NASCAR Media Conference
December 12, 2013
DAVID HIGDON: Good afternoon. We really appreciate you hosting us. I'm David Higdon, a member of the Integrated Marketing Communications team at NASCAR. Can't tell you enough how excited I am to be here today and how excited all of us at NASCAR are, as well.
I'd like to bring up our guests for the day. Eric Nyquist, our Vice President of Strategic Development, who is based out of our Daytona office.
Mayor Mike Hansen, the City of Newton.
Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership is here with us.
And the gentleman that hopefully you will get to know very well and will be introduced in a second also will be here.
Again, a couple weeks ago we announced that we were purchasing Iowa Speedway. It was very much an unprecedented decision by NASCAR. Our chairman, Brian France, was very bullish on this decision. He believes it's the right thing to do for the city, the right thing to do for the state, and certainly the right thing to do for NASCAR.
He works very closely on any strategic decision that is made by NASCAR with Eric Nyquist. I'd like Eric to say a few words about the purchase and why we made that.
ERIC NYQUIST: On behalf of all my NASCAR colleagues that are here today, I want to thank you all for welcoming us to Iowa. It's a little bit of a homecoming for me. I grew up about a hundred miles north of here in southern Minnesota. So I know all too well, as NASCAR does, that here in Iowa we have some of the nation's most committed and passionate racing fans.
In addition for us coming here to Iowa, Iowa is the epicenter of American Ethanol and the American corn farmer. As many of you know we worked tirelessly with American Ethanol, American corn farmer to bring a superior fuel blend to NASCAR several years ago, E‑15. In the toughest racing conditions we've been able to prove that a 15% blend of American Ethanol is a superior fuel blend and great for our country.
Why we're here today, though, is to announce and to speak to the acquisition we announced a couple weeks ago. As we see it, the acquisition of Iowa Speedway for NASCAR is a long‑term strategic play for our sport. It has everything to do with the fan base that lives here and is in and around the upper Midwest. It is a beautiful city that is a testament to the Clement family and the folks of Newton that helped build it. It's beautiful, great racing, our fans love it. It has a great and passionate staff that has worked tirelessly to bring it to this stage.
For us at NASCAR, we determined several years back that we needed to put all of our efforts and focus them around engaging our fan base and doing everything we can to improve the racing product.
Part of that is reaching an evolution of our fan experience. That's in part where we saw this as a very strategic play for us, to step in and take a facility that has performed well to date and work with the city, the state, our partners, the fan base, and our collective industry to take Iowa Speedway to another level.
It's with great excitement that we're here to make the announcement of the next track president of Iowa Speedway. That track president is Jimmy Small.
A little bit of background about Jimmy before I bring him up. First, it's important to note when this was raised last summer, sitting down with Brian France, Brian was intimately involved with this acquisition. One of the first things Brian brought to bear is he didn't want to cut any corners. In his words, he wanted to bring in one of our very best rising stars, someone who could bring real energy, yet at the same time have the relationships with senior management to bring the full resources of NASCAR to bear here at this track. It was real clear to everyone in the room who that individual was. That was Jimmy Small.
Jimmy has been a rising star here at NASCAR for quite some time. He's had a great track record. He's had the opportunity to work first and foremost under one of NASCAR's most impressive and influential executives in Jill Gregory. Her Industry Services Department works intimately with our teams, drivers and tracks on issues near and dear to them. It was in that setting that Jimmy was allowed to grow, get new learning experiences, working hands on with our events, working with the tracks on their operation, working with teams and their issues with sponsorships.
Importantly, several years back, we launched the NASCAR Industry Action Plan. It was a five‑year strategic plan aimed at generating growth and having the entire industry working together.
Jimmy stepped up and led not one, not two, but three critical strategic initiatives that helped to gain traction for us in critical areas with key demos. It was through that experience that Jimmy proved himself to be a rising star and a true player long‑term in this industry. That's why he's here today.
A couple last things to note about Jimmy. In addition to he, like Brian France, Brian in his late 20s went to run a dirt track in Tucson, he's stepping into a very important role here. I know he's going to be quite a success. Jimmy is like many of the people here and in the Midwest, he's a down‑to‑earth person, what you see is what you get. He loves racing. He's passionate about this opportunity. He, like myself, is a Midwesterner at heart.
So without taking up much further time, it's with great pleasure to introduce Jimmy Small.
