Quirky Des Moines #15 -The Greater Des Moines Grand Prix


When one thinks of Des Moines, Grand Prix racing doesn’t immediately come to mind. But for one weekend every year from 1989 to 1994, race cars could be seen zipping through city streets in an attempt to win the top prize.

The Greater Des Moines Grand Prix started in 1989 and quickly gained a local corporate sponsor when John Ruan, owner of Ruan Transportation, pledged $1 million dollars to be spread over three years to help bring the race to Des Moines.

The race was so popular that ESPN featured a live Trans Am race on its network as well as pre-taped races which featured trucks, corvettes and super v (a type of open wheel motor vehicle). Des Moines and Cleveland were the only two cities on the 16 race tour that were televised live.  Both the City of Des Moines and Ruan Transportation received national recognition due to the race.

Drivers drove a total of 66 laps/118.8 miles around the 1.8 mile course with an average speed of 61 mph.  The shape of the course can be best be found in an abstract painting in a modern art museum that started at Crocker street that went down Fifth street and rounded around Veteran’s Auditorium to go back to Fifth street then on to Locust Street where it curved to Grand Avenue and then up 2nd avenue to end back at Crocker.


Unfortunately the weather was what ultimately caused the Greater Des Moines Ruan Grand Prix to come to a premature end. The floods of 1993 forced that years race to be cancelled. The race was held again in 1994 but wasn’t able to make up for the financial loss from the previous year. The Greater Des Moines Grand Prix board decided to withdraw from future racing contracts and permanently ended the event.

Though there are no future plans to bring this sort of event back to the city, for five brief years, Des Moines could call itself a racing hotspot.


To read about Tiny Tim’s life and his brief time living in Des Moines, click here.



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