Found photos : Three lost decades of Iowa Speedway recovered. With Merlin Benning, Lester “Red” Dralle. Claus Stricker, Don & Dick Feckers & Red Droste. 1950>1970.



The race tower at Tunis Speedway where the races were monitored and announced. Pictured are left to right, Claus Stricker, promoter, Dale Hansen, announcer, Leroy (Tiny) Russell, set up and spotter, and Jim Fickess, sports writer for the Waterloo Courier and statistician. (1970)

In the late 1940s, Judd L. Tunis, a local meat cutter and sausage maker was tired of loading up horses and hauling them 25 miles away just to exercise them on a track. He bought 52 acres of field beside Highway 218 on the city limits of Waterloo in eastern Iowa and built himself a horse track there. It was a 1/2 mile long and complete with bleachers.  

“I was raised with horses,” said Judd later, “I love ‘em. I built the track in 1947 as a place to work out my horses because I had to go all the way to Waverly to do it,”

“I paid $200 an acre for the land,” he said, “The top price at the time was $150 an acre. Everyone called me a damn fool.” 

Tunis’s Speedway began in 1948. One account says it was all Judd’s son-in-law, Bill Higgins’s idea. In this version Higgins persuaded Judd it was a great idea to build a another track inside his horse track to race midget cars on. With the help of the gloriously named Ira “Speed” Chumley, Judd built a steep banked, oval shaped 1/4 mile dirt track within his horse track.

In a 1975 interview Judd himself said it was “John Gerber of Davenport, who was staging midget races at Cedar Rapids and Davenport, talked me into building a quarter-mile track and we’ve been in racing ever since.”

“Added Attraction – Grudge Race”
Tunis Speedway ad (1953)

Tunis Speedway hosted bikes as well as midget car racing when it opened. The following year, men began arriving in huge misshapen jalopies. Stock car racers. Locals rode the stocks there like they stole them for cash prizes of up to $3000, it was wholesome carnage and spectators arrived too. In droves. Week after week, huge crowds of up to 10,000 people turned up for Tunis’s Speedway. Tunis ran the show for 17 years then contracted a racing association to put on the Sunday night races. In 1973, Judd gave Claus Stricker, a local driver racer from Cedar Falls, the contract to promote and run the races. Judd stay around, in the thick of it, never missing a race day. “There are always a few little details that need tending to,” he would say, “Seems like someone always wants something. The other night, I jumped in and helped one of the ticket sellers,”

After two decades of racing, Judd Tunis made an error in the sixties that almost pulled the handbrake on his speedway dreams. He sold off a portion of his property to a department store group and quickly discovered that the survey details on his land were way out and he’d mistakenly sold off turn four of the track, The new owners of turn four wouldn’t sell it back to Tunis but did allow him to continue racing.

By 1983 Tunis, fed up with continual complaints about the noise, closed the doors to his venue ending three decades of racing.

Incredibly only two deaths occurred in 3 decades of racing at Tunis’s speedway. Neither had anything to do with with stock car racing. One was a boy who fell from a horse he was riding on the track and died from his injuries and the other, a thrill show performer who was killed during his act.

“It was the Lee Overland Thrill Show,” remembered Tunis wistfully, “Some guy had an act where he blew himself up with 12 sticks of dynamite while he laid sealed in a coffin. Something went wrong that night.”

Credits :: to Jim Volgarino for posting both images & captions to the found photography repository, FORTEPAN IOWA : “Lost Tracks” section of : The History of Cedar Rapids and Eastern Iowa Car Culture, Street and Racing Facebook group ;


Merlin Benning of Waverly, Iowa began racing at Tunis in 1959.
(Tunis Speedway, Waterloo, IA, 1965)
Merlin Benning stacking at Tunis Speedway (1965)
Merlin Benning emerging from his car at Tunis Speedway (1965)

Merlin Benning, from Waverly, Iowa, began his racing career at Tunis in 1959. This 1933 Ford coupe was his second race car after he wrecked his first, a 1940 Mercury.

Benning’s 1933 Ford in retirement on the
Benning farm in Waverly, Iowa. (ca.1963)
Benning’s 1933 Ford in retirement on the
Benning farm in Waverly, Iowa. (ca.1963)

He purchased the 1933 Ford from brothers Lloyd and Bob Hesse of Waterloo, painted “17” on the doors, got Dick’s Conoco of Waverly to sponsor him and raced the it from 1959 to 1963. He retired #17 at his farm outside Waverly.

Merlin Benning, pictured in 1885 with one of his first race cars, the #17 1933 Ford coupe, and a car he drove in the 1980s.


Bob Hilmer of Dysart, Iowa at Tunis, Hilmer was one of the early drivers at Tunis. He began racing there in 1949 just after Judd Tunis opened up. He raced there for two decades and at tracks throughout the Midwest. (1955)
Bob Hilmer receiving his 1956 championship trophy from an unidentified woman at Tunis Speedway.
Bob Hilmer at Tunis Speedway, ca. 1960.


