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Mike van Genderen wheels his modified during the IMCA Super Nationals at Boone Speedway. (Tom Macht photo)

Van Genderen: Racer, Promoter, Track Expert & Dad

Mike Van Genderen, often referred to as MVG, is a dirt-track promoter, track-prep expert and occasional IMCA stock car and modified racer.

Currently managing three dirt tracks in Iowa and a fourth in Missouri, it’s interesting to learn that Van Genderen started his racing career at Figure-8 tracks.

“I graduated from college, bought a Figure-8 car for $35 in 1991, and it was one of the top cars in Figure-8,” Van Genderen recalled. “I went out and blew the radiator out the first night at What Cheer, Iowa.

“I’ve always been a race fan, so I got out of college and decided to try racing, and I’ve stuck with it for more than 30 years.”

While Figure-8 racing is still part of Iowa’s motorsports landscape, MVG notes that its popularity has declined.

USMTS I-35 Speedway
USMTS I-35 Speedway

“I did it for more than 10 years with a little bit of oval racing thrown in, racing stock cars and modifieds in the late ’90s, but I did Figure-8 half of my career,” Van Genderen explained. “It was huge with crowds of 2,000 to 3,000 every night and they had to put a limit on cars in some events, 100 cars in one class. It was that big. The places I was racing had big grandstands and they were packed to the hilt. The competition was fierce.”

Through the 1990s and early 2000s, MVG averaged $500 a night in earnings on Figure-8 tracks. Never keeping track of victories, he figures he won more than 250 races, including Figure-8 and oval events.

Eventually, Van Genderen switched his focus from driving to promoting and prepping dirt tracks. He sold insurance until 2010 but is now firmly entrenched in the motorsports industry.

MVG owns Stuart (Iowa) Int’l Speedway, saving that quarter-mile dirt track when it was likely to close, and a big move this year was joining with Dana Benning to co-promote Independence (Iowa) Motor Speedway.

Stuart is usually a Wednesday night track, one of three in the state.

It looked as if no one was going to take over Independence, so Benning called Van Genderen about operating the three-eighths-mile dirt track. Two Saturdays a month and one Monday was their plan to not overdo things for racers and fans.

The Mondays were a success, attracting more than 100 cars with a peak of 152 on a night that is often considered tough to draw racers.

Van Genderen approached operating Independence as he does any track: focus on the track surface.

“The track surface needed some tender-loving care,” he said. “We hauled in 60 loads of clay and put that on at the end of the year. We gave them (the racers) the quality of a track they have not seen in a long time. There literally was not a dimple in it all year. Not one rut, not one hole all year.

“We kept the surface alive all night, so the fans did not get dusted out, drivers did not get dusted out, and we saw some good quality racing all year.”

Independence will follow a similar schedule next year with two Saturdays a month and one Monday, but may include some larger events.

Bloomfield (Iowa) Speedway is southeast of Des Moines and has a seven-race schedule, typical for a three-eighths-mile dirt track promoted by Van Genderen. He also manages Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Mo., a track he has promoted since 2012 with a three-to-five race schedule.

If being responsible for four race tracks isn’t enough, Van Genderen also does track prep at other facilities.

“Four tracks but I help other tracks,” Van Genderen said. “I’ll help the Darkside group in three weeks, I’ll be going down to help Peyton Taylor in Arkansas at the end of the month and I do Bristol NASCAR – that’s the biggest deal that I do.

“That won’t happen next year because they are going to take a year off from the dirt. There’s a lot of pressure prepping Bristol,” he continued. “They ran 250 laps and we got two times to work the track. We tried to make sure we kept a top, couldn’t do anything else, so we made sure we didn’t lose our top. They might have given us five minutes. There’s no bigger thing in dirt-track prep than Bristol Motor Speedway for NASCAR.”

Van Genderen has three children and Rowdee, the oldest at 16, collected his first IMCA stock car feature victory this summer. On a night when 144 stock cars were in the pits at Boone (Iowa) Speedway, Rowdee van Genderen held off a group of talented veterans to get that first win, driving a borrowed car.

As for Rowdee’s racing future, the elder Van Genderen said, “He wants to race, but he needs to go to college.”


This story appeared in the Oct 11, 2023 edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.

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