Voices From The Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Tuesday January 9, 2007
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 signsâ€¦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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