JIMMY SMALL: Good afternoon.
It is an honor and a privilege to be standing in front of you and accepting the position as the new president at Iowa Speedway. I've been working my entire career towards this opportunity. Every step I've taken has been an effort to get here. This is truly a dream come true.
Having said that, I feel I am fully prepared and capable to take on the position and the responsibilities therein.
I've had the pleasure the last six years of working across our entire industry with teams, with tracks, with drivers and professionals. I've had the pleasure of watching, learning and demonstrating some of the best practices we've seen in our industry. I've also had the distinct pleasure of watching and learning from some of the greatest promoters we've seen in this sport and sports in general.
Additionally, I've worked under some of the brightest and most passionate people I've ever seen in this sport and will ever see as a company.
I've had the distinct pleasure of working with the staff members here at Iowa Speedway in various capacities over the past six years ‑ more intensely over the last three months, of course. I can't say enough about the individuals at Iowa Speedway. They are tough. They are hard‑working. They're intelligent. They care. That's what's most important here, they care. The bond they share is truly remarkable. It's a bond I truly hope to join and ultimately strengthen. As a team, I am confident that we will achieve success here in the state of Iowa.
Next I'd like to, on behalf of NASCAR, accept the responsibility that comes with being the new caretaker at Iowa Speedway. Undoubtedly with being if not the premiere motorsports sports and entertainment properties and venues in the state of Iowa, there will be high expectations. We understand that.
NASCAR and the state of Iowa share great histories and traditions in racing. That has been truly evident with the support we've seen at Iowa Speedway since its inception. We wholeheartedly accept the responsibility to put on a fun and entertaining product that will make fans happy and make sure they keep coming back.
I'd like to express my enthusiasm and excitement as the new president of Iowa Speedway and on behalf of NASCAR. Like I said earlier, this is a dream come true.
As Eric said earlier, this is not only a good business decision on behalf of NASCAR, this is also a strategic initiative. This acquisition is a design dedicated to accelerating our Industry Action Plan. Eric mentioned it a little bit earlier.
A little bit of background on the Industry Action Plan. It's a five‑year plan that launched in 2011, and it's dedicated to driving fan engagement and growth across our entire sport. This acquisition, Iowa Speedway, will be at the core of this Industry Action Plan moving forward.
What does that present? This opportunity yields intriguing possibilities. We cannot do it without the support of the fans, Iowans, the community, our partners and our legislators. We hope you all are as excited as we are to be here today. We're dedicated and committed to being here long‑term. The fun has just begun.
DAVID HIGDON: Thank you, Jimmy. Glad to have you onboard. As you mentioned, this is definitely going to be a partnership that extends pretty deep throughout the state.
I did want to recognize a few people. We are fortunate enough to have some of our legislators here. If you could stand. We appreciate you coming out today.
Also I'd like to acknowledge our negotiating partner who has had this place and put it in a good spot for Jimmy and his team to move forward, Stan Clement. Appreciate everything you've done for Iowa Speedway.
Lastly, I want to acknowledge the young lady who was willing to give up Jimmy Small to Iowa from NASCAR, where we know what he was doing for us broadly, and what he will be doing for Iowa Speedway, Jill Gregory, our Vice President of Industry Services.
Our next guest speaker will be the mayor of Newton, Mayor Mike Hansen.
MAYOR MIKE HANSEN: Isn't this exciting? When I first found out who was the purchaser of the Iowa Speedway, the potential purchaser, do you know how difficult that was to keep that to myself? We don't have to do that anymore.
We are extremely excited to have NASCAR as a community member of the city of Newton. We look forward to the possibilities at hand for development around the Speedway. We look forward to attracting new fans to the facility. We are extremely pleased of the selection of Jimmy Small as the next president of the Iowa Speedway.
We welcome Jimmy to our community and we certainly welcome NASCAR and all of the folks that support NASCAR to our community. Let's charge on, folks. Exciting things are going to happen in Newton and in the greater Iowa area.
Thank you so much for coming today.
DAVID HIGDON: Thank you, mayor.
Next we have Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership.
JAY BYERS: I am very honored and excited to be here today. This is really, really a big deal. It's a big deal for central Iowa, it's a big deal for the state.
For those of you who don't know, the Greater Des Moines Partnership is the regional economic development and community development organization serving central Iowa. We are leading economic development efforts in six counties including Jasper County. We have 20 affiliate Chambers of Commerce, and we have 4700 regional members, including the Iowa Speedway.
