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Voices From The Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Wednesday August 30, 2006
Fontana, CA – With the possibility of her job on the line, 37-year-old California Speedway president Gillian Zucker is poised to take drastic measures in an effort to sell out the Fontana Speedway as soon as possible. Zucker is the fourth person to hold the title of president at the facility since it started hosting NASCAR Cup events in 1997.
“I don’t allow excuses,” said Zucker. “There is always a reason something doesn’t sell. We need to create ways to overcome them.”
One of the ways Zucker has chosen to overcome them is to learn Spanish.
I [just] did an interview for Telemundo,” said Zucker in a recent interview. “It is so important in this market – 48 percent of this market is Latino. So, when we market to the fan base, we market to people who speak Spanish. We have a game plan to sell out here eventually. Not sure if it will be next February. We are not taking an existing fan base and encouraging them to come to the speedway.”
Aside from learning Spanish, the details of other plans to sell out the speedway were a closely guarded secret. However, BSNews investigative reporter Ima Fulakrap has learned that some of those plans are indeed drastic.
“As I read some of the quotes from her interview, some things just didn't mesh,” said Fulakrap. “In one sentence, she says that when we market to the fan base, those people speak Spanish. That is all fine and understandable. But then she said “â€¦we are not taking an existing fan base and encouraging them to come to the speedwayâ€¦” so just exactly who is it they plan to encourage, and why the need to learn Spanish?”
Fulakrap continues, “I asked Ms. Zucker about this apparent discrepancy, and after much hemming and hawing, she finally came clean.”
“Here (in California), it is about developing people into a NASCAR fan. Because of the size of this market, reaching these people is cost prohibitive because of advertising,” said Zucker. “Our plan is to not only sell out the speedway, but to also become the flagship of NASCAR's diversity program. In light of that, what we have done is to utilize the air cannon that we normally shoot T-shirts into the crowd with, and driven it down to the border. So, instead of T-shirts, we shot tickets onto the Mexican side.”
Each ticket included a personal welcome by Brian France and Zucker, a map of how to get to the Speedway, and a diagram of where the fences around the Speedway have been cut to allow easy access into the facility.
“The idea of cutting the fences, and in some places, the absence of security altogether, to allow this fan base to climb over them is brilliant,” said Zucker. “Our goal is to make them feel as welcome as possible. Even the California DOT is involved. They have posted over 100 of those signs…you know, the ones that show a family running across the highway, at strategic locations along the roads leading to the Speedway, so we shouldn't have any safety issues. We would hate to harm our new fan base with a tragic accident. We feel we have all our I's dotted and our T's crossed, and we are going to fill those stands one way or another!”
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Stay off the wall (it IS okay to climb over the fence, though!),
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So can this fan base she learned the language of to attract to the track actually pay the high prices of a weekend ticket package, food and beverages? It’s getting difficult for a lot of fans to afford it.
Press one for spanish
2n for english
Will my tickets for the Texas Motor Speedway next year be in Spanish ?? Maybe the tv commercials will have spanish sub titles, what about the broadcast booth?
Let’s get this staight. Our President tightens the borders and the the “Speedway President” tries to loosen them up by shooting, basically candy across the border with a map of cut fences at the track? and the DOT is involved? Just when you think you’ve heard it all, people like her set a whole new presidence. WOW, now she’ll tell us that the seats weren’t full because she gave all the tickets to the fans in Mexico and they couldn’t find the holes in the fence!!!!!!
If the Labor Day race was still in Darlington we wouldn’t even be having this discussion! Once again we waste our energies on things so unimportant. NASCAR should have learned from Riverside that Southern California is fickle; only interested in trends and fads. If the track was anywhere else in the country, NASCAR would be looking to move the race date somewhere else. We can only pray it will happen.
I’m not so sure Bill is correct about Riverside International Raceway having any “lack of interest”. More like California land values went waay up and the developers moved in with their bulldozers. Especially after March Air Base (next door) no longer was a B-52 bomber base. (With rumors of nukes underground—which was highly likely)
Now homes and malls that contribute mega-millions in taxes to the economy, local, state, and federal occupy the land that was RIR—same for Orange Couny International Speedway—a drag strip—oh! And Ontario Motor Speedway—now Ontario Mills Mall.
Always need for another mall, doncha know.
Follow the Money Trail.
yankee business woman, trying to fill seats of a Nascar trackin California,
What am I missing here???????
Just what “language” does a loud fast racecar speak? Universal is my answer.
In related news, Juan Pablo Montoya will be driving in this race in a 4th Chip Ganassi vehicle sponsored by Corona
If Zucker can woo the Hispanics to the track ,good for her. Good luck finding enough of them willing to pay $185 to $250 for decent seats and enough willing to go the the fun zone and partake of Wolfgang Puck Cuisine. She may fill up the infield, but not the grandstands.
One other comment about the old Riverside Raceway. I attended just about every race there from the late sixties and was sitting on turn six for the very last race. That place was always packed and the racing was good. As after Shock stated, the land was worth more than the track. Since it wasn’t owned by Nascar the owner took the money and is now sitting somewhere in the tropics sipping exotic drinks with umbrellas in them.I have attended two races at Cal speedway and as far as I’m concerned the racing at Cal Speedway is boring.
I can beleive that last year when it was stated that there were so many empty seats because the fans were down getting food and beer was because it was more exciting to watch the drunks than the race.
When I was a small boy, I would sit on the floor of my small trailer with my 17 brothers and sisters and dream of the day that I could come to this country to see a NASCAR car race for myself and stand in the concession stand lines with the 10,000 other fans to feast upon the racetrack enchiladas that I heard of from passing tourist as a small boy in my country.
We thank you, Senora Zucker for all you do to bring my countrymen the excitement of auto car racing!
Viva Carlos Conteras! Viva la Mexico! Viva Senora Zooker! And Viva tu Senor Jeff Meyers for this fascinating all true reporting of your journalistic talents.
They want a sell out. move that date to THE ROCK. All that track needed was a warm day. Not feb or nov. BRING BACK THE ROCK.
And here I thought the “secret” was to REDUCE the number of seats until all that remain are occupied—that would guarantee a sellout!
Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:
Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
BSNews! Bruton’s Plans Extend Beyond Bristol’s Track
Top Ten Reasons Fans Failed To Show Up At Bristol Sunday
BSNews! NASCAR CEO Given "Special" Award Amidst Lavish Fanfare
Fan Coun-ci-What? Just What Is It That NASCAR Wants To Study?
Want to know more about Jeff Meyer or view his complete article archives? Then hop on over to his archive and bio page.