SBJ/20090323/Forty Under 40

Joie Chitwood III

Age: 40*
Titles: President and chief operating officer
Organization: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Education: B.A., finance, University of Florida, 1992; MBA, University of South Florida, 1995
Family: Wife, Susan; one son
Career: Grew up as a stuntman in the family automobile stunt show; hired by the Indy Racing League in 1995; vice president and GM, Raceway Associates LLC, 1999-2002; senior vice president of business affairs, IMS, 2002-04; named to current position in December 2004.
Last vacation: Spent time with family in Florida during Thanksgiving last year
Favorite movie: Band of Brothers
Whats on your iPod? An eclectic collection
Pet peeve: Indecision
Greatest achievement: Turning 900 acres in Joliet, Ill., into Chicagoland Speedway
Greatest disappointment: That my grandfather (Joie Sr.) was not alive to see me in this role. He raced at the Indy 500 in the 40s and finished fifth three times.
Fantasy job: Athletic director at the University of Florida
Executive you most admire: Roger Penske
Business advice: I like this saying by Mario Andretti: If things seem like they are under control, then you are just not going fast enough!
* Turned 40 on Feb. 20; Forty Under 40 nominees for 2009 were eligible if they were under 40 as of Dec. 31, 2008.

By the time Joie Chitwood III was 24 years old, he’d been in the family business for nearly 20 years. The family business back then was known as an Auto Thrill Show, and the Chitwoods, starting with Joie’s grandfather, had developed a national reputation for their stunts on two wheels, four wheels, and sometimes no wheels.

Chitwood III
Indianapolis Motor Speedway

But after graduating from Florida and earning a master’s in business administration from South Florida, the younger Chitwood had expanded his professional vision beyond the stunts that had made his family so famous.

“Back in the 1990s, with motorsports becoming such a big business, I picked the two biggest names out there and sent them letters,” said Chitwood, now president and COO of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

One letter went to Bill France Jr., while the other went to Tony George. George responded with an opportunity for a three-month gig to open Walt Disney World Speedway in 1995. Armed with his MBA and miles of motorsports experience, Chitwood found himself disappointed to be stuck with mostly manual labor.

“I carried TVs up the grandstand to put in race control, I showed up at 5 a.m. to sign in people with credentials, I moved equipment,” Chitwood said. “My wife put me through grad school and I thought if she ever found out what I was doing, she’d kill me.”

Little did he know at the time that the Disney gig would earn him a job at the Indy Racing League and later the opportunity to open and run the $135 million Chicagoland Speedway.

Chitwood spent 3 1/2 years getting Chicagoland off the ground, which led to a senior vice president’s role at Indy and later the title of president and COO of the world’s most famous track.

“I’m a big fan of personal and professional goals,” Chitwood said. “In a lot of ways, though, I’ve been so focused on the (IMS) centennial celebration and everything right in front of me, I haven’t thought a lot about‘What’s next?’ But you know, I never thought I’d be president of the speedway.”

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