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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE


May 13, 2014


Jimmy Small


THE MODERATOR:  Good morning, everybody.  Thanks for joining us today.  We'll have Jimmy Small, president of Iowa Speedway.  Jimmy stepped into this role of track president back in December of 2013, one month after NASCAR purchased the track.  That timeframe seems like a long time ago to some of us, but not necessarily for Jimmy and his staff who are preparing to open their 2014 season this weekend by hosting the NASCAR Nationwide Series, along with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West combination race.
Jimmy, thanks for joining us today.
JIMMY SMALL:  Good morning.  Thank you all for joining us.  Looking forward to seeing everyone this weekend.
THE MODERATOR:  There's a lot of excitement about this weekend and Iowa Speedway, its hometown of Newton.  Can you fill us in a little bit on exactly where you are and how much you're looking forward to hosting Nationwide and K&N.
JIMMY SMALL:  We've been waiting for this moment since December 12th, which was our formal announcement last year heading into the holiday season.  We had a chance to get in front of many of you and announce NASCAR officially as owner, even though it leaked a couple weeks earlier than that.
We've been working hard ever since then just to prepare for this first weekend, what we're calling our Wide Opening Weekend, really kick off NASCAR ownership in our inaugural weekend with a bang.
We have a number of initiatives we've been working on for months and have been releasing information about those for the last few weeks.  Can't wait for Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.  We're going to have an absolute blast out here.
This is just the beginning.  We think this will really serve as an example of what is to come and what we're capable of doing out here.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Jimmy.
We'll open it up now to questions for Jimmy from the media.

Q.  Obviously this is a track that has a lot of potential and has been popular as far as fan support, TV ratings.  At the same time in its brief history there's been a lot of instability.  You're the third president since 2011.  What has been the biggest challenge for yourself as far as establishing stability for this track?
JIMMY SMALL:  I think to really get at that is to first start where we began in this process.  Going back to September of last year, the former ownership group, the Clement family, U.S. Motorsports, approached NASCAR with the opportunity.  The timing couldn't have been better for NASCAR to really take advantage.
Iowa Speedway already being one of our favorite racetracks to attend, and having seen that support, like you said, from the fans, from the state, from the local community, this was a pretty easy decision for us to make.
Over the next couple of months we looked through the books, looked under the hood a little bit I guess you could say and really determined that there still remained so much potential for this place to grow and develop.  At that point we made that decision.
Heading into the off‑season, into the holiday season, we really just focused on what we can do with bringing value back to the fans, bringing more value to the ticketholders that have supported us since the inception, since the construction of Iowa Speedway.
We've done a number of things to get that feedback, including fan surveys over the past few years.  We've really focused our efforts around that, creating a fan‑focused experience, engaging them throughout the course of the weekend.
As far as challenges, I think the biggest one has been timing.  It was certainly something we expected going into the purchase.  We knew we only had a short amount of time before our first weekend here in just a few days now.  But I think we've accomplished more than we had expected.
Personally for me, I'm such an impatient person, one that wants everything perfect and done for the first weekend, that's where I critique myself a little bit.
To answer your question, it's really been timing.  The staff that former management left us with have been fantastic, such a pleasure to work with.  It's something we expected because of our past dealings with the racetrack.  It's been an awesome experience so far and can't wait to have everyone here this weekend.

