SBJ/August 20 - 26, 2007/This Weeks News

Speedway to roll out VIP prerace party

California Speedway has been criticized for its boring Nextel Cup races, but a Hollywood-style prerace party called “Running Wide Open” is part of the marketing plan to make sure no one is yawning before its next event on Labor Day weekend.

Track President Gillian Zucker has hired noted Hollywood event promoter Brent Bolthouse to roll out the red carpet for celebrities and NASCAR sponsors alike on Aug. 29, the Wednesday before the track’s NASCAR race weekend.

“NASCAR might not be the biggest sport around here,” Bolthouse said, “but we’re going to change everyone’s perception. People are going to see how we do movie premieres. They’re going to get the same thing we did for the premiere of ‘Entourage’ and what we’ve done for Grammy parties.”

The idea for a Hollywood-style party was born out of Zucker’s desire to meld her events into the glitzy Hollywood scene. Too many times, she said, an acquaintance has asked, “I’ve heard so much about the race. When is it?” And Zucker responded, “Last week.” She sees the party as a way to generate buzz for her races.

California Speedway picked up a second Nextel Cup date — Labor Day weekend — in 2004, but after a near sellout in the first race, ticket sales to the 92,000-seat facility have not kept pace. Zucker says the immature NASCAR market in L.A. and the vast entertainment alternatives make ticket and corporate sales a challenge.

Hundreds of celebrities will be invited and Avalon, a Hollywood club on Vine Street, will be the site. Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya and other drivers will give rides to partygoers in NASCAR cars.

Partygoers can buy packages ranging from $2,500 a ticket to a $75,000 partnership that includes a presenting sponsorship, 30 tickets and 10 rides.

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