Claus Stricker, a driver and promoter at Tunis, began racing in 1961 with several different cars. By 1970 he was working for Keith Knaack of Vinton, Iowa who’d come in to promote racing at Tunis. Stricker continued to race, but was drawn into track management, even recruiting his family to help out in a number of key positions. 3 years on he was working directly for the track owner, Judd Tunis. In 1974 he took over promotion and management of the track full time.
(Waterloo, IA, 1963)
Claus Stricker at Tunis (1963)
Claus Stricker at Tunis (1973)

TUNIS ca. 1950

An undentified female driver at Tunis (1955)
Betty Halligan, a driver from Waterloo
recieving a trophy
Waterloo Savings Bank window display promoting the recently opened Tunis Speedway (1955)
Tunis Speedway, (ca. 1955)
Racers with their chequered livery belonging to the Petersen family (ca. 1955)
The Petersen family was involved in racing at Tunis for a number of years. (ca. 1955)
Race driver John Hill at left, with his crew, (left to right), Stan Hermanson, Marty Robinson and Ronnie Nye at Tunis (1964)
Tunis driver & Waterloo local, Bill Zwanziger raced many types of vehicles over the years including midget cars. Here he is in the mid-1950s in a midget racer at Waterloo’s Hippodrome Auditorium. The venue hosted many indoor midget racing events during the 1950s. (1955)
1949 Ford race car at Tunis, sponsored by Custom Paint Shop, 2507 Logan Ave., Waterloo (1955)
Unknown racer at Tunis (ca. 1955)
Unknown racer at Tunis (ca. 1950)
Tunis (ca. 1955)
Driver Arnie Spore (holding flag on left) and his wife Verna (front) celebrate Arnie’s win in at at Tunis (1955)
Charlie Moffit, an Iowa city driver (1955)


Don Feckers of Waterloo. Raced at Tunis Speedway for a decade (1952)
Don and Dick Feckers from Waterloo, raced at Tunis Speedway from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.
(Tunis Sppedway, 1965)


Red Droste, racing at Tunis (1950s)
Red Droste (1951)
Red Droste at Tunis Speedway, well before race cars had safety equipment that would keep gas from flooding from a rolling car.(1950)
Red Droste at Tunis Speedway (ca.1950)
Red Droste is driving the car directly behind the #142 car which is about the flip over. (ca.1950)
Tunis Speedway racer, Red Droste (ca.1950)
A racer belonging to Red Droste in the parking lot of Red’s Auto Service on Independence Avenue in Waterloo, Iowa. The child is Red and June Droste’s 3 year old son, Rich. (ca. 1950)
On the forecourt of his transmission repair business in Waterloo, Tunis Speedway racer Red Droste sits in a Studebaker race car he purchased from a racer from Florida. It had cut down doors, a full roll cage and, so the driver could get a better view of the track, steering moved to the centre of the car. (1950)
A Droste ride that came to an abrupt finish at Tunis in the ’50s.
Around 1960, Red Droste, drove the first convertible race car to campaign at Tunis Speedway. The steering and driver position were placed in the centre of the car which was sponsored by Schukei Chevrolet in Waterloo.
(ca. 1960)
Racing was a family affair. Red Droste’s brother-in-law, Don Graham, also from Waterloo, and racer at Tunis (1950)


Another local driver, Al Runyan at Tunis Speedway with an unidentified child. (1955)
Al Runyan at Tunis Speedway, July 4, 1954


John Hill, (pictured on the left with 2 unknowns) raced at Tunis from 1953 to 1968 (1955)
Race driver John Hill at left, with his crew, (left to right), Stan Hermanson, Marty Robinson and Ronnie Nye at Tunis (1964)


Yet another Waterloo racer. Herman Wenze raced at Tunis from 1950, soon after the track opened. He was a member of the Waterloo Fire Department and fire officials convinced Herman to stop racing as they didn’t want to lose his services. (1950)
A ready to ride Herman Wenze racer. (ca. 1950)
A totally trashed Herman Wenze racer. (ca. 1950)

TUNIS ca. 1970

Russ Tucker, of Evansdale, Iowa, injured at Tunis in a 1971 mini-stocks roll-over accident when
his car spun sideways after striking another car, throwing him out.
Driver, Larry Wasserfort at Tunis Speedway (1975)
Wasserfort began racing in 1970. He raced at Tunis and many Midwest dirt tracks during his career. (1975)
Tunis Speedway (ca. 1975)


Lester “Red” Dralle raced regularly at Hawkeye Downs, Independence Motor and Tunis Speedways in addition to competing at special events throughout the Midwest during the 60’s and 70’s. (c.1970)
Lester “Red” Draille (c.1970)
Lester “Red” Draille (c.1975)
Lester “Red” Dralle of Waterloo, Iowa passed away on October 25, 2010. 
From left, Larry Kemp, Judd Tunis, Sandy Scott (trophy girl), Red Dralle
. (1975)
Site of Tunis Speedway in 2016.

It’s although nothing at all happened. Today, the Tunis Speedway site is resting, re-wilding itself, morphing to its former, natural self. A lonely, scrabbly field beside Highway 218, city limits of Waterloo, Iowa.

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

Subscribe to Lost & Found
The very best things in life come FREE & so are we.