NASCAR Media Conference
Joie Chitwood III
January 26, 2011
KERRY THARP: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and to our event here tonight as part of the 2011 NASCAR Media Tour. I'm Kerry Tharp, Senior Director of Communication for NASCAR competition. And we're excited about being here tonight. We've got some exciting news to share with you, and I think you all are in for quite a treat here this evening.
First of all, a special thanks to our host, Tim Newman, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, and Winston Kelly, Executive Director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
It's always great to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. And we appreciate that very much.
And I remind each of you, if you haven't toured this remarkable facility, I encourage you to do so tonight, or whenever you can. It's terrific. Make sure you pick up your NASCAR Hall of Fame hard card and map at the registration table, because it's your personal key to 150,000 square feet of unbelievable NASCAR history right here in front of us.
As a bit of a housekeeping chore, please mute your cell phones and smart phones as a courtesy to everybody. We would appreciate that very, very much. Thank you.
With the 2011 NASCAR racing season just days away, teams in our three national series, plus our weekly series, and touring series, are getting revved up. Never has the sport been more competitive, and never has the racing been better.
As we begin our 63rd year under the leadership of the founding France family, we are so looking forward to more record-breaking and ground-breaking performances.
And, as always, we're going to begin on the high banks and long straightaways at Daytona International Speedway.
And our NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams provide a tantalizing sneak peak during last week's three-day test on the world's center of racing's newly repaved surface. Let me tell you the consensus is the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 may be the best yet.
The gentleman I'm about ready to introduce will speak to just that because he's the President of Daytona International Speedway, Joie Chitwood.
JOIE CHITWOOD: Thank you, Kerry. Good evening, everyone. It's interesting as we're a couple of weeks away from the 2011 season the excitement that builds about the possibilities, the opportunities, and I think we all get excited about what's new. We've seen a lot of announcements out there, whether it's new ownership in teams, new paint schemes, new crew chief/driver combinations.
When you think about the biggest thing that's new, it's the new asphalt at Daytona. And you think about a five and a half month project, we spent $20 million to repave that historic facility, 50,000 tons of asphalt. That's 33 acres of asphalt. That's 1,495,000 square feet of asphalt that we put down in five and a half months to be prepared for the 2011 season.
As Kerry said, the testing we did in December with Goodyear at the Tire Test, the Open Test we did a couple weeks ago, shows it to be a smooth, grippy competitive surface. I think it could provide some of the greatest racing we've ever seen at Daytona.
Now, I did want to read something because the engineers told me that the type of asphalt we put down was a polymer-modified asphalt with an elevated softening point. I'm not sure what that really means, but in laymen's terms I think that means that's no-pothole asphalt. So that's the record and I'm sticking to it.
I want to talk about the fan interest we've seen the last couple weeks. I think we all know the fans are really the engine that drives NASCAR's popularity. And for us the first three and a half weeks of January have been phenomenal. If you take the first three and a half weeks of this new year and we compare it to the first three and a half weeks of 2010, our ticket sales are up over 30 percent in that three-and-a-half-week period. For us it's very encouraging about what we think the season will be for NASCAR and really the start of everything.
With the Open Test last week, we had over 381,000 viewers on Speed just for our Open Test. We had over 50 campers show up at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday to camp for our Open Test. So if that's any indication of what the season holds, I think that we're all in for a great ride.
Lastly, I just want to talk about something else that's new, and that's me being the president of Daytona.
I've had an opportunity to do a number of things in the sport, and being born and raised in Tampa, Florida, having come to the Daytona International Speedway as a young person with my father who has owned tickets to the Daytona 500 for over 26 years, I can't be more excited about the opportunity that I have to lead this great brand, this flagship brand for the France family.
So when I think about Daytona, I think about the legends that have made their name there, whether it's Petty, Allison, Earnhardt, Yarborough, it's such a special time. I hope that when our fans do visit Daytona and enjoy the great race, one of the biggest sporting events in the world, NASCAR's biggest event, they remember the heritage, the lure, the history of everything that's happened there in 53 years.
With that, I just want to say thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight. I'm looking forward. Daytona 500 is only 25 days away, not that anyone is counting, and I expect that we're going to have a great event. And I look forward to seeing all of you there.
Thank you very much.
KERRY THARP: Thank you so much, Joie. I was down at both of those tests, and certainly there's a lot of excitement surrounding that race.
For a special look at NASCAR's media resources and its ability to adapt in that constantly changing landscape, please welcome NASCAR Senior Vice President and President of NASCAR Media Group, Paul Brooks. Paul.
PAUL BROOKS: Thanks, Kerry, and thank you, the members of the media, for being here. And, Joie, I can't wait for Speed Weeks to start here and the Daytona 500. That's going to be fantastic.
