The Goodguys 27th Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals was the quintessential all-American hot rod weekend. What else would you call three days filled with thousands of cool cars and trucks, nonstop cruising, a full schedule of activities, plus great live music – all hosted at one of the most quaint, relaxed, and beautiful fairgrounds facilities in the country.
The Heartland Nationals has long been standout on the Goodguys calendar and this year was no exception. Kicking off with a casual poker run on Thursday afternoon, the event ramped up quickly on Friday morning, with one of the biggest first-day turnouts we’ve seen here. Saturday grew even more, with rods, customs, classics, trucks, and muscle cars pushing further up the hill on the east side of the facility. The Iowa State Fairgrounds easily absorbed the volume, with plenty of picturesque areas to park, shine up your ride, and enjoy some time with a few thousand like-minded enthusiasts. And despite soaring temperatures, the spectators came out in droves to check out all the cool participating iron.
The next-generation of 1973-87 machines was well received here, as they’ve been at all other Goodguys events this season. And the mix of vehicles of all eras was most impressive, giving builder Roger Burman of Lakeside Rods & Rides plenty to choose from in selecting the Builder’s Choice Top 10. As usual, his choices were right on the money. We also selected five finalists for our Top 12 awards: George and India Sepulveda’s ’57 Chevy pickup for Scott’s Hot Rods Truck of the Year Early; Jason Ellis’ ’68 phantom Chevy Tahoe taking the LMC Truck of the Year Late; Vintage Air Custom Rod of the Year going to Greg and Judy Hrehovcsik’s ’57 Chevy; MSD Muscle Car of the Year going to Bob and Sue Gantz’s ’70 Road Runner; and Rich Gregory’s ’69 Camaro winning the Griots Garage Muscle Machine of the Year finalist spot.
The big prize on the AutoCross track was the Duel in Des Moines title, won for a second year in a row by Ryan Mathews in the Detroit Speed Corvette. There was plenty of intense competition, though, with a final four that included Team Speedway’s Robby Unser, Josh Leisinger in the Summit-sponsored Corvette, and Chris Smith in the RideTech Track 1 Camaro. Outside of the shootout, class finishes went to Ryan Mathews in PRO, Justin Nall in Street Machine with his ’66 Malibu, Jason Brady taking the Truck class in his ’70 Blazer, Bobby Schutte flogging his ’26 T to the Hot Rod win, and Josh Jones picking up All American Sunday in his 2015 Ford Fiesta.
The weekend action also included a first-ever Heartland Nationals Burnout Competition, a Team FMX freestyle motocross exhibition, two Nitro Thunderfest exhibitions, kids activities like valve cover races, RC car races, plus music from CMT music star Ashley Wineland, who put on a fantastic performance Saturday night. While a Saturday-night storm prevented the annual fireworks show, it didn’t dampen the spirits of those in attendance.
Midwest gearheads have come to expect a lot from the Heartland Nationals – a fantastic selection of cars, long days of cruising fun, and a laid-back attitude. For the 27th year, the event has delivered beyond expectations. We’re looking forward to being back in Des Moines in 2019 for the 28th Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals. But first, we’re off to the PPG Nationals in Columbus and the rest of the full-throttle 2018 Goodguys season.