It’s time to clear up a common misconception. Daytona International Speedway is no part-time facility; nor is it only a motorsports facility. As much was evident when DAYTONA’s Senior Manager of Event Operations Jennifer Young showed up with a five-inch thick facility schedule tucked under her arm.
Young, known throughout the World Center of Racing as “The Keeper of the Track Calendar,” describes her main responsibility as, “Filling that track up each and every day".
She and her team have made good on that directive as the track is booked 350 days a year, truly making it a year-round venue.
“We are motorsports and more. We’re the World Center of Racing – and more. We have car clubs, car shows, testing, special events, and more. We get inquiries every day and there’s always somebody out there with an idea of something they want to do at DAYTONA; if we can make it work, we will.”
Born and raised in Pennsylvania, the 11-year DAYTONA veteran graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Sports Medicine. While the original plan was to head off to Physical Therapy school, an internship in the Club Sports department, in which she coordinated a Round of 16 rugby tournament caused her to rethink her career plans.
“From there, I went and worked at Oriole Park at Camden Yards as their social manager. I planned weddings, bar mitzvahs, any social parties when games weren’t going on,” Young explains.
She then moved down to Daytona Beach, working in a similar role for DAYTONA USA.
“When I started in 2004, the infield was a blank slate. That’s when they wiped it all out completely and built the new layout, complete with Sprint FANZONE, the Yellow and Blue Garages and the DAYTONA 500 Club," she said.
Young then transitioned to the Special Events team after a few years.
“At this time, I took on managing track rentals and was put in charge of handling the smaller events within the larger events, like the Wine & Cheese or the 5K during the Rolex 24,” Young explained.
It wasn’t long before corporate restructuring brought her to DAYTONA’s operations departments; however, she carried these same responsibilities with her.
“During non-event time I’m responsible for booking any kind of unique events and putting that on our schedule. My main responsibility is to fill that track out,” she reiterated.
And fill it out she does.
“We have the Richard Petty Racing Experience here, so we work with them. We bring in Porsche Club of America, Historic Sportscar Racing, Jeep Beach, Audi, ChumpCar World Series. Any special group or car club that wants to rent the track or hold an event here, goes through our department and we coordinate.”
Track rentals aren’t limited to just events with cars on track. In fact, Young explained that even RV shows or ride-and-drive programs in DAYTONA parking lots, run through her.
“Running the track rentals, I have to see if the date they’re requesting is open and am the one that officially books it on the DAYTONA calendar.”
As far as event time responsibilities, Young and her team are generally coordinating smaller events within the larger event that is the racing action.
“For the Rolex 24, the 5K was our event, the Wine & Cheese was our event, the Breakfast Garage was our event,” said Young.
During Speedweeks, she can be found assisting with anything happening on the track, which includes things like hot laps, pace car rides, and the Richard Petty Riding Experience. In addition, she manages the corporate signage, making sure the correct signage is installed and displayed from event-to-event.
She sees much of her work as requiring her to focus on things down the road.
“A lot of my work is about preparation and being far ahead of the present. I’m also trying to look ahead. There’s a lot of prep work and planning with my job," she advised.
Among the most critical skills she mentions for doing the job successfully are staying organized, being flexible and detailed-oriented, and staying on top of time management.
“You can get so caught up in what’s going on right now that you lose sight of what’s to come,” she said. “I always try to make sure that I do focus on what is soon to be upcoming, while trying to get the details squared away for events in the future.”
What has for years been far in the future of Jennifer’s calendar, but now is creeping ever closer is the $400 million DAYTONA Rising project. The project, which has culminated in the World’s First Motorsports Stadium, has driven event interest even higher.
“A lot of people are even more interested to come to DAYTONA," she said. “This place was also on the map, but now that it’s upgraded into this beautiful facility and stadium, everybody wants to be here. We’re getting phone calls every single day from people who want to host their events here.”
It extends beyond simply track rentals as Young explains that many are clamoring to use the new stadium to host everything from meetings, galas, parties, etc.
“Before we just had the DAYTONA 500 Club. Now we have massive injector spaces, Lounge Level Suites. People now want to use more of the facility than just the infield and the track.”
If you’re interested in making a track rental, please fill out a request form on the DIS website.
Fair warning that you’re going to want to book as far in advance as possible.
“People generally need to book things a year in advance with the 2017 calendar already penciled in,” she explained, “2016 is maxed out and things are being finalized for 2017.”
A brand-new, state-of-the-art facility means a world full of possibility for Jennifer and her team as the stadium opens DAYTONA up to a variety of events the World Center of Racing has yet to host.
“I’m excited to see what new events it will bring in. For example, Ferrari World Finals will be coming from December 1-4 of 2016. It’s the first time the event is going to be held in North America so that’s something pretty special that Daytona International Speedway can claim. They’ve raced in Italy and Abu Dhabi and are now going to come to Daytona Beach.”
In addition, the infield is playing host to the first-ever County 500 on Memorial Day Weekend in 2016, something Young says she never foresaw DAYTONA hosting.
“I’ve really seen this place change and grow over the past 11 years,” she recalled. "It used to be NASCAR, Rolex and Bike Week. Now there’s so much more than anyone can imagine. More than even I could have imagined.”
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