SBJ/October 8-14, 2012/Game Changers

Game Changers: Gillian Zucker

Photo: AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY
Zucker leads the charge at Auto Club Speedway’s
Lefty’s Family Fun Day & 5K.
Gillian Zucker
Auto Club Speedway
President

Gillian Zucker grew up wanting to be a sports reporter. As a student at Hamilton College in New York, she spent a day shadowing a reporter from The (Utica) Observer-Dispatch as he covered a minor league hockey game. Though she went to the game to observe the reporter, she wound up more fascinated by the minor league team’s top marketer, who was throwing Frisbees into the stands. The next day, she called the team and asked for a job. She went on to work in minor league baseball for seven years before landing in NASCAR, to which she brought an enthusiasm for engaging crowds and growing fan bases.

In her current role as the president of Auto Club Speedway, she has developed a children’s reading program that has helped the California track over the past seven years double the number of families who bring their kids to races. She also began hosting an annual Hispanic festival and marketing to the local Hispanic community. Those efforts have helped increase the percentage of Hispanic spectators for races from 8 percent to 40 percent of the total crowd.

— Tripp Mickle
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: My father once told me, “Don’t take to heart the negative things people say about you. Most of the nice things they say aren’t really true, either.”
  • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Put people first, and the projects will take care of themselves.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Bill France Jr. He was tough, demanding and brilliant.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: The right attitude. Aptitude can be taught.
  • My vision of success is …: Creating lasting memories for fans at our facility that they could not have anywhere else.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

“Gillian was a driving force in IndyCar’s return to Southern California this year. In fact, if not for her relentless pursuit of a race, I don’t think we would have had our finale there. She’s dedicated to the success of Auto Club Speedway, and her passion is contagious. She’s one of the best promoters in motorsports.”

  • Randy Bernard, IndyCar Series CEO
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