Having been in the motorsports industry for more than 10 years when I arrived in the Miami area with my family in 2009, I thought I knew everything that I needed to know when I took over the presidency of Homestead-Miami Speedway.
I could tell you various facts about each venue that our parent company – International Speedway Corporation (ISC) – owned and operated. I certainly knew that Homestead-Miami Speedway opened its doors in 1995, just a little more than three years after Hurricane Andrew ravaged the area. As I quickly realized after getting here in December 2009, though, there was a lot more to learn about than just years and numbers. When it comes to Homestead-Miami Speedway, it’s about a unique story, unlike that of any other sporting venue.
My education began in earnest then and has been ongoing ever since.
It has encompassed learning about the track, the community, the
people and its leaders.
It was one of the most fascinating classes I have had the good fortune of sitting in on. Unfortunately it now comes to an end, as earlier this week, I accepted a role as an officer of ISC, as Vice President of Consumer Sales.
What I didn’t fully comprehend upon arrival was the personal ownership and pride that the residents of South Florida took in the track. While the Miami Marlins and Florida Panthers completed the quartet of professional sports teams in South Florida in 1993, the opening of Homestead-Miami Speedway brought another sport to this great area, but in a different way. This was the
product of a public-
private partnership, which included a great visionary in Ralph Sanchez, the City of Homestead and Miami-Dade County. They were three strong forces
banding together to combat the physical and economic distress that Hurricane Andrew inflicted on the area.
I must say I have heard a lot of great stories about the history of the track and the people behind its construction. For this, I primarily credit Al Garcia, who worked for our founder, Ralph Sanchez starting with the races through the streets of downtown Miami. Although Al’s title at Homestead-Miami Speedway has been Senior Vice President of Operations, his role encompassed much more than that. He has been pivotal in governmental affairs and our lobbying efforts. He is “Mr. Miami Motorsports,” a homegrown product who seems to know everyone in town, and everyone knows him. Most importantly, he has helped guide me through a landscape I had never before encountered until coming here. Appropriately enough, Al will now take over the presidency of the track. And while I am extremely excited about embarking on my new role in the company, I am equally as enthusiastic about handing the keys over to Al. There is no doubt in my mind that he will take the track to new heights.
There are many great memories that I will take with me as I head up
I-95. I was fortunate to come here eight years into Ford Championship Weekend, which has become one of the biggest spectacles in all of motorsports. Together, we have had the privilege of seeing Jimmie Johnson capture five straight championships and then a record-tying seventh overall in 2016. We have witnessed one of the greatest races ever as Tony Stewart edged out Carl Edwards in 2011 to take home his third title. We have seen the
championship experience magnified with the implementation of the Championship 4 format in 2014. Homestead-Miami Speedway has been the site of the final races in the historical careers of some of the most iconic drivers of our time, including Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
What I am most proud of, however, are the things that I have been able to have a direct impact on, and that is the great staff that we have assembled over the years at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It’s a group of people who take a tremendous amount of pride and passion in their work and in this facility. In a way, we all felt as if we were stewards for motorsports in the South Florida community. It’s a responsibility with which we have not taken lightly, and a philosophy that will continue to be followed after I leave.
While I will be right up the road at our corporate headquarters in Daytona Beach, it won’t be the same. This includes the opportunity speak to the terrific residents of the area through this column each week. I thoroughly enjoyed conveying my thoughts and trying to educate you on motorsports and our facility, the same way in which I was taught about you and this venue when I first arrived.
This community opened its doors to me unlike any other one I have been part of, which has also included Rockingham, North Carolina; Darlington, South Carolina and Richmond, Virginia. South Florida is a place that I will remember for much more than just the sun, beaches, fishing and boating – all of which I took full advantage of.