Weekend Rewind! Goodguys 31st Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals Presented by BASF

Boom! Goodguys put some big-time power into this Fourth of July weekend as we brought red, white, and vroom to the 31st Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals presented by BASF! It was an all-American, star-spangled good time at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines filled with cool cars and the passionate enthusiasts who build and enjoy them.

After a fun-in-the-sun Thursday Poker Run to warm up for the weekend, Friday morning kicked off in high gear as thousands of fine rides flowed into the fairgrounds. The crowd, the car count, and the excitement grew though the day, even as a few late-morning rain showers rolled through the area. By Friday afternoon, we were already hitting the rev limiter on Goodguys Good Times!

Things really hit a strong pace as Saturday dawned warm and sunny and every corner of the fairgrounds soon filled up with candy colors, chrome, and vintage steel. With a full day of festivities on tap, the mood and energy couldn’t have been more exciting!

Awards seekers quickly filled the Saturday Specialty Parking areas and Builder’s Choice lot, eager to be evaluated and considered for a piece of hardware. Our friend Roger Burman of Lakeside Rods & Rides had his work cut out for him to cull all the candidates down to just a Top 10. He’s a seasoned pro, though, and came up with a stellar lineup, just like he always does.

The Goodguys awards team had to make some tough selections for a number of Meguiar’s Top 12 regional finalists, too. They persevered, though, choosing the ’63 Buick Riviera of Thomas Duty and Eileen Papas for the Vintage Air Custom Rod of the Year finalist; Dennis Albaugh’s ’69 COPO Camaro as the Snap-on Muscle Car of the Year finalist; Bob Bertelsen’s ’63 Corvette for the Griot’s Garage Muscle Machine of the Year finalist; Ron Brown’s ’50 Studebaker pickup as the Scott’s Hotrods Truck of the Year Early finalist; and Kevin Flonder’s ’70 Chevy C10 as the LMC Truck of the Year Early finalist. Brown’s pickup also earned builder Carnock Creations a Chevrolet Performance GM Retro Iron Builder of the Year finalist award, while Karl Kustoms got the GM Iron Builder of the Year nod for the ’54 Chevy convertible built for Karl Moyer. The Gazette team tapped Ron Ernsberger’s ’36 Willys sedan as the Goodguys Feature Pick.

The Goodguys CPP AutoCross course was really revved up, with more than 120 racers hitting the track and gunning for a chance to compete in Saturday’s Duel in Des Moines shootouts presented by Optima Batteries. Robby Unser claimed the Speedtech PRO-X class win in the Team Speedway ’67 Camaro, but Jared Leisinger was able to swoop in and earn the PRO-X shootout victory on Saturday. Bob Bertelsen doubled up in the Summit Racing PRO class, winning both class and shootout, while the Forgeline Street Machine class saw a split victory, with Justin Nall winning the class in his ’66 Chevelle, and Bill Graves Sr. claiming the shootout victory in his ’66 Corvette. Tim Molzen earned double wins in the Gearstar Sports Car class driving the Summit ’97 Corvette, and Don Yarbrough did the same trick in the LMC Truck class in his ’55 Chevy pickup. The FiTech Challenger class was won by Stacy Herman in her ’80 Trans Am. Several dozen more racers came out to play in the Tremec All American Sunday class, with Collin King earning the class win in his 2018 Camaro, and Josh Jones claiming the All American Shootout victory in his 2002 Z06 Corvette.

There was plenty of additional action happening throughout the weekend, with an incredible Saturday Burnout Competition consisting of 18 tire-frying contestants! We also had multiple Nitro Thunderfest sound-offs, a huge swap meet, the Central Iowa RC Addicts showcasing their scale radio-control skills, plus nonstop cruising around the fairgrounds loop. We even had a watermelon eating contest to give the weekend a little old-time, small-town, 4th of July fun!

Of course, it wouldn’t be Des Moines without a Saturday evening nostalgia concert followed by another Nitro Thunderfest showcase at twilight. We followed that up with our customary Fireworks Extravaganza, capping the night with a festive and patriotic finale.

On Sunday, we backed off the throttle a little for a slow-and-easy filled with more cruising and some Meguiar’s All American Sunday fun. And it only seemed fitting to finish the weekend by showcasing more than 100 trophy winners during the afternoon Awards Program.

This holiday weekend is all about celebrating freedom. And for many car enthusiasts, our cars and trucks are the ultimate example of our freedom, giving us the power to move around, gather together, and express ourselves. It’s that free spirit that helps make the Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals so special. Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Photos by Damon Lee, Jason Lubken, Terry Lysak & John Jackson

Editor, Goodguys Gazette

Damon Lee began snapping photos at car shows when he was 10, tagging along with his father to events throughout the Midwest. He has combined his passion for cars and knack for writing and imagery into a 20-year career in the automotive aftermarket, writing for titles like Super Chevy and Rod & Custom and, more recently, working for respected industry leaders Speedway Motors and Goodguys Rod & Custom Association.