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Volume 21 No. 2
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Wolfe’s goal: Integrated platform for ISC, NASCAR

If his first week on the job was any indication, longtime International Speedway Corp. executive Daryl Wolfe’s new role selling partnerships for both ISC and NASCAR is going to make for quite the hectic year.

Wolfe in late December was named as what is believed to be the first person in the sport’s 70-year history to serve as chief sales and partnership officer of both ISC and NASCAR simultaneously. NASCAR had been looking for a new chief sales officer after former executive Jim O’Connell departed at the end of the 2016 season. ISC is one of NASCAR’s two major track operators, but it’s the one that’s controlled by NASCAR’s France family, and there was a point in NASCAR history where such a move might have seemed like a third rail.

Daryl Wolfe, who has been at ISC since 1995, takes over as chief sales and partnership officer at both ISC and NASCAR.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
But in NASCAR’s new era of greater collaboration, NASCAR executives felt that it will benefit the sport by making it easier for sponsors to navigate its sometimes cumbersome structure. Whereas before sponsors typically had to have separate negotiations with NASCAR and ISC, the latter of which owns 12 NASCAR venues, now Wolfe becomes something akin to a one-stop shop.

“If day No. 1 is any indication for the rest of the year, holy cow, workload may be my biggest challenge,” Wolfe joked late last week.

Wolfe said the position gives him more influence in how sponsorships could be integrated between NASCAR, ISC tracks, other track operators, broadcasters and race teams. NASCAR has been working behind the scenes in recent years to make the sport more like stick-and-ball sports where a sponsorship includes assets that stretch across more stakeholders.

Wolfe, who has been with ISC since 1995, will remain based in Daytona Beach, Fla., but will travel more frequently to New York City and Charlotte.

“Marketing partners already in the sport, or looking at coming into the sport, there’s a number of stops you have to make [to activate across different touch points],” Wolfe said. “Oftentimes when you make those stops … those conversations are isolated to a one-on-one specific conversation with that stakeholder, and what happens is you minimize or even miss opportunities. So if there’s a really wonderful asset, you may acquire that asset with one stakeholder but it’s not amplified with other stakeholders. My goal with going out there with a more fully integrated platform is that the biggest and best marketing partners [end up thinking], ‘Not only do I have the right assets, but they’re working really hard for me across all these multiple stakeholders.’”

Wolfe will report to Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief global sales and marketing officer, and ISC President John Saunders. He will retain his duties at ISC on the partnership sales side but said he may step back from also running ISC’s consumer marketing division on a day-to-day basis.

His move to take on the dual role raised eyebrows at NASCAR’s other major track operator, Speedway Motorsports Inc., which is owned by the Smith family and has been a rival to ISC. But Wolfe stressed that he plans to “over-communicate” in the role, including with other track operators, both to allay fears and work closer together. Wolfe feels that the new era of collaboration in NASCAR, which led to the creation of a track council where SMI and ISC executives regularly meet with NASCAR, should render those concerns moot.

“Not only is it my style to make sure we are direct and over-communicate, but the foundation that has been laid by NASCAR over the last 36 months sets us up very well to make sure we’re doing well moving forward,” Wolfe said.