Dan & Sandy Danielsen – Promoters

By Chad Meyer

By the age of 15, Dan Danielsen had already purchased his first race car. “I bought a 1935 Ford from a neighbor. I was a bit of gearhead and always wanted to race. I worked on that car for two years getting it ready, but ultimately never hit the track with it,” Danielsen laughed. “I was always a race fan. We would be out planting beans on a Friday night and I could hear them racing in Algona. Dad always made us finish planting before we got to the races, though,” he recalls.

His turn at the wheel materialized a little later, though. “In 1973, Doug Knudson and I got a car and were going to take turns driving it. The first night he drove, but at the end of the night, he decided driving a race car wasn’t his thing,” Danielsen recalled. The ride was Dan’s the rest of year.

“I never had a very big budget for racing. I did with what I had. I was racing a 283 cubic inch Chevy when everyone else had a 350.”

Danielsen raced hobby stock/Road Runners, stock cars and finished his career in late models. “I bought a couple cars from Denny Rosenberg and they were always fast. My last year of owning my own cars was tough, though. We constantly had engine trouble.” After selling his own car, he raced the #81 late model for the Pedersen family at Rutland, before concluding his driving career in 1983.

In 1973 at Algona, Danielson was a five-time feature winner in the Road Runners class, his best season at his home track. “I was also proud of the second place finish I had at Knoxville in the All-Star late model show. Good friend Denny Rosenberg  and I were one-two across the line. What a thrill!”

In 1986, there was a renewed support of reestablishing racing at the Kossuth County track. Dan remembers how it all started. “The fair board had interest in racing again and Steve Krapp was getting the ball rolling and was named promoter. I brought out my IH 300 tractor and we used Kent Seeley’s horse-drawn grader to work on the track.”

After a successful start to weekly racing in Algona in ’86, the fair board was making plans for the next year. “As I recall, Steve and three of the fair board members came to Sandy and I and asked if we wanted to run the track in ’87. We thought about it and decided to go for it.”

“The requirements to run the track then were that the front gate had to be $3.00. The fair board wanted us to run the track, while Ray Pepe sold the beer and Danny Fourage operated the concessions,” Dan said.

Sandy noted that even though the Danielsen’s only had a portion of the race night proceeds, they understood why the fair board structured it that way. “Having others operate the beer and concessions worked well the prior year and each brought their expertise to the track.”

In the end, though, it was difficult to be profitable under that arrangement and the Danielsen’s promotion of the Algona track ended in 1988.

After a year off, Dan and Sandy assumed promotions of the Wright County Speedway, a bullring located next to the river a few miles south of Belmond in 1990 through 1994. While the small track that was located off the beaten hosted some great racing, at times it was fraught with challenges.

The last event they held at Belmond is the one most remembered. “In 1994 we hosted the IMCA MAC Tools Stock Car Series, our last show of the year,” said Sandy. “Bobby Greiner, Jr. and Kevin Berte were tied in the IMCA National points coming into that show. This race a Belmond would settle the championship.” Greiner, Jr. won both the battle and the war, winning the caution-free main event and earning the IMCA national championship in the most talked about event ever in Belmond.

Dan remembers that they were always removing water from the track and that it flooded all the time. The flood during the summer of 1993 ravaged Iowa agriculture and made a significant impact on racing and the bottom line at Belmond. The Danielsen’s knew that trying to operate the Belmond facility in the black was going to be difficult.

They and many others in the Britt community worked in 1994 to build the Hancock County Speedway. “There were so many people that helped get the Britt track going. From the fair board to the community and many racers,” Sandy recalls. “A lot of really hard work was put in by a lot of volunteers to make it happen. We started with next to nothing.”

“We measured the track at Algona and then staked out a very similar shape in Britt,” Dan said. “Governor Branstad waved the first green flag when the track opened in 1995.”

Right away in its first season, the Danielsen’s launched what would become one of the marque IMCA modified events in the Midwest, the Night of 1000 Stars.

“The Night of 1000 Stars was originally set for Boone Speedway, to be held prior to Super Nationals and on the same night as a USMTS race. Boone cancelled because of rain and IMCA asked us to host the event,” said Dan.

The first 1000 Stars race was a two-night event during Britt’s Hobo Day weekend, the same weekend as a USMTS race in Webster City. The Hancock County Speedway caught a break, as rain washed out the other event. “When Webster City rained out, all of those cars came to race in Britt, too,” remembered Sandy. That lucky break and a large field of cars forever cemented the 1000 Stars as must-see event.

The Danielsen’s promoted the track in Britt for ten years, stepping away from race promotion in 2004. When asked what they were most proud off, Sandy says that they met so many great people, especially due to the Night of 1000 Stars. Dan points to, “That we got to raise or kids and grandson at the race track. We never really took a vacation, but we spent so many nights at the races together.”