Q.  You mentioned adding value for the fans.  What specifically have you done to accomplish that?
JIMMY SMALL:  Going back to some of the fan surveys we received over the past few years, an overwhelming amount of information.  It's been wonderful to have that kind of data and information back from our fans, our biggest customers, our neighbors really being here in central Iowa.
But really what we're looking to do is drive value back to the ticketholder.  How we're doing that is bringing some of the things back that may have been missing in years past, and also bringing in new ideas.  That was one of the major factors when NASCAR came in here, was to experiment with some of these initiatives we've been developing on the sanctioning body side for the last few years.
So combining those two, we've launched our Wide Opening Weekend, which includes besides the big races, Get to Know Newton 250 by Sherwin‑Williams and the Casey's General Store 150 on Saturday night, right in between there we'll have a big headlining act by Montgomery Gentry.  That's been really well‑received by our fan base since we announced that.  Can't wait to provide that entertainment to them on Saturday night.
In addition to that we'll have a season ticketholder party on Saturday afternoon.  That will include the opportunity for our season ticketholders to receive in this goody bag that we give to them, what I'm calling our seven‑eighths special, seven‑eighths being the length of our speedway.  A few hundred of these bags will have special opportunities for the fans, from special garage access, giving the fan the opportunity to get up close and personal with the drivers, the teams, to pace car rides with one of our drivers, to drivers meeting access at the Newton Club.  We'll hold the Nationwide Series drivers meeting in the Newton Club before the race on Sunday, allowing many, many fans to join us for that, really put it into a cool atmosphere before the race.  That's just a few items.
I think you'll see along our concourse a number of new programs or new vendors that really bring about action, excitement, building anticipation for the race.

Q.  It's all about the fans obviously.  That's probably what attracted NASCAR to the Iowa area.  What is your biggest challenge that you've had with the great group of fans you get out there?  What do you expect going forward after you've had your races?
JIMMY SMALL:  I think going back to my answer just a little bit earlier, the biggest challenge has been timing.  Getting in front of all of our fans, getting this information out, as well as just developing these plans in such a short amount of time has been our biggest challenge.
Again, I feel we have ‑ I would say NASCAR would say the same ‑ we've exceeded those expectations and been pleased with what we've accomplished so far and what we will accomplish this weekend, the fan feedback we've received so far.
Moving on into next week and into our second and third race weekends, what we're going to do is spend the next six, seven, eight weeks between weekend one, being this weekend, and two and three, we'll spend that time interacting with our fans, sending out another survey to get their feedback.  A lot of these initiatives that we're bringing to the table are still in their development phase.  We believe we're on to something.  We believe that these will significantly impact the fan experience and really bring about that value I talked about a little bit earlier.
But we certainly want to get back to the fan and get their feedback because this is all for the fans in the first place.  We want to make sure when we do bring a new item or new initiative, new program, that the fans are still being engaged on tweaking it or further developing it because we want to make sure this is fully maximized as far as value for our biggest supporters.

Q.  You mentioned the seven‑eighths.  Some people think NASCAR should be going back to shorter versions of racing.  Do you have thoughts on that?
JIMMY SMALL:  We love it.  I think something we spent some time on last fall was giving Iowa Speedway a little bit more perspective.  Looking at the map, looking at the NASCAR national series race schedule, we're one of five short tracks on the full circuit, and that includes Eldora in Ohio, Bristol, Richmond and Martinsville, all basically within the state of Virginia.
You want to talk about unique qualities of Iowa Speedway, what the state of Iowa has here in central Iowa.  We have a seven‑eighths of a mile speedway.  It's one of a kind.  It is a racer's track.  It was built by Rusty.  There was a little bit of engineering and a lot of feel that went into developing the speedway.  The drivers absolutely love racing out here.
It's the only short track west of the Mississippi River.  We're claiming we're the fastest short track on the planet.  Speeds that Helio Castroneves put up last year of 185 miles an hour, we believe we're the fastest short track, shorter than a mile, on the planet.  That's something we want to drive pride through.  That's something that we feel all central Iowans, all of our neighbors here in Newton, should be very proud of.  We needed to get that message out there and make sure everyone is well aware of the experience here, make sure it's one of the items on their bucket list.
THE MODERATOR:  Jimmy, we appreciate you taking the time to join us and explain to everybody out there exactly some of the things they can look forward to at Iowa Speedway during Wide Opening Weekend.  I'm sure you're looking forward to drawing the curtain back, if you will, on some of the other opportunities that are going to be here for the fans.  Thanks for joining us.  Good luck this weekend.
JIMMY SMALL:  Thanks so much.  Thank you, everyone, for joining today.  It means a lot having your support on the call and everything you do to spread not just our message of Iowa Speedway, but the motorsports message.  The ultimate goal here at Iowa Speedway is to raise the level of motorsports, to elevate motorsports to that next level.  That's a huge priority to us.  So thank you again.  Looking forward to seeing everyone this weekend.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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