I first want to welcome each of you to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and to NASCAR Plaza. As many of you know, that beautiful tower just behind us adjoining this building is NASCAR Charlotte office home as well as the home of NASCAR Media Group. NASCAR Media Group has evolved into a major entertainment media and marketing company with more than 200 employees. We've seen significant growth over the past few years, and we'd like to share with you a brief look at some of the projects we've developed and brought to the fans worldwide this year. Let's roll the tape.
PAUL BROOKS: I'm looking forward to that documentary. Jay Abraham and our entire team have worked closely with the Scott family, with Max Siegel and Revolution Racing, and the man you'll hear from next, Marcus Jadotte, to tell an important story about our past and an important story about our future.
At NASCAR Media Group, our facilities and creative talent are some of the very best in sports or entertainment. Our entire industry can be proud of the state-of-the-art facility which I encourage each of you to take advantage of throughout the year, with your independent news coverage of the sport. Our investment here has placed us at the forefront of the television and new media world where we can now better communicate directly with our fans and proactively reach new fans around the globe, both of which are very important for our industry.
I want to give special thanks to our broadcast partners who joined us today and who continue to bring this great sport to our fans every day throughout the week on every media platform imaginable.
They are well-positioned for the future of television, radio, new media, technology, social networking, gaming, you name it, and bringing to the fans the incredible rich content that our sport delivers every single day.
NASCAR Media Group also provides the technology backbone to serve our print media with endless statistics and data to assist you in covering the sport. All of these efforts will continue to work in full support and collaboration to the news coverage each of you independently provide to your audience throughout the year.
What each of you do every day is critical. It's important. And it's important to the bright future we see in this sport. So if this facility or our people or our resources can be helpful for you, as you do your job throughout the year, please call us, because we're going to help. Thanks.
KERRY THARP: Thank you very much, Paul.
Here to present the 2011 Drive for Diversity class, please welcome NASCAR's Managing Director of Public Affairs, Marcus Jadotte.
MARCUS JADOTTE: Thank you, Kerry. It's great to see you all here again tonight. Thanks for joining us this evening. As you saw in the video, 50 years ago Wendell Scott made his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start. Less than three years later he became the first African-American to win a race in NASCAR's premier series.
This year's Drive for Diversity class, like those who came before them, look to follow in his legacy and to carry that legacy forward. The young men and women that you're going to meet tonight have big shoes to fill. And that's really an understatement.
But before we do the introduction I'd like to take a moment and look back to the 2010 D for D class who made some history on and off the track of their own. The excitement began with the taping of the ground-breaking reality series "Changing Lanes" which aired on BET. The show's premiere was the highest-rated NASCAR telecast among African-Americans ever.
On the track the drivers went on to post historic results. One highlight certainly was Darrell Wallace, Jr.'s season. He became the youngest driver and the first African-American to win in the NASCAR K&N East Series.
Darrell's win was also the first by an African-American driver in a NASCAR tour since Wendell Scott. After posting his second win in five top finishes, Darrell was named series Rookie of the Year. Jessica Brunelli was also named Rookie of the Year at both Hickory and Tri-County Speedways here in North Carolina.
Darrell and Jessica's accomplishments were just highlights from a couple of many posted by the class in 2010.
In short, the Drive for Diversity participants achieved a high level of excellence and we look forward to building upon that momentum in the season to come.
A key to continued success on the racetrack will be support from the entire industry, including sponsors. Sprint, Sunoco and Goodyear have long been D for D supporters.
In 2011 I'm proud to announce that Toyota will join that group as official manufacturer of Revolution Racing and a season-long sponsor of the D for D program. Special thanks to Ed Laukes who is here tonight and his entire team at TRD. Now let's meet the 2011 class.
First up is Jorge Arteaga. Jorge Arteaga is originally from Aguascalientes in Central Mexico, now lives in Charlotte. He's in his first season with Revolution Racing and will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and make select starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Winner of the 2010 NASCAR Mexico Series Most Popular Driver award, Jorge finished eighth in the point standings with one pole, two top 5s, and six top 10s.
Thank you, Jorge.
Next up is Mackena Bell from Carson City, Nevada, returning for a second season at Revolution Racing. Last year Mackena made six starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and had five NASCAR Whelen All-American starts. Thank you.
Next up is Jessica Brunelli from Hayward, California, returning for her second season with Revolution Racing. She will again compete in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Last season she scored six top fives and 10 top 10s.
Next up is Michael Cherry from Valrico, Florida. He's in his fourth year with the program and his second with Revolution Racing. Last year he won his first late-model stockcar race and became the first African-American to win at North Carolina's Tri-County Speedway. Thanks Mike.
Next up is Trey Gibson of Easley, South Carolina, in his first season with Revolution Racing. He will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Last year he became the youngest driver at 18 to win a late-model race at historic Greenville Pickens. Thank you.
