Interview with Brian Regnerus, PR Coordinator for Chicagoland Speedway

 by Rick Schenk

July 11, 2004

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One on one from the track with Brian Regnerus, at 26 years of age and presumably the youngest Public Relations Coordinator of a major racing facility in the US, events in his life have contributed to shaping his career to what it is today, and certainly we will be the catalyst that will propel him up the chain of command in the industry of producing racing entertainment.

AUTORACING1: Good morning Brian and thank you for taking the time to sit with us to shed some light on who you are and how you achieved the success you are enjoying here at ChicagoLand. Let's start by telling us a little about who Brian Regnerus is and how he got to where he is today.

BR: Well when I talk motor sports, I am talking passion. People who are REALLY involved have the passion and I’m no different. There are events in my life that propelled me and which sticks out in my mind is my uncle raced at the Santa Fe Speedway (a track located at one time in rural Hinsdale, Illinois). When I was 13 years old, my uncle called me and said “how would you like to go to a race?” I had never been to a race and had never even watched it on television.

AUTORACING1: What is you uncle’s name?

BR: Pete Kowalczyk. It’s an extremely Polish name. The first race he took me to was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Mile. I had no idea what I was getting into. When we got to the track, and it’s a smaller speedway, but you still have all the merchandise, all the haulers, all the race fans walking around, I mean it was electric. I was hooked. We sat down in turn four and when I looked out at the track I thought this is incredible. My uncle walked me down to the fence at the edge of the track and I remember the cars zipping past me. I had goose bumps the size of Mount Everest. After that I started following Jeff Gordon. He was the first guy I latched onto as a fan. So my uncle was the one who taught me about auto racing. My next trip to a track with my uncle was Indy, for the second Brickyard 400. I spent 8 hours just standing right on the fence line along pit road where the drivers pull off and I just stayed right there watching every driver. There was something about that which made me think I don’t want to be standing here, I want to be on the other side of this fence.

AUTORACING1: Motor sport as a business, is it seen in a different light than how fans view it? You are now on the “other side of the fence”. Is this sport really for the fans?

BR: I came into motor sports being a fan, so anytime I do anything in my job my first gut reaction is always what is the average race fan going to like, what is the average race fan looking for. I was that little kid standing on the other side of that gate saying I want to go meet Jeff Gordon, I want to go meet Dale Earnhardt, I want to see what happens in there. Granted, not everybody will have that type of access. However, at ChicagoLand Speedway, look at our Expo Village, our Hospitality Village, Merchandise Row area, we offer the race fans so much access to the drivers by getting them out there to the track to do autograph signings; anytime I approach anything in this business day in and day out I still think about the average race fan and what do they want to know. I also am the ChicagoLand Speedway Webmaster so I am always thinking about what they will like.

AUTORACING1: Critics often refer to auto racing as an event rather than a sport. What would you offer as a testimony on why drivers are athletes?

BR: I recently read an article that listed what was and was not a sport. Sports in the list included Ping Pong, Tennis, Hot Dog Eating Contests. You know the whole argument of what is and is not a sport is all relative to what you think a sport even is. If a sport is what an athlete needs to excel in terms of strength, stability, 20-20 vision? I don’t know how you could not consider auto racing a sport. What a race car driver has to go through for 3 ½ to 4 hours, the common person could not do. Look at Michael Shumacher. He is probably one of the most fit drivers in the entire world. He is capable of running a marathon. The guy's resting heartbeat is incredible. That to me is an athlete. It's somebody who excels physically in their sport beyond what the common person can even achieve. Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt; some are driving in circles some on road courses, put the common person in the car and they could not do it. Just because you can get on an Interstate and go 80 MPH does not mean you run on a track with 43 other guys and battle side-by-side for 3 ½ hours in 140 degree heat.

AUTORACING1: Let's talk about your career. When did you decide to make Public Relations a career?

BR: My mom and I have so similar personalities. Every time we would talk I would tell her I wanted to do something in sports. I started detailing cars at an exotic car dealership. I kept telling her I wanted to do something. She would tell me something will open up, you’ll see. I started to like racing even more. I attended several colleges in the area and that’s where I discovered that public relations was a good fit for me. I ended up at the College of St. Francis here in Joliet where I majored in advertising and public relations. At that time ChicagoLand Speedway track was being built. I had no idea it was being built. My uncle, again, called me and said “Hey next summer, they are opening up this speedway and they are looking for volunteers. Why don’t you and I, and my cousin Jim, volunteer, watch the race, you know etcetera, etcetera.” I said, “Volunteer? Heck I am going to call and see if they have a job!”  I called over here and told them I was in school and looking for an internship, would work for free, I’ll do whatever you want me to do. Talked to Brian Crichton, my boss, and he said “This is my first day on the job, so I don’t exactly have an internship program available, why don’t you call me in six months.” Six months to the day I called him back and said I’m still looking for an internship, I would love to talk to you.” Went in there he and I kind of sat down, and he said, “Alright, you’ve got an internship.” Ended up, worked there for about a month, got all my hours in and he hired me in May of 2001. So there's just that door that opened up.

AUTORACING1: Brian, thanks so much for your time today.

BR: Absolutely.

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