We are very excited to have the speedway and Jasper County as part of the central Iowa family and again are very excited to do whatever we can to help NASCAR be successful in this market moving forward.
I do want to recognize a couple other folks that are with us today. My good friend Greg Edwards with the Convention Visitors Bureau. A great partner with the speedway. The speedway is a great example of one of the things that Greg and his team have championed. Look forward to working with you moving forward on that.
Again, I want to thank the legislators. You have been a huge reason why the speedway has been successful to date and really I want to acknowledge that because the state has played a huge role.
There's a lot of sponsors here today. Again, sponsors make all this work. So thanks to all of you who are here, as well, who have been very supportive of the speedway in the past and with NASCAR moving forward.
2013 has really been a banner year in central Iowa. We have a lot of momentum going. We've had a record year in terms of national rankings. Forbes has named central Iowa the number one place for business and careers. We've had a record year in terms of big economic development projects, community development announcements as well. What a great way to cap off an unbelievable year by having NASCAR come to the market and buying the Iowa Speedway. Let's give NASCAR a huge round of applause.
I think it's really important as we look at the history of the Iowa Speedway in terms of what it's already done, all these great things that central Iowa has been recognized for, the Iowa Speedway has been a big part of why we've been successful.
It's the largest pro sports venue in the state. It's brought amazing pro sports to central Iowa. You look at the NASCAR Nationwide Series, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the IndyCar Series. It's had a huge economic impact on central Iowa and has brought a whole new level of entertainment to the state, which is very, very exciting.
At a personal level, some of you know this. I grew up in Iowa, but I left the state after law school. My first job out of law school is I worked for a large firm in Indianapolis. One of my clients was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I had the opportunity to go to the 500 a few times and go to the Brickyard.
I had an opportunity to move back to Iowa in 1997 because I wanted to come back and make a difference. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would have this level of racing in the state.
With what the speedway has done to bring that to the state is really unbelievable for someone like me. But then now with NASCAR's partnership, it's really exciting to even see what that can become moving forward.
One of the things when I talk about Indianapolis, having seen races there, I would rather go to a race at the Iowa Speedway than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's a lot better place to see a race. If you've never been there before, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a huge place. Even if you have the best seats in the house, you can still only see part of the track. It's hard to tell who is winning. You always have to look up top to see the leaderboard.
You go to the Iowa Speedway, you can see the whole race unfold. It's a great place to see a race, whether it's the Nationwide Series, the IndyCar Series. It's a real gem.
In fact, having been in Indianapolis, which people think is this big motorsports town, I think we have a better product. So I'm very, very excited about that.
Also I have a daughter named Charlotte. I think it's meant to be, right (laughter)?
Moving forward, central Iowa has a lot of momentum, a lot of great things have happened. Again, this is a huge announcement that really catapults us to a whole new level.
Having the opportunity to talk to Jimmy on the phone yesterday, him talking about some of the ideas that they're thinking about in terms of helping define the future of NASCAR, for them to use central Iowa and the Iowa Speedway as that testing ground is incredibly exciting.
We want to partner with you as much as we can. It's very important for not only central Iowa but across the state to support the Iowa Speedway moving forward. This is an asset that we need to cherish and, again, to help make successful.
Thank you for including the partnership today. Jimmy, congratulations. NASCAR, congratulations. Stan, thanks for all you've done. Anything we can do to be helpful moving forward we want to do. Thank you.
DAVID HIGDON: Thanks, Jay.
You mentioned the sponsors. I would love a show of hands of who currently in this audience is a sponsor of Iowa Speedway. Thank you very much.
We'll take a few questions from the audience.
Q. Eric, you mentioned about wanting to take this racetrack to another level. What is 'another level' in NASCAR's mind?
ERIC NYQUIST: There's a number of ways that we're going to look at it right now.
I think for us, with the Industry Action Plan, we have been working on a variety of fan‑engagement measures. I think with Iowa Speedway, for a lot of reasons we noted earlier, the great racing, the fact that wherever you're at on that complex isn't a bad place to be for the race.
We think it's a perfect place for us to test out some of the fan amenities we think we can bring to bear. Some of them will be small, little pieces here and there. Again, that creative impact, whether you're going to a hoops game, a football game, matters greatly. Jimmy, with his experience working with Jill, I think is going to be perfect for that.
