By Dave Lewandowski
Published: Jun 21, 2015
Auto Club Speedway hosts the MAVTV 500 on June 27 — two month earlier than the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series race at the 2-mile oval. Dave Allen, who was named president of the facility in December, talks about his tenure at the venue and what lies ahead:
Q: You’ve been at Auto Club Speedway almost your entire career; how have you seen it grow/flourish?
The obvious difference is that when I started here we were called California Speedway and we were owned by Penske Motorsports. We’ve grown and have become better over the years and have the resources and a lot of talented people here and throughout ISC (International Speedway Corporation) to get us where we are today. Becoming Auto Club Speedway and being partners with Auto Club since the gates opened here in 1997 is certainly another way that we’ve grown. Our partnership with them is one we cherish and continue to grow whether it’s INDYCAR or NASCAR or drag racing.
Q: Correspondingly, are there projects or new large-scale events on the horizon – already in process or being implemented by you — to benefit the speedway?
Right now we’re focused on the MAVTV 500 and welcoming back the Verizon IndyCar Series and its great fans. We’re looking forward to having INDYCAR back in town. They always put on a great show. Project-wise, we’re looking at making some adjustments to our Club Section, and we’re focused on 2017, which will be our 20th anniversary and we’re obviously looking to hype that up and make it a heck of a celebration.
Q: Within your tenure at ACS you’ve worked closely with individuals from all departments – many of whom have comparable years at the facility – which, I assume, is a great asset moving forward?
When you have people on staff that have been here so long it’s absolutely a great asset. Having people here that have worked here for a long time they build up a real understanding of what the day-to-day operation is here and you can let them work; you don’t have to look over their shoulder. They’ve been through the highs and they’ve been through the lows and they know what to expect and what is expected of them, both from ISC and from Auto Club Speedway and from Auto Club Speedway as we represent Auto Club of Southern California.
The Auto Club brand is huge in Southern California so we take pride and a big responsibility not only representing what we do as a race track but what they do day-to-day in supporting people with roadside assistance programs and travel and insurance and everything else they do.
Q: What is it about ACS that alumni such as Roger Curtis (Michigan), Craig Rust (Mid-Ohio), Dennis Bickmeier (Richmond) and Michael Printup (Watkins Glen) – plus yourself – move into the role of president?
Some of it is definitely hard work in this market. This is a very unique market and there are a lot of challenges we have to overcome and it’s a good training platform, not that the other places aren’t, but this market is so unique from others. And, of course, throw in a little luck and being at the right place at the right time …
Q: As a racing fan, in addition to the role as promoter/president, what do you enjoy about the Verizon IndyCar Series – on the big ovals such as ACS, and on the diverse set of roads/streets/short ovals that constitute its schedule?
I really enjoy open wheel racing. I think this form of racing is very diverse. The idea they run on street courses, road courses and ovals – there aren’t a lot of other series that can claim they run on all of those different disciplines. I’m a huge fan and I love watching them race on all forms of tracks and they put on a good show no matter where they go. Looking here at Auto Club Speedway, we’re a fast race track and with the new technology come some really fast speeds and they’re able to race side by side.
With the racing history we have here in Southern California and the car culture – it’s kind of the birthplace of hot rodding culture back in the day – these cars represent a lot of that.