Julie Giese [pronounced Gee-See] is the only female president of a NASCAR racetrack. In our series Taking the Wheel, we’ll discuss how this NASCAR marketing and communications veteran will continue to drive change for the traditionally male industry at ISM Raceway.
At International Speedway Corporation, a corporation that manages NASCAR race tracks, Julie Giese is no stranger to responsibility – for 17 years she’s been a leader within the company and working closely with many of the tracks. But she has a new role, as the President of the newly-renovated ISM Raceway, due to open on November 9th. She is not the FIRST female president. That title has already been taken by Gillian Zucker, former president of LA’s Auto Club Speedway and now the president of business operations for the Los Angeles Clippers. But Giese is the ONLY female president at the moment.
Julie brings to ISM Raceway an impressive background in marketing racetracks, having grown up in the industry through PR and communications with a degree in Agriculture Marketing Communications from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls.
As she takes the wheel in her new role at ISM Raceway, Julie is focused on creating the ultimate fan experience, expanding the venue’s live events portfolio outside of the traditional and into the world of non-racing events like Zoomtown Lights, a holiday light show scheduled to debut at the raceway December 1 – 31st.
Julie is friendly, professional and straight to the point during her interview taking the time to answer all questions completely and without hesitation. She is an advocate for working hard to build a reputation — regardless of gender — and she continues to hold Florida-based nonprofit, Project WARM — Women Assisting Recovering Mothers, close to her heart.
Here is an inside look into what we can expect from this newly appointed leader.
ISM: After a career of executing successful marquee events in auto racing, why ISM Raceway?
Giese: I spent the majority of my time at Daytona working on Daytona Rising, and more recently working to lead many of the capital improvement projects of other track properties over the past two years. The ISM Raceway project powered by DC Solar was the first project I was asked to lead in this role so I possess a lot of in depth knowledge of the property around the redevelopment. For me it was a very natural transition. I know the property, I know the staff, how they want to work and what we want to do. It was a little bit of a perfect storm, honestly, to have this opportunity presented. It’s the right next step for me.
ISM: How has your background in PR and marketing set you up to succeed?
Giese: First and foremost we are promoters and need to sell tickets. My experiences starting in the PR and moving into the oversight of all marketing aspects for Daytona International Speedway certainly prepared me, but I want to take ISM Raceway to the next level.
We want to expand the portfolio of events outside of just races. A NASCAR fan may not be a Supercross fan, but if you can get a fan out to the new facility, they are going to want to learn more, and hopefully we can convert them into repeat visitors.
ISM: How does it feel to be the only female president of a race track right now?
Giese: Honestly, it’s not something that I was always thinking about, but I also understand the importance and i’m proud to wear that hat. If I’m able to inspire other women who want to grow and have leadership roles, I think that’s great.
If you look at ISC and the France family – starting with Anne B. France way back when they had just started the business, having such an integral role in the ticket office and managing the budgets, to Lesa France Kennedy who is our leader and a very strong female presence in business in general, it’s very good company to be in.
ISM: As a female in a male-dominated industry, what have been some of your hurdles / some of your helpers?
Giese: I don’t know if I would identify hurdles. I am not afraid of the hours, of digging into the details, of doing whatever we need to do to sell the tickets. I think that’s helped get me to where I am today. For me, that’s probably been the biggest helper, but that’s also helped clear some of the hurdles that I may not have known about.
If you talk to the people that I have worked with, that’s what they will tell you, that she works really hard and doesn’t ask for favors. If someone works hard, whether you’re male or female, you are going to continue to grow and have opportunities put in front of you.
ISM: I understand that you are involved with Project WARM. Can you talk about this cause and how you are involved?
When I first moved to Daytona in 2004, I was looking for ways to get involved in the community and meet new people. I was introduced to project WARM. It’s a recovery program that has become very near and dear to my heart. The work that WARM does to help these women and their children is remarkable. I am extremely proud to be associated with them. It was probably the hardest part for me about leaving Florida. Anything I can do to continue to help that cause, I definitely will.
ISM: What are some of the plans that you have for marketing the newly renovated ISM Raceway to local fans, new fans, millennials?
Giese: It starts with the Can-Am 500 coming up this weekend (November 11th) . The fans will be blown away when they see what we have done over the last two years. We want to not only be a premier motor sports destination, but an entertainment destination. If we can get people out there to participate in things like Zoomtown lights, it is going to pay dividends down the road. Continuing to diversify the offerings is something that is very important to us right now. We want to convert new fans. That’s priority number one.
ISM: Is the modernization of auto racing venues going to be a trend going forward?
Giese: It’s definitely a trend for our company, but it’s a trend in all of sports. Trying to create new content that delivers new fans to your property. I think that’s extremely important and something that everybody is working on.
ISM: Talk about the renovations and what kind of hype can fans expect at the raceway for opening weekend? Any surprises?
Giese: This will be the first time everybody has seen the property completion. You have seen parts and pieces come online, but you haven’t really seen the full development. The INfield is going to be amazing. It’s going to be that surprise. The access and interactivity that the experience is going to provide — being able to walk into the garages, participate in Victory Lane with the Can-Am 500 winner, watch the drivers meetings. This is all accessible through a pedestrian tunnel.
We will also be the first motor sports property to have Wi-Fi throughout the stadium, the concourses and the INfield. We want people to be sharing their experiences and letting those who aren’t there know what they are missing out on.
All aspects of the project are going to be so well received. I can’t wait to see everyone’s faces as they get to the property. It looks so different. It’s a beautiful property, and I can’t wait for everybody to see it.
Amie Sheridan is a Philadelphia-based writer and content strategist serving sports technology startups. Her work has appeared in Sports Business Journal.