The following year Hampel obtained a NASCAR sanction for the speedway. Under this arrangement the racing took off as competitors raced not only for local fame but as a part of a nationwide group all under the NASCAR banner. Two classes of cars made up the racing program, coupes and late models.
Through cooperation of the Hampel family and the fair board the facilities were inproved on a regular basis. The old wooden grandstands were torn down and replaced with newer bleachers. The steel guard rail along the front stretch was replace with concrete and new guard rail was installed protecting the infield. New restrooms, concession facilities, and a scorer’s tower were built.
1996 saw the most dramatic change in the history of the track. The old concession building was torn down and a new building more than twice the size was built. Simultaneously an additional fifteen rows of elevated bleachers and the first 15 VIP observation decks were built. Eventually demand for the observation decks would lead to the construction of 42 more, each leased by race fans for the season.
By 2004 with the addition of a fourth class of race cars, hobby stocks, joining the late models, street stocks (an updated version of the coupes) and modifieds (an open-wheel class) the average car count swelled to over 110 per week. MUSCO lighting was installed at a cost of over $200,000, making the facility one of the state’s finest dirt tracks. In 2006 the track adopted the use of AMB transponders for the scoring system keeping up with the latest in racing technology.
2008 will be long remembered as the year of the floods at ACS. The season had started out with five consecutive rained out events, but on June 5th the skies opened up putting more water on the grounds than in recent memory. Flood water was over six feet deep in infield concession stands and nearly up to counter level in the main concession stand and restrooms. Countless volunteer hours were put in to bring the facility back to race ready condition and just nine days later races were run again.
After 25 years of promotion the Hampel family stepped down from the promoter’s chair at the end of the 2008 season. The Adams County Fair and Racing Association took on the task of running the show in 2009 and look to continue in the future. As racing enthusiasm grows and ebbs across the country, the Adams County Speedway continues to hold its position as the only place to be on a Saturday night during race season.