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Volume 21 No. 34
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Game Changers: Karen Leetzow

Leetzow and eldest daughter Kelsey with adopted
pets, Beamer and Bentley.
Karen Leetzow
VP, Deputy General Counsel

NASCAR likes to give Karen Leetzow the difficult work. Since joining the sanctioning body as its first trademark lawyer in 1999, Leetzow has worked on matters ranging from a 2002 antitrust lawsuit brought by a shareholder of Speedway Motorsports Inc. to driver Jeremy Mayfield’s positive drug test to the organization’s recent acquisition of the American Le Mans Series. She was named NASCAR’s deputy general counsel in 2008 in large part because she’s adept at learning areas of the law in which she has no formal training or experience and she’s able to provide expert legal counsel on matters big and small.

Leetzow loves solving problems, and her passion for doing so has been a major reason she made the leap from a specialized, trademark attorney to NASCAR’s top legal adviser. “Reinventing myself in that way and being what the company needs, and the company being happy with the work I did — that feels good,” Leetzow said.

— Tripp Mickle

  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Bill France Jr. He treated me like I deserved to be at the table before I deserved to be there. Having an iconic figure see that in you is empowering.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Mary Carillo. She’s principled and often critical of the sports she covers, but always fair.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: All the short men who want to hear that they are actually tall.
  • My vision of success is …: The love of my friends and family.
  • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Visiting as many of the UNESCO World Heritage sites as I can.


“She’s been involved in just about every contract that we’ve got. She’s been involved in numerous litigations we’ve been involved in. For some reason, she seems to attract the difficult assignments. She does a great job, and when you do good work, people keep coming back to you.”

  • Jim France, NASCAR vice chairman