SBJ/May 22-28, 2017/Facilities

Walter brings added focus to Charlotte track

A move by Speedway Motorsports Inc. to create a new top role for Charlotte Motor Speedway has paid off, especially as the track reaches the middle of its two consecutive NASCAR weekends, SMI executives say.

Greg Walter was brought in to oversee day-to-day operations at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the home track of Speedway Motorsports Inc.
Photo by: AARON BURNS / CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Six months ago, SMI named Greg Walter the track’s executive vice president, freeing up more time for SMI chief executive Marcus Smith to focus on larger corporate issues. Smith previously oversaw CMS, where SMI’s corporate headquarters are based. SMI operates eight tracks overall.

Amid a new era of collaboration in NASCAR that is increasingly taking up industry leaders’ time, and considering Smith’s push to land an MLS franchise in Charlotte, SMI decided that it should have someone whose only focus was CMS.

That became Walter, who was named to his post in November. He was a longtime sales executive at SMI’s corporate office and, before that, company track Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“The industry has gotten more collaborative, and collaboration means time; you need to have that time to devote to the different issues that we’re all suited for,” Mike Burch, chief strategy officer of SMI, said of the decision to install Walter. “Now we’ve got a lot of gears in the car that we have to apply versus having everything kind of falling back on one, two or three people.”

Smith retains the title of president and general manager of CMS but Walter, a California native whose background was in media sales before he came to SMI, runs operations on a day-to-day basis. Walter works out of CMS’s seventh-floor corner office that has an expansive view of the track.

In his first six months, the relationship-oriented Walter has overseen a host of projects, from negotiations with new NASCAR series sponsor Monster Energy to the rollout and construction of a solar-powered deck in the track’s Turn 4 area, to renovations for the track’s road course. Summing up how diverse a venue CMS is, Walter also already has overseen the Pennzoil AutoFair and the NHRA’s Four-Wide Nationals event held at CMS’s neighboring dragstrip.

CMS was set to host the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race last weekend, and the track hosts the sport’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600, this weekend.

It’s a solid step up from Walter’s former position, when he sold the merits of sponsorship of SMI. But SMI executives said so far, so good.

“Greg’s first few months on the job have been a whirlwind,” Smith said in a statement. “Many executives would have caved under the pressure, but Greg has embraced every challenge and accomplished a lot in a short period of time.”

Walter said his main focus has been on motivating CMS’s staff, giving more concerted attention to the myriad intricacies that help ensure good events, and sprucing up the family atmosphere that is part of SMI’s ethos. Walter uses monthly staff meetings to go over recent developments and to give out employee superlatives, and he helped strike a deal with a local craft brewer to create the track’s first branded craft beer.

“A lot of it is the day to day with having conversations, ideating with promotions, working with our marketing folks, ticketing departments, having lots of meetings about, ‘Tell me your thoughts; how can we change this?’ and then making decisions pretty quickly,” Walter said of what Smith was looking for with the role. “There’s so many hours of the day, and he’s CEO of the company, so this frees him up to do more of that, to work globally. And the little things here with, ‘What about this? What should we paint?’ Those decisions just need to be made.”

Ed Clark, longtime president of Atlanta Motor Speedway who hired Walter in 1999, said that while Walter sets high expectations for himself, his charismatic qualities should help him achieve them.

“He’s worked in sales, he’s great as far as his relationships with companies and individuals that our company does business with, and he’s liked and respected both in the garage area and throughout the corporate sector,” Clark said. “I think it’s a pretty wise choice to put him in that position.”
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