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Volume 22 No. 43
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Michigan track to be party central

Michigan International Speedway is ready to party.

Targeting millennials who might not otherwise notice NASCAR, the International Speedway Corp.-owned racetrack is converting part of the facility into a party deck and one of its campgrounds into a late-night party zone replete with foam and paint parties, DJs and a noise ordinance that doesn’t go into effect until 3 a.m.

Both spaces will be ready by June, when MIS holds the first of its two annual NASCAR race weekends.

The success concerts at the track had in attracting millennials inspired a three-pronged push.
Combined with a previously announced infield music festival, titled Keloorah, to be held outside the track the Friday and Saturday of each NASCAR race weekend, the moves represent a three-pronged approach to attracting millennial fans, according to MIS President Roger Curtis. More aggressive steps need to be taken in the sport to appeal to younger fans, Curtis added, emphasizing the importance of gaining a “shared vocabulary” with millennials.

“You can’t just keep going to millennials talking about how cool NASCAR is,” he said. “They may not need to know exactly what Keloorah is going to be, but they need to know that shared-vocabulary piece. And we just weren’t going to get them to come out by talking about, ‘Oh, man, great lead change, great racing, exciting pit stop, Dale Jr.’ [It’s] not happening.”

MIS will transform the space where the former Turn 3 grandstand stood into an area now known as The Deck, which will cost $75 to access for the three-day race weekend. From there, revelers will be able to listen to music from DJs, surf the Web with free Wi-Fi, sample food and beverages, and enjoy other amenities as they watch the race.

The track also will morph its M50 campground, which typically had quiet hours starting at midnight, into a space more reminiscent of a spring break rave, with foam and paint parties, tailgate games, more DJs, free Wi-Fi and the 3 a.m. noise cutoff.

In addition, the first version of Keloorah, headlined by country music act Montgomery Gentry and alternative band American Authors, will be held June 12-13 before the Quicken Loans 400 Sprint Cup Series race the next day. Another version of Keloorah is set for Aug. 14-15 before the next day’s Pure Michigan 400. In both cases, the music festival will be accessible to fans who also have Sprint Cup race tickets.

Curtis said the festival and facility changes will result in a six-figure expenditure, adding that the track will market the effort with ads on digital and social media. It also has enlisted a college ambassador to spread the word on local campuses, where posters and other grassroots-type efforts will be used.

Curtis, who thinks the plan could help MIS get back to selling out by year three of its enactment, said that ISC executives were at first skeptical of the plan but have warmed up to it. He added that ticket sales for the coming Quicken Loans 400 are up 3 percent to 4 percent, while sales are flat for the Pure Michigan 400 in August.

Daryl Wolfe, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of ISC, wrote in an email that while this is a “completely new concept” for the sport, it is one “designed to attract new fans, and new customer segments, to MIS and the sport as a whole.”

“Youth and millennial segments are a key strategy for us, just like so many other sports and companies,” Wolfe wrote. “And it also aligns directly to the sport’s Industry Action Plan.”