Todd Steinkamp, a Carroll High graduate, serves as one of the voices of Iowa Speedway. During the race weekends Steinkamp can be found all over the 7/8th-mile track talking to drivers, crew chiefs and fans. He calls the races for all of the national series that visit the track in Newton.
Todd Steinkamp, a Carroll High graduate, serves as one of the voices of Iowa Speedway. During the race weekends Steinkamp can be found all over the 7/8th-mile track talking to drivers, crew chiefs and fans. He calls the races for all of the national series that visit the track in Newton.
Newton

Its almost too early to be up. Especially after the long night that he faced before.

But it’s a part of the job.

Todd Steinkamp drives down an almost desolate stretch of highway just east of Newton, during the early morning of Father’s Day. The four lane highway that sits before Steinkamp is nearly empty. He passes a state trooper, who is setting up cones for the expected heavy traffic that will come by later. For now, the ribbon of highway is empty, and Steinkamp has an easy drive through the hills. He makes the second right hand turn and immediately hangs the next left.

He doesn’t need to hurry, he’ll likely be one of the few fighting for a parking spot, this early, but the excitement of the day has him pressing down on the accelerator a little harder than normal.

In a tunnel Steinkamp’s tires sling water as he passes through a puddle, a remnant of the storms from Saturday night. The same storms that made him head to his destination a little earlier than normal on this already busy weekend.

After following the road around an obvious campsite, Steinkamp has to slow down to avoid running into any of the other early risers that have already made their way to the office. The place is a little busier than normal for a Sunday, but it hasn’t seen anything yet.

Steinkamp finds a parking spot and then steps out. No matter how many times he’s seen this view of his office, it never gets old. Row after row of blue and yellow painted steel bleachers. Just beyond the gray patch of asphalt, with the ear of corn painted proudly in the foreground, rises his office. A white building surrounded by three floors of windows.

He’s arrived at Iowa Speedway, a place that for three race weekends a year, Steinkamp calls home. By now, the Carroll native has started to feel at home in Newton as well.

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Although Steinkamp grew up nearly three hours away from the track, he’s been able to watch the 7/8th mile track grow up in a cornfield located in southeastern Newton.

“In 2003, I moved back to Iowa to get closer to family,” Steinkamp said. “In 2006 was when Iowa Speedway was opened the radio station I was working at was involved there. We would be broadcasting live, basically every weekend. So I was there during the first few races.”

At the time Steinkamp was just doing a weekly radio show that centered on NASCAR. Soon the popularity of the track would bring Steinkamp to the racetrack more often.

By 2009 the weekend home of Steinkamp was at Iowa Speedway. It was during that time that Steinkamp started to get noticed by those who were involved at the track.

Then came one fateful day in 2011 when the regular color commentator of Iowa Speedway couldn’t come and commentate on the races. Steinkamp received the call and, for the first time, stepped into the broadcast booth at the Newton track.

Steinkamp’s voice was so smooth that the owners of the track asked him to do permanent color commentary for all the races in 2012.

Fast forward three years, and in 2015, the public address announcer for Iowa Speedway was retiring. The next name on the list was that of Steinkamp.

For the last four years, just about anything said at Iowa Speedway has featured Steinkamp’s voice in someway or another.

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It’s early for a race at Iowa Speedway, just after 8 a.m. However, Steinkamp needed to come to the track early because the race scheduled for the night before, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series m&m’s 200, was postponed because of rain. That set up a Father’s Day double-header at Iowa Speedway with both the truck series, and the NASCAR Xfinity Series (the A and AA equivalent series of the NASCAR ranks) at the track in Newton.

It also means double the work for Steinkamp. Because of the added race to the schedule, Steinkamp is resting his voice a little more than usual on a race day. Instead of saying hi to his co-workers at the track, hand waves and head nods will have to suffice.

Although he’s been doing this for five years, Steinkamp, a decades-long race fan, admits that being so close to the action makes it just a little hard to concentrate on his job at times.

“During some of the races I’ll go stand on the MRN (Motor Racing Network) stands around the track,” Steinkamp said. “From there, you’re basically right above the track so you can feel (the cars) your chest. It is intense. It makes it more difficult to call the race. It is so much fun, to be down in the middle of all the action.”

Before he makes his way up to the announcer booth, Steinkamp scours the garage area finding some last minute tidbits to inform the fans in during breaks in the action.

As soon as pre-race ceremonies come around, Steinkamp is ready to introduce the fans to the drivers of the race.