Next up is Ryan Gifford of Winchester, Tennessee, in his second year with Revolution Racing. Last year Ryan finished 10th in the final point standings in the NASCAR K&N East Series and became the first African-American in series history to win a pole. Thanks very much.
Next up is Tayla Orleans from Randleman, North Carolina, in her first season with Revolution Racing and Drive for Diversity. She's been racing since she was seven years old, has tallied 31 Go Kart wins. At 17, she became the youngest winner in the history of Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut. Thanks for being with us.
Next up we have Bryan Ortiz of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series with Revolution Racing. Bryan is the winner of the 2010 Sunoco National Tour Rookie of the Year award, finishing second in the points in that series. Thanks for being with us.
Next up is Sergio Pena of Winchester, Virginia, in his second year racing with Revolution Racing. Sergio made a huge splash last January finishing second to Joey Logano in the Toyota All-Star Showdown. Thanks for being with us, Sergio.
Darrell Wallace of Mobile, Alabama, completes this year's class. As I mentioned earlier, Darrell had an all-star type year last season, becoming the youngest driver and the first African-American to win a race in the K&N East Series. He was also named, as I mentioned earlier, Rookie of the Year.
Ladies and gentlemen, our class for 2011.
Also I'd ask Brian France and Ed Siegel to join us on stage for a photograph.
KERRY THARP: Thank you. The D for D class is certainly a fine young group of people. Looking forward to watching them for years to come. More excitement is underway for NASCAR's Integrated Marketing Communications team, and here to give us an update on that is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Steve Phelps.
STEVE PHELPS: Good evening. Over the last several years the entire media landscape has changed. The explosion of social and digital media combined with the dramatic changes in traditional media has made all sports and companies of every kind evaluate their readiness to communicate with their fans and consumers in a rapidly changing environment.
NASCAR is no different and our great fans have shown time and time again they crave news and information about our sport, the drivers and our races. As a key strategic initiative, we determined we need to better understand how we were doing in this important area. A year ago today NASCAR launched a landmark review of its communication practices and those of the broader industry. At the heart of this review was an unprecedented discovery process that gathered feedback, ideas and perspective from more than 300 people representing every key constituency in the NASCAR industry, including many who are here tonight.
Almost 200 interviews were conducted with media of all types, sponsors and media partners, teams, tracks and NASCAR executives in every office and at every level. Various surveys were fielded to the NASCAR community, our PR team participated in a number of evaluation exercises, and media coverage over the last 10 years was analyzed.
So, too, was the approach of our management team and best practices in peer sports. Conducted by four outside vendors, the review was comprehensive in scope, definitive in its findings and has been a clear catalyst for changes we believe will benefit the sport and our fans for many years to come.
The review demonstrated that under the leadership of our friend, Jim Hunter, and Ramsey Poston, we've built a foundationally solid communications operation that effectively serves the functional needs of the competition aspects of our sport.
We are very pleased to learn that nearly every constituency agrees that we have dramatically improved over the last decade and are now on par or better than most professional sports when it comes to competition.
Early in the decade we often heard our sport was too hard to cover, but that has been completely reversed with media of all types crediting our team for making NASCAR easy to cover.
In a survey of professional media, NASCAR PR rated better than or about the same in 10 of 11 service categories when compared to other leagues or sanctioning bodies. We are very proud of that and commend our team for their achievement.
Finally, we're thrilled to learn media of all types believe nascarmedia.com is the best media website in all sports. Again, a credit to our team.
It's clear the organization we had was effective in handling the basic needs of the sport but that we were not structured or resources properly to address many current needs within the industry or meet the challenges of the sport in the future.
To address these issues NASCAR is creating an Integrated Marketing Communications department that will make our competition effort even stronger. It will also allow NASCAR to do a much better job of proactively selling the sport and its personalities and of helping every entity in the sport do the same. IMC at NASCAR will be led by a chief communications officer with support from a managing director.
These leaders will oversee directors that will be responsible for communications efforts in key areas, including competition, business communications, the NASCAR Media Group and Entertainment, brand and consumer marketing.
Additionally, we have created two new disciplines in IMC we will have dedicated staffing for: stakeholder communications and digital and social media strategy.
Both of these disciplines will be major resources that support the entire industry's efforts to serve the NASCAR fan. We have also expanded what was known as PR Services and renamed the IMC department responsible for nascarmedia.com statistical services and a wide array of other resources important to the entire NASCAR industry NASCAR Sports Services.
Building this new department is going to take some time. But we are very confident that this new structure, a highly integrated team will be positioned to serve the media and most importantly our fans at a higher level almost immediately.
We are in the final stages of our search for a CCO and expect to announce that hire and a number of other talented professionals who will be joining our already strong team very soon.
I want to personally thank each and every one of you who took time to participate in the review and share your feedback with us.
We are working to build a more collaborative approach and want you to know your ongoing feedback will be welcomed and appreciated.
Best of luck in 2011 and we'll see you in Daytona.
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