We will be exploring over time looking at other forms of racing, other ways that we can bring entertainment value to the venue. In the near term I think that's what you can expect.
JIMMY SMALL: It's still too early to determine what specifically that means. But in the short‑term, the quick answer is, having worked in Jill Gregory's group, I know how many resources NASCAR can provide to racetracks, race teams, et cetera. We're going to take full advantage of those resources.
Also those resources continue to evolve and develop, so we'll continue to be as smartly aligned with NASCAR, especially Jill's Industry Services. That's in addition to Eric's comments.
Q. Eric, in specific ways what made NASCAR feel like this was the right decision to acquire and operate a track? There were elements of this that were unprecedented.
ERIC NYQUIST: Great question.
First, background for everyone. NASCAR, through our sports car racing division, IMSA, we acquired last summer two tracks, both road courses: Road Atlanta and Sebring International. This was a unique move for us, but not unprecedented. NASCAR has acquired various interests in various tracks to keep them moving.
What made this unique for now and here? A few things. One, by evidence of everyone in this room is the passion and the support that Iowa had 0from the very get‑go with this speedway. I think it really blew a lot of people in our industry away. It was the warmth, the sense of energy, the way the entire community embraced it, left an indelible mark on our operation.
When the opportunity arose for this speedway, for this acquisition, we looked at a number of things. Is there good racing? Check, great racing. Do you have a good fan base? Check, great fan base. Do you have great and committed partners? Check. I would say this speedway has had the great luxury of enjoying some of the best partnerships around, great support from the community.
When we sat down with municipal leaders, whether it be Mayor Hansen, Governor Branstad's office, we got nothing but a warm embrace.
It was a unique opportunity, but Iowa is a unique place. I don't need to tell people here, this is one of the great places in America to live. We think it's a place that has a lot of great growth in front of us.
To do that, it's going to take a lot of steps, it's going to take a lot of people pulling on the rope in the right way. We wouldn't be here unless we saw a great future in that. For that you can be sure.
Q. (No microphone.)
JIMMY SMALL: At this point in time it's too early to make that decision. What I will say about this staff, like I said earlier, you want to talk about a group of unbelievable and remarkable individuals that come together as a group, especially on the race weekends. We were just talking about this earlier. It's like a family there.
So really, really happy personally. But on behalf of NASCAR, we've been truly impressed with the individuals and how they operate as a group at Iowa Speedway.
Q. When you first realized this track was going to be put up for sale, how much unease was there on your part? How much of that has been alleviated by what you know now?
MAYOR MIKE HANSEN: I can tell you there always comes a doubt, where is this going from here. We obviously knew it was a great asset in our community. The fan base, as Eric alluded to, was great.
We knew that the potential for somebody to make the investment there, to have a great asset, was there. We didn't in our wildest dreams know it would be NASCAR, but we're extremely pleased it was there. I know there were other names tossed around who might be interested in the facility.
Thanks to the Clement and Manatt family who brought this entertainment facility to our community, we were positioned, it happened to be at the right time, and we certainly are pleased to be partnering with NASCAR as we move ahead.
JAY BYERS: I'd concur with everything the mayor said. The result is fantastic. The incredible vision that the Manatt family had to build this facility in the first place, what the Clement family did to keep it going, and again now with NASCAR coming in. There's always the right people for the right time.
Again, with the resources and name recognition that NASCAR brings, it's just incredibly exciting, and we again look forward to working with all of you in the future to see what that looks like.
ERIC NYQUIST: It is worth noting, were it not but for the work of the Manatt family, Clement family, Rusty Wallace, the great staff at Iowa Speedway, NASCAR wouldn't be in this position right now to take a look at this acquisition much less make the big step we've made. It's a real testament to a large group of people that worked really hard.
As you all know, it's great racing at Iowa Speedway, some of the best we have in all of NASCAR. Real tip of the hat to the people who came before us and put this in place. We look forward to carrying on that tradition and building upon it.
DAVID HIGDON: Why don't we wrap‑up from the governor who sent his regrets to us. He wanted us to read a couple of sentences of his feelings on this acquisition. From Governor Branstad.
'We are excited that NASCAR is investing in Iowa and welcome their commitment to Iowa jobs. The Iowa Speedway has become a major destination for our state and we are pleased to see this dedication and commitment to ensure its continued success.'
Thanks for coming today.
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