Clearly, the CEO whom Forbes just named “the most powerful woman in sports” for 2015 was delighted to talk about an extraordinarily powerful vision for the future of motorsports as it nears realization in Daytona Beach, Fla.
“I think our fans are going to have a brand new experience,” said Lesa France Kennedy, CEO and vice chairperson of International Speedway Corporation and vice chairperson of NASCAR. “The core fans who have been coming for years will see a brand new modern facility that has 23 escalators, for instance, 17 elevators. They’re going to have wider, more comfortable seats.
“It’ll be a true modern motorsports stadium, something like we haven’t seen before.”
Kennedy, of course, was referring to the ongoing $400-million Daytona Rising project, which, when completed in time for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona (Jan. 30-31, 2016), will transform iconic Daytona International Speedway and, with it, the fan experience at the Birthplace of Speed.
Opening the SportBusiness Journal’s Daytona Rising/NASCAR Motorsports Marketing Forum on Wednesday at the Mirage, Kennedy allowed herself a nostalgic turn when reflecting on the speedway where she worked and learned the stock car racing business under the tutelage of her father, Bill France Jr.
“It’s been a little emotional,” Kennedy acknowledged. “When they took down part of the grandstands—that’s been a part of my life since the very beginning. Now we’re starting to see the progress and the project come to life, and you can start to see what it will be like for our fans when they arrive in February (for Daytona 500 Speedweeks).
“This one hit home in a lot of ways, in a lot of ways.”
Kennedy also indicated the Daytona Rising project could serve as a model for other speedways within the ISC group.
“When we open it, it will be to an international audience for the Rolex 24, so I think it will give us the chance to show the world what a modern motorsports stadium will be like,” she said. “There will be many specific elements which I think will be very attractive to our other tracks.”
Kennedy topped the list of Forbes’ most powerful women in sports, a distinction she also earned in 2009.
"As we celebrate the 2015 NASCAR season, it’s an honor to be recognized by Forbes alongside so many other women in sports,” Kennedy said. “I’m very proud of what we’re doing at International Speedway Corporation and NASCAR. Exciting changes are ahead throughout our industry, more fans than ever are consuming our sport, and we’re all eager to unveil a re-imagined Daytona International Speedway in 2016.