SBD/Issue 56/Events & Attractions

Motorsports Marketing Forum: What's In Store For Future Of Racing?

Joie Chitwood Says Tracks Like Daytona Not
Getting Public Subsidies Creates A Challenge

Potholes, camels and a dragstrip in Daytona were some of the wide-ranging talking points yesterday at the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily’s 11th annual Izod IndyCar Series Motorsports Marketing Forum. The panel discussion, “The State of Motorsports and How We Can Move the Industry Forward,” featured Anheuser-Busch Senior Dir of Sports Marketing Brad Brown, Daytona Int'l Speedway President Joie Chitwood, NHRA Funny Car Driver Bob Tasca, Team Epic and Velocity Sports & Entertainment Principal David Grant, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams President Steve Lauletta, and NASCAR Senior VP/Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell. In talking about the $20M re-paving job at Daytona, designed to avert future pothole issues, Chitwood lamented racing not getting public subsidies available to other sports and their arenas. “It’s a challenge for motorsports,” he said. “No, we’re not moving to Deland, Fla. We’re there (in Daytona) for the duration. But it’s challenging dealing with aging infrastructure and how to keep relevant to what 140,000 fans expect at Daytona.” Some will like the new smooth surface, and others will not, but that debate should be good for the sport. “Opposing views create drama and interest,” Chitwood said. “It’ll get covered by media and fans.” The voice of that driver is what will matter, he said, and what fans will believe. Grant believes the Daytona track to be a viable story line. “But we’re not splitting atoms here,” he said. “It has to be understandable to fans.”

Tasca Noted NHRA's Good Fortune Of
Record Attendance During The '10 Season
OTHER MOTORSPORTS ISSUES: Tasca said he wished he could share the NHRA’s good fortune of record attendance at many events in '10 with the rest of his racing brethren. O’Donnell highlighted new tracks and enthusiasm north and south of the border, and investing in new technologies and social media. He already has discovered that e-mails have gone the way of the Pony Express; his 12-year-old son never answers them. Now it is all about text messages. NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya has engaged a growing fan base in Miami, Dallas, Phoenix and Chicago, and he is a magnet for Hispanic racing fans who work for UPS or Napa. Those opportunities must be capitalized. Jokingly, Tasca talked about too much diversity in NHRA. “We need less women in cars,” he said. “They’re too tough. They’re whooping up on us.” NASCAR television ratings have taken a hit over the past four years, but Chitwood suggested some perspective, and viewing long term over a short stretch. “Ten years ago to now, NASCAR TV ratings are up 10 percent,” he said. “That’s the key. Perspective.” Budweiser, which ended its relationship with Kasey Kahne after this season and will realign itself as a partial primary sponsor of Kevin Harvick, plans to be more involved in sweepstakes and promotions, and catering to fans in areas like its party porch in Daytona. “It’s image and sales, and we need revenue,” Brown said.

NEXT QUESTION? It became a tad tense when the question was posed about IndyCar racing returning to ISC tracks, like Daytona. “We couldn’t find common ground,” Chitwood said. “We want to get to those tracks where great racing happens and there are big markets,” said Lauletta. He also mentioned Long Beach, “where they could race camels and there would be 100,000 people there.” As the situation tightened, Tasca asked Chitwood about building a dragstrip at Daytona and maybe starting the season and ending it in Florida. “We can talk after,” Chitwood said. “You heard it here, drag racing at Daytona,” Tasca said to scant reaction in the ballroom. “Maybe not,” he deadpanned a second later.

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