ATLANTA -- Of all the things Mark Dyer's been able to slap NASCAR's name on, his favorite might be a potato.
"We like to say the official potato of NASCAR cooks faster than other potatoes," he said.
Dyer, NASCAR's vice president for licensing and consumer products, is one of the people behind the scenes who keep the wheels of the sport rolling.
He is one of the people who do their work away from the spotlight, but make no mistake: Without people like Dyer stock car racing would still be a backwoods sport of hillbillies and moonshiners.
David Hoots, NASCAR Managing Event Director. Hoots is responsible for setting the schedule for all three divisions each week. That not only involves the time of each race, but the way each fits into the television schedule. It's his job to make sure none of NASCAR's events overlap.
O. Bruton Smith, Chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., considered an important maverick by some and a nuisance by others, nobody can argue that Smith hasn't revolutionized stock car racing.
His long-standing rivalry with International Speedway Corp., has helped revolutionized the sport and helped it become one of the premier events on the American landscape.
Smith, who owns six tracks on the circuit, has spent more than $200 million modernizing his facilities -- and that's forced others, some reluctantly, to follow.
Smith was the first to upgrade restrooms, especially for women. He also was the first to build luxury suites and put a superspeedway race under the lights during the modern era.
Dick Glover, NASCAR Vice President for Broadcasting and New Media. Ratings prove NASCAR to be the second most-watched sporting event on television. And thanks to Glover, the sport is being paid as such.
Glover runs the company's Los Angeles office, and he's involved with NASCAR's negotiations for a new television contract with NBC, Fox and Turner Broadcasting -- a deal that's expected to be worth about $3 billion.
Dave Finley, NASCAR Senior Manager of Series Operations. Finely coordinates everything that happens at the racetrack -- other than racing.
He not only watches over pre-race ceremonies, he works with race and contingency sponsors to make sure they each get their picture made with their favorite driver. And after the race, he makes sure each one of the sport's sponsors get their minute of glory with the winner.
Michael Robichaud, Nextel's Senior Director of Sports and Entertainment Marketing. At first, the conversation between Robichaud and NASCAR's Brian Corcoran seemed more cordial than anything else. Little did either know it was the first step in creating one of the biggest corporate sponsorships in sports history.
"We had part of our marketing strategy for a couple years was to get into NASCAR," he said. "We had NASCAR come in and walked us through their presentation. It was one of those things that fit."
Nextel paid $750 million to put its name on NASCAR's premier series for 10 years.
Brett Bodine, NASCAR Director of Cost Research. As a former car owner and driver on the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, Bodine had a lot of ideas for making things better in the sport. So when he closed his race shop, NASCAR bought his knowledge.
Bodine not only is responsible for finding ways for teams to save money, he's building the "Car of Tomorrow." That idea, scheduled for the 2007 season, is a safer, less-expensive racer that's supposed to revolutionize the sport.
Tim Judge, NASCAR Advance Logistics Coordinator. As the advance scout for the sport, Judge travels the circuit a week in advance but gets to watch each main event from the comfort of his own living room.
Judge shakes each track down before a race to make sure it's at full speed by the time the teams and NASCAR officials arrive. Once the trucks pass through the front gates, Judge's work is done and he's on his way to the next venue. Before he leaves, however, he makes sure every line is in place on the track. He checks the SAFER barriers, scoring loops and the stalls on pit road.
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR Vice President of Competition. He helps watch over the competition side of the sport, but he said his most important role is serving as a link between the teams and the sanctioning body. He helps build the rule book, then he makes sure everyone follows it.
Sarah Nettinga, NASCAR Director of Film, Television and Music Entertainment. Now that stars are calling NASCAR for tickets, it's Nettinga's job to make it all happen. She talks with studios to get stars from behind the camera and to the racetrack. It's a little-known position at NASCAR, but one that pays huge benefits.
"We have a great time when we get a star at the race, and they go back and tell their friends," she said. "We're doing a lot more outreach, but it's not a hard sell."
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