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SBJ/20090323/Forty Under 40
Joie Chitwood III
Published March 23, 2009
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.
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.”