This part of the day is the most stressful for Steinkamp.

“For pre-race introductions, we are on TV time,” Steinkamp said. “I’ll literally read a name, and then someone will slide me a note about an award that driver won the week before and we have to get that information out, while staying on the TV crunch.”

It’s a lot of information in a short amount of time.

One of the reasons why Steinkamp stays up nights before the race is to get the driver introductions down.

Some of the series are easier than others. Steinkamp has been following NASCAR for years so he knows most of the regulars in the Gander Outdoor and NASCAR Xfinity series. However some of the other series that visit Newton, such as the ARCA and NASCAR K&N Series races feature drivers that are up and coming in the sport. Steinkamp needs to learn those names in a matter of days.

Then there’s the NTT IndyCar series. Foreign accents from countries all over the world are needed to get the correct pronunciation. But Steinkamp stays up late, and does his homework each race weekend. On top of learning new names, sometimes there will be a last-minute driver change.

Over the years, although his heart still races during pre-race introductions, it has gotten better.

“The first time I had to make those changes, I was terrified,” Steinkamp admits five years after his first pre-race introduction. “Now its not a surprise.”

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After the jitters of the pre-race introductions pass, Steinkamp has either one of two roles during the actual race.

For some of the lesser-attended series, (ARCA and the K&N Series) Steinkamp helps with the play-by-play action during the race.

Steinkamp enjoys those races, not just because he has fun calling the races from just outside the track, but also because he gets to see the future of the sport.

“What’s really fun is the NASCAR K&N series and ARCA series come in,” Steinkamp said. “We see them first as they were making a name for themselves.”

While Steinkamp enjoys watching the future of racing make a name for themselves in Newton. He’s also enthralled by the speed that some of the other series brings to the track.

“Those IndyCar races are insane,” Steinkamp said. “It is insane how those cars can stay on the track.”

In the distance of just over 1,000 feet the IndyCar Series cars fly down the backstretch. The cars test the limits of lift as they fly down the backstretch nearing speeds of 190 miles per hour in a shorter distance than it takes to get from Walgreens to West Street in Carroll.

What Steinkamp truly relishes at the track is what happens after the race.

Iowa Speedway has become known as a racers track for fans because the short track allows drivers to race inches from each other, creating close races most of the time. Among drivers the want to win at Iowa is increased by a unique trophy.

“The gas pump is one of the coolest trophies in racing,” Steinkamp said about the old-time gas pump trophies that Iowa Speedway hands out each year. “The drivers love it. To be able to see their face when they win it. The smile that comes over their face. It’s priceless. Graham Rahal, after he won the gas pump, talked about how he got to put it in his kids room.”

Part of the reason the IndyCar winner put that trophy in with his kids is because the trophy lights up.

In victory lane Steinkamp gets to have a one-on-one with the driver who just won the race.

Steinkamp describes the victory celebrations at Iowa Speedway as one of his favorites.

“You walk into victory lane, and you know what’s going to happen. If the driver is over 21 they will spray champaign and have confetti blow all over you,” Steinkamp said. “It’s a weird thing. Because on one hand you don’t want to get all sticky and covered after the race. On the other hand, you can’t wait for them to get out of the car, spray the champaign and pop the confetti. You want to get drenched and don’t want to get drenched at the same time.”

One thing that never ceases to amaze Steinkamp is how friendly the drivers are after the race.

These racers have just been in a hot vehicle for anywhere between 150-300 laps. They’re exhausted, maybe even a little dizzy from the race. However, after they get out of the vehicle, they aren’t focused on themselves.

“These guys are sweaty and tired, and then they come over and talk to the media,” Steinkamp said. “Its not a chore for them to be there and talk with the fans. They want to talk about the sport and be with the fans who have come to watch them.”

All of that is part of the reason why, no matter how early he needs to be to the track, no matter how late he stays at the track. It doesn’t matter how late he stays up studying names of the drivers for pre-race introductions, or how fast he has to talk to make TV time work. Steinkamp enjoys every opportunity he has to come to Iowa Speedway and do his job.

Before the races took place during Father’s Day Steinkamp was honored by the Iowa Broadcasters Association as the Iowa Broadcaster of the Year.

For two more race weekends this season Steinkamp will return to Iowa Speedway and get to experience the thrills that the track has to offer.

When he can, mostly when Iowa Speedway doesn’t host races, Steinkamp still makes it out to Carroll.

“Carroll is near and dear to my heart,” Steinkamp said.