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NASCAR's Internal Operations Expanding Locally

Source: Michael Smith, Charlotte Business Journal   

October 26, 2007

The NASCAR Hall of Fame and an accompanying office tower won't open for a few years, but stock car racing's sanctioning body is already restructuring its operations for the day the complex opens.

The recent promotion of Paul Brooks from NASCAR's Daytona Beach, Fla., headquarters to its Charlotte office represents the most significant power shift yet as the sport deepens its roots here.

The presence of a majority of NASCAR teams in the Charlotte area has long made this region the hub for the sport. Charlotte is where NASCAR does business: 82% of the Nextel Cup teams, 72% of the Busch Series teams and 55% of the Craftsman Truck teams call this area home.

So it only makes sense that NASCAR's administrative chiefs follow.

"It's a certification, if you will," says longtime Charlotte sports marketer Max Muhleman. "New York is the media capital of the country. Every network is there. It's where an industry migrated for its biggest operators. In a way, that's what has happened to make Charlotte the NASCAR business capital, and why not a home for the sanctioning body?"

Despite the office tower, NASCAR makes it perfectly clear its Daytona Beach headquarters is not moving. There are no plans to pull up stakes from where NASCAR was born in 1948.

In fact, NASCAR's home office will move into the Daytona Live complex following its completion in a few years.

What's clear, though, is that NASCAR sees a need to be close to its constituents. More of the decisions that impact the business of NASCAR will be made out of the Charlotte office.

When the Hall of Fame and office tower open in early 2010, NASCAR officials will occupy more than 100,000 square feet of the 390,000-square-foot, 20-story building.

"With the exclamation mark being the Hall of Fame and office tower, NASCAR now has that much more of a magnified presence in Charlotte," says Hunter Nickell, president of Speed, the News Corp. motorsports network based in south Charlotte. "Charlotte is the headquarters for this industry."

Much of the NASCAR-occupied space in the tower will be devoted to its media group, an amalgamation of several NASCAR units that will oversee rights management, content production, distribution and entertainment. Brooks has been named president of the media group and charged with the task of bringing together all of those functions.

Within the media group will be the NASCAR Images, broadcasting, new media and digital entertainment divisions. The Los Angeles office will report to Brooks in Charlotte.

NASCAR's proximity to the teams will pay off for the media group when staffers need access to drivers for footage, interviews and information.

Brooks also will head up NASCAR licensing, which was run out of the Charlotte office by Mark Dyer, who left in June to become president and chief executive of Motorsports Authentics in Concord.

Brooks' move and the formation of the media group signals a reorganization for NASCAR's media units and establishes its strongest power base in Charlotte to date.

"Charlotte has played a significant part in NASCAR's history and will continue to be an important part of its future," Brooks says from his new office on the 39th floor of the Wachovia Center on College Street. "This is the hometown to our industry. Drivers, teams, licensees, sponsors and the business structure of the sport has a significant presence here. Any employer or business relies on a strong partnership with its community, and we're very fortunate to have that in Charlotte."

Additionally, NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Brian France recently bought a home in Charlotte, which has sparked speculation about growth in NASCAR's presence in the area. But France also owns homes in Daytona Beach and Los Angeles.

"I don't think that Brian's residence is an indicator of anything, but businesses need to be near their customers and that's certainly the case with NASCAR," says Winston Kelley, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

In addition to the Hall of Fame and office tower, NASCAR built its research and development center north of Charlotte near Concord Mills. That's where the sanctioning body works with race teams on safety, engineering and other initiatives.

As office space in the tower hits the market, Brooks expects many motorsports-related businesses to sign leases. Some NASCAR teams might find the location attractive for their sales and marketing staffs.

David Jessey, vice president of sales and marketing at Gillett Evernham Motorsports, has said he'll likely move out of the team's Statesville headquarters into an office in Charlotte so he can be closer to the businesses and marketing agencies that work with the racing industry.

It wouldn't be surprising to see others follow.

"We need a strong presence in Charlotte to support our most important partners," Brooks says. "Teams, drivers, licensees, sponsors -- they all have a presence in this area. And now with the media group, some of the fragmented pieces are going to be able to come under one roof."

Michael Smith is a staff writer for SportsBusiness Journal, a sister publication. He can be reached at msmith@sportsbusinessjournal.com.