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Battle at the Barn V returns to Des Moines, NASCAR style

1/23/2013

Thick, black ooze steadily crawls across the floor of the Iowa State Fairground’s Jacobson Event Center, leaving in its wake a sticky wasteland that would surely slow any who pass over it. At first glance one might assume a pipe burst or something spilled, but the black ooze is actually Coke syrup used as a race track, as the Jacobson Event Center prepares for the fifth annual Battle at the Barn races.

“This is a unique event where we coat the concrete floor of the Jacobson Event Center with coke syrup creating the famed Coke syrup oval,” said Toby Kruse, founder of the annual Battle at the Barn. “We race go-karts, four wheelers, three wheelers, lawn mowers, motorcycles and golf carts.”

Battle at the Barn takes place at the Jacobson Event Center at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Jan. 25 and 26 featuring go-karts, lawnmowers, dirt bikes, golf carts and more. Photo courtesy of Motorsports Photography

Battle at the Barn takes place at the Jacobson Event Center at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Jan. 25 and 26 featuring go-karts, lawnmowers, dirt bikes, golf carts and more. Photo courtesy of Motorsports Photography

Aside from featuring just about every sort of vehicle with a small engine, the Battle at the Barn also invites folks out to be a part of the races. This year people from ages 4 to 74 will be participating, according to Kruse.

“It’ll be pretty wild,” he promised.

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But what exactly is Coke syrup racing, and why on earth would anyone want to do it?

The Coke syrup creates a sort of MarioKart video game style of track (without the crippling paranoia of an impending tortoise shell flying at the back of your head thrown by an opponent). Seriously though, these racers mean business. Inches from the ground, these karts aren’t just puttering around; they’re breaking speeds that would be illegal on many Des Moines streets.

“We apply the Coke syrup to the floor for traction for the competitors,” Kruse explained. “The syrup becomes almost like glue, and the lap times are insanely fast — around five seconds for the karts.”                

Racing alongside Iowan speedsters will also be two guest celebrities competing in a few of the races: NASCAR Nationwide competitor and SPEED television personality Kenny Wallace and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett both will see if Iowa’s new class of karters can compete with some of NASCAR’s finest.                

“The top 12 from practice times will go head to head for 12 laps for $200,” Kruse said. “Wallace and Annett will be granted a provisional, should their times not fall in the top 12 during practice. This will be the final event of the night on Friday, right after the open practice for all competitors.”             

Annett is not only competing on Friday and Saturday nights, but he will also increase the winnings for all who compete in the paying go-kart classes. The Des Moines native said he wants to pay it forward to the folks who are getting their start the same way he did. So he will donate $50 to each heat race winner and $50 to the sixth-place driver in the feature events for all paying classes of go-karts.             

It’s been five years since the first Battle at the Barn spilled syrup all over the track and pressure washed it clean, year after year, and Kruse is happy with how the event has grown.                

“In the karting world, our event has become Daytona,” said Kruse. CV

For racers: Doors at noon on Friday with practice starting at 6 p.m. followed by the $200 to win, 390 clones – NASCAR Challenge. Doors at 9 a.m. on Saturday with practice at 11 a.m., heat races at 1:30 p.m. and feature races at 7 p.m. One-day pit passes are available for $20; two-day pass, $35.

For spectators: Friday, $5; Saturday, $13; and two-day passes, $15.

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