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DATE News (chronologically)
12/12/13
track news
NASCAR appoints 28-year-old Jimmy Small as Iowa Speedway president  The new president of Iowa Speedway has operated under the noses of central Iowans for months.

NASCAR will announce today that 28-year-old Jimmy Small has been tabbed to operate the auto racing facility located outside of Newton.

Small was informed by NASCAR CEO Brian France in late September that he would lead the speedway if a deal to purchase the facility from the family of Featherlite Trailers founder Conrad Clement was finalized.

The ownership exchange wrapped up late last month.

Small, meanwhile, continued to operate a bit like a character in a spy novel. For parts of three months, he spent weekdays at the speedway while making weekend appearances around the country related to his role in NASCAR's team marketing services department.

"I've got a whole closet of NASCAR-branded coats and shirts and all that, backpacks and luggage and all kinds of things," said Small, named one of 10 top sports executives under the age of 30 by SportsPro Magazine. "So I had to sort of cover all of that up."

Small, a native of suburban Detroit with an economics degree from Notre Dame, addressed several topics during an interview Wednesday. He reiterated NASCAR's position when it bought the track that a Sprint Cup Series race is not a part of Iowa Speedway's foreseeable future.

The 2014 schedule and contracts already have been finalized for Sprint Cup — NASCAR's top circuit — though many wondered if a new TV deal in 2015 that includes NBC might create an opportunity for the speedway.

Small confirmed for the first time, however, that 2015 has been ruled out as well.

"Yes," he said. "You can never say never, but not for 2015. Our focus is going to be on the popular series we already have."

Small, believed to be the youngest president of a major racing facility in the United States, said his roles at NASCAR in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., provide unique experience for his age.

At NASCAR, Small has worked with nearly 30 tracks to develop and orchestrate everything from prerace activities to victory lane. He's worked on company-wide strategic planning on a range of other fronts, as well.

"Anything a fan sees or experiences, I've been involved in it," he said. "My entire career so far has been dedicated to servicing the industry, from the teams to the drivers to the tracks and fans.

Small responded to a range of topics related to the speedway:

Legislative request: In May, the Iowa Legislature failed to support a bid for an $8 million appropriation to expand upgrade facilities. Small said he hopes to revisit those discussions based on shared benefit. "We hope we bring a lot of value to Newton, to Des Moines, to the state of Iowa. We want to continue to be an economic force in this area and continue to drive development. We want the speedway to be an entertainment hub year-round."

New speedway uses: Small said he'll explore how to use the facilities and land in new, revenue-producing ways — though he cautioned it's too early to discuss specifics.

Profitability, vendors: Any vendors waiting for money from previous owners will be paid in full within two weeks, Small said, and the speedway will be profitable. "We saw this as a viable business or we wouldn't have considered it," he said. "We bring financial stability. And we're a company that takes pride in taking care of our partners."

Rusty's role: Track architect and former minority owner Rusty Wallace will remain in an advisory capacity.

It's too early, too, to know if ticket prices will be affected for future seasons, Small said.

When Iowa Speedway's new president was asked for unique details of his life away from motorsports, he jumped to another sport.

Small's grandfather Jim Small played center field for the Detroit Tigers in the 1950s. The elder Small was a "Bonus Baby" — a Major League Baseball program that prohibited players signed directly out of high school at a certain bonus level from being assigned to a farm club for two seasons.

The program included Hall of Fame players such as Harmon Killebrew, Sandy Koufax and Jim "Catfish" Hunter.

"So that was unique," Small said. "Not trying to brag, but at one time my grandfather was considered one of the fastest players in the majors."

Speed runs in the family, it seems.

"I can't tell you how excited I am about being at Iowa Speedway," Small said. "This means everything to me, so I'm going to do everything possible to make sure it's a success."

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