SBJ/March 3 - 9, 2008/Forty Under 40

Steve ODonnell

One of these days, Steve O'Donnell wants to take his wife and two children to Ma'adi, Egypt, a midsized city about 15 minutes outside of Cairo. He'd love for them to see where he grew up as the son of teachers who wanted to experience living abroad.

Steve O’Donnell
Age: 39
Title: Vice president of racing operations
Organization: NASCAR
Education: B.S., political science, Rollins College, 1991
Family: Wife, Erin; son Ryan (9) and daughter Shannon (7)
Career: Allnet Communications account executive, 1991-92; Orlando Cubs internship, 1993; Daytona Cubs, director of operations, 1993-94; Florida Citrus Sports, 1995; joined NASCAR in 1996 as marketing services coordinator; named to current position in 2006.
Last vacation: Durango, Colo.
Last book read: “Three Cups of Tea,” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Last movie seen: “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”
What’s on your iPod? U2, Jimmy Buffett, Edwin McCain, HBO’s “Real Sports”
Pet peeve: Arrogance
Greatest disappointment: Being cut from my college baseball team
Fantasy job: High school teacher and head baseball coach
Business advice: “Keep it simple. Do it right,” from Bill France Jr.; “Nobody knows it all. You can learn something new every day,” from Cal Ripken Jr.; Remember, nobody ever goes away. You never know what the future holds.

But finding spare time is a bit of a challenge these days for O'Donnell, the NASCAR vice president who sometimes is described as the next Mike Helton. Few executives have touched as many aspects of the business as O'Donnell, a NASCAR veteran of more than 11 years. If it's possible for O'Donnell to learn from Helton, NASCAR's president, through osmosis, he's spending his time the right way.

"I'm very fortunate that Mike and I spend a lot of time together," O'Donnell said.

Whether that means observing how Helton manages the garage or works through an issue with sponsors, O'Donnell is ever watchful. As the vice president of racing operations, O'Donnell's influence on the sport is noticeable on several fronts, both competitive and business.

"The more exposure you can get to the different aspects of the sport, the better perspective you're going to have on how one decision can affect others," O'Donnell said. "That's one thing that has helped me greatly at NASCAR. It gives you perspective and allows you to be open about change."

One of O'Donnell's primary responsibilities now is scheduling for all of NASCAR's series, as well as event management, which includes security, medical staff, practically anything it takes to pull off a weekend of racing.

But he's also kept his hand in marketing, which is where he started with NASCAR. O'Donnell was at the negotiating table as part of NASCAR's team when it struck the Nationwide Insurance deal to sponsor the No. 2 series.

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