SBD/February 21, 2014/People and Pop Culture

Weekend Plans With DIS President Joie Chitwood III: Camping Out Before The Big Race

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Chitwood (l) hosted his son and father at last week's Sprint Unlimited
For employees of Daytona Int’l Speedway, the first three months of every year are always the most hectic, as the track goes from racing sports cars to trucks to stock cars to motorcycles. And in ’14, DIS President JOIE CHITWOOD III decided to throw the $400M Daytona Rising renovation project into the mix as well. With the Daytona 500 right around the corner, Chitwood and his team are working hard to turn the property back from a construction zone to an operational, fan-friendly venue. Chitwood typically splits his time between the office and the track, but with back-to-back-to-back events this weekend, he will forgo his home in Lake Mary, Fla., to join the likes of athletes, team owners and fans sleeping in motor coaches on the property.

EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM: I’m usually up around 4:00-4:30am and I’m at the gym when it opens at 5:00am to get my workout in. I like to lift weights, do some cardio, and have been pretty good about keeping that schedule. If I work out, I’m usually at work by 7:30am. If I don’t work out, meaning I rotate days, I’m usually in earlier than that. Friday is a fairly busy day for us. I have my first live TV interview at 7:00am, so that’s how my day starts off. I have a press conference with the Florida Department of Transportation and at 11:00am I have a Daytona Rising press conference. I’ve got a meeting later that afternoon with GameDay, and some politicians will be visiting us from the Florida House of Representatives. Then I need to meet the NextEra representatives in their suite before the start of the truck race. So I’ll check in with those folks and say hello, go to the driver-crew chief meeting, and later that day I will do a welcome to the crowd as part of pre-race. In the middle of all that I just kind of walk around the property and see if there are any fires to put out, or any issues that we’re dealing with.

HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE: I tend to move around a lot (during races). Once we’ve gone through pre-race, I’ll typically cross over the racetrack and go up into the grandstands and head to race control. I like to be in race control for the start of the race just to make sure everything goes smoothly. After that, I’ll typically make the rounds on a couple other suites. I’ll check in with the family and with LESA FRANCE KENNEDY. And then I like to walk the concourse under the grandstands to see how we’re doing from a trash pickup and concession stand point, and I’ll actually walk around the grandstands a little bit and just kind of see how everybody’s doing. I tend to not watch the race. With about 20 or 30 laps to go I’ll make my way back inside the racetrack toward Victory Lane where we have all the sponsors and where NextEra will get to hand out their trophy.

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER: The first official activity I have (on Saturday) is an update with the travel and tourism board, then I have an interview with Telemundo scheduled at 9:00am. We’ve got the driver-crew chief meeting around 9:30am and I’ve got a get together with ZAK BROWN, who is the owner and founder of Just Marketing, one of our motorsports agencies. I’ve known Zak for a real long time, so it’s as much a friendship as it is business. Then we’ve got the Nationwide race that day, in which I’ll follow basically the same routine as for Friday’s truck race. But there’s a number of social activities I’ll need to do after the Nationwide race on Saturday night. BETTY JANE FRANCE has a dinner at her house, and I’ll go for the cocktail reception where I’ll do a welcome speech, and then I’ll usually head on my way to the next activity. I want to go and check in on Fox Bash at the Beach, which is Fox’ big party. They’ve got some musical talent, tents set up, so I want to check in with the Fox guys and make sure that’s going well. I want to try and come back to the property and check in with the Budweiser folks who will be having their own party in their 1876 Club. Those are a couple of the social things I’ll try and catch. I’ve got one other, which is another activity in which some politicians are in town Saturday night depending on if I can fit that in as well.
 
RUNNING ON EMPTY: Of course our biggest event is our last one, and you’re running on adrenaline by the time Sunday comes around. I’ve got a Thunderbirds photo shoot at 8:00am and I have to give a welcome to a number of executives from Kroger, so we’ll do that at 8:30 in their hospitality area. I’ll present a guitar to (country singer) LUKE BRYAN for being here and I’ll welcome some of the other pre-race honorees and VIPs. And then we really get into Daytona 500 pre-race, which is really significant because of how much we try and jam in there. During this event, I tend to stay in race control for a fair amount of the race just because it’s such a big event and we’ve been known to blow up jet dryers and have pot holes and things of that nature. I’ll make my rounds but I’ll probably go back to race control a couple times during the event. I do go to Victory Lane to present the winner the trophy.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Breakfast is a big deal at my house. My son JOIE -- who just turned 13 (on Monday) -- and I, we’ve kind of been on an IHOP kick lately. So usually pancakes are a good way to start one of the weekend days. Then he and I will try and figure out what kind of shoot ‘em up, sci-fi movie is playing and that’s kind of the guy thing we like to do is catch a movie and then usually it’s cheeseburgers after that. So we kind of have a couple guy routines and then we’ll connect with my wife and we’ll run through the typical errands, in terms of hitting the home improvement store, grocery store, stuff like that. And then we’ll try and have fun with dinner. There’s a couple cool casual joints we like. There’s a New Orleans-style restaurant called Tibby’s that we like to go to. And then at some point during the day we’ll go out in the backyard with our dog, we have a mini golden doodle, and we love to just throw a tennis ball around and he runs around the yard and goes crazy.

MAN'S BEST FRIEND: The dog’s name is Tebow. The irony in that is, we were living in Carmel, Indiana, and we decide finally to get a dog and we’re going to drive to Tipton, Indiana where the kennel is, which is an hour north of Carmel. So my son wants to name the dog Rocky, I think my wife wanted to name him Ace or Indy and I want to name him Tebow because I’m a big fan of the Gators. So we get up to this farm, all dirt roads in the middle of nowhere. We pull down this long driveway and there’s a pickup truck there next to the big garage and wouldn’t you know there’s a Florida Gator decal on the truck. Then we get out, we go knock on the door and the guy answers the door in a Florida Gators T-shirt. We go in the house to see the new litter and I said to the guy, “So you’re a Gator fan?” And the guy takes me to his den, which is wall-to-wall orange and blue for the Gators. At that point, I’m like, "Okay this is destiny or something." Even my wife and son said, "Okay dad, you’re right." If we buy a dog we’re going to have to name him Tebow because this is too weird that a guy in Tipton, Indiana is a Gator fan and that’s who we’re buying our dog from.
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