Confetti-covered Victory Lane still smelled of champagne on the Monday morning after the 2001 Daytona 500 — it was then that my longtime friend and the former Director of the NASCAR Series Marketing department, Steve O’Donnell, called my apartment in Northern California.
Steve and I started our friendship at the beginning of his NASCAR career. He and the other Series Marketing team members recruited me to assist them with the opening ceremonies and Victory Lane celebrations during every west coast Winston Cup event weekend. I was the kid that grew up at the racetrack, working every weekend, trying to learn as much as possible from west coast power players like Ken Clapp and the Collins Family. They might not have known, but I watched them as they interacted with patrons and negotiated difficult conversations with competitors. I was studying the way each promoter advertised their events and how fans reacted to their latest ticket selling stunts. What started off as a fun way to spend a weekend with my dad quickly matured into an opportunity via that Monday morning phone call. Little did I realize that it would become my lifelong career.
Because of my time running around Evergreen Speedway and Tucson Raceway Park I had a unique skillset that Steve was looking for. He needed a team member that could travel the circuit and assist NASCAR’s most important partners with their at-track needs. This included management of the prize money and decal program, coordination of opening ceremonies, and mastering the Victory Lane hat dance. It was here where I once again utilized my trackside education provided by Bill McAnally as he hosted NAPA guests and correlated that with the way that a contingency sponsor should be hosted each race weekend.
It was my interactions with CEOs like David Liniger and Roger LaMoure that taught me how to carry myself when presenting to executives at Sprint or Chevrolet. This training provided a foundation for what has become a career in the events business—and ultimately my own company. Twenty-four months ago, I took a leap of faith and went all in to create Traction Event Labs, a special event company that would utilize my 20+ years studying fan behavior.
2017 has shaped up to be a monumental year in our young company’s history; each weekend we are traveling the country, supporting the team at ISM Vision powered by BoldVu, and delivering digital displays to over 30 NASCAR sites that enhance consumer engagement at venues and beyond. Traction Event Labs is the first one on the ground each weekend and the last to leave, ensuring the operations and logistics of 20 high definition mobile display boards are flawless for every trackside customer. Our #AWESPITALITY business continues to grow as we find amazing partners like NASCAR and Microsoft who utilize The Awesome Bash (a fully customized hospitality trailer) to host guests at Sonoma Raceway in the Microsoft Technology Hub. Over the last two years, we have had the privilege to produce events at marquee NASCAR stadiums like the Daytona International Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway as well as non-traditional venues like the Air & Sea Show in South Beach Miami.
It is because of those late nights at Phoenix International Raceway, Stockton 99, and Colorado National Speedway that I am now qualified to do business at any venue around the world and have complete confidence that we are the best team to produce all types of events, especially the ones located in logistically challenging environments.
I am thankful for all those professors that took me under their wing and gave me this Ivy League trackside education. I am proud to represent my west coast racing roots each and every weekend.
Please keep an eye out for the Traction Event Labs team coming to an event near you.