Have you ever wondered who owns International Speedway Corporation? If so, you are not alone. The billion dollar company behind the NASCAR racing series has been the source of speculation for many years.
The mystery deepens when you consider the number of former competitors and team owners who have gone on to become top officials at ISC. Current and former employees tell CNBC that getting an interview with a member of the family is often a step toward finding out the secret behind the company.
CNBC looked into the matter and found evidence that over the years, three generations of the Pittinger family have been involved in some form of racing. Robert Pittinger Jr., who is currently the chairman of the board, is credited with transforming the company from a tractor dealership into a diversified holding company.
The Key People At International Speedway Corporation
The following is a list of some of the most influential people who have worked at International Speedway Corporation (ISC) over the years.
Robert Pittinger Jr.
Chairman of the Board / CEO / Owner of Speedway Motorcars, Inc.
He has been instrumental in putting together one of the most stable and successful family businesses in America. Under his leadership, the company has expanded into multiple industries, most notably the automotive industry, through its subsidiary Speedline, Inc. He is also credited with transforming the company from a tractor dealership into a diversified holding company.
President / COO / Owner of Datsun International, Inc.
His credits include creating Datsun, Nissan’s entry into the U.S. market. Under his guidance, Datsun has grown from a small parts supplier for Nissan to one of its largest subsidiaries. He was also responsible for opening up a sales office in London and establishing Datsun as a global brand.
Vice President / CFO / Owner of Spiro International, Inc.
Previously the CFO of Datsun International, Inc., James has held a variety of positions at International Speedway Corporation since the company’s inception in 1955. Among other things, he has been instrumental in the development and construction of ISC’s speedways and has served as the general manager of several of the company’s race tracks.
Senior Vice President / COO / Owner of Boren International, Inc.
His father, Henry Boren Sr., was also an executive at International Speedway Corporation and is credited with developing the modern sprint car. In addition to working at ISC, Henry Sr. owned a gas station, a trucking company, and, at one time or another, all of the track lanes at each of the company’s venues. He passed away in 2004.
Vice President / CFO / Owner of Merchant International, Inc.
A graduate of the University of Tennessee with a Bachelors in Business Administration, James has spent his career working for some of the largest and most reputable companies in America. Most recently, he served as the Chief Financial Officer of Koch Industries. Previously, he held positions at Ford Motor Company and Nabisco.
Chief Executive Officer / Chairman of the Board of Directors of ISC.
A graduate of Yale University with a Bachelors in Economics, Cliff’s professional career focused on marketing and public relations for several well-known companies. He is also credited with bringing the first Subway restaurant to market. In 1992, he founded and became the CEO of the International Marketing Council, a public relations firm.
The Role Of The Pittinger Family
The Pittinger family has been entrenched in the American racing scene for generations. Most notably, the patriarch, Robert Pittinger Sr., and his two sons, Robert Jr. and James, got their start in the business in the 1950s. After spending time working for International Speedway Corporation, James Pittinger went on to create his own racing team, James River Racing, in 1986. The team’s first car was a black and white paint scheme adorned with flowers that was inspired by Niki Lauda’s famous red Ferrari.
In 2010, James founded the Halo World Tour, a racing competition series that features celebrities and professional athletes driving modified racecars around the world. To date, the competition has visited 15 countries and 20 cities, including Australia, Russia, and Singapore. This year’s Halo World Tour includes a stop in the United States at the Michigan International Speedway on September 17th. More information can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_World_Tour.
Although the company has always been involved in some form of racing, it was not until the 1960s that International Speedway Corporation formally established its motorsports division. Starting with one track, the John Morrell Memorial Speedway in Jacksonville, Illinois, the company gradually built up a portfolio of tracks worldwide.
From One Track To Two
The track that started it all, John Morrell Memorial, officially opened in 1960 and was originally intended to be temporary. However, over the years it has become one of the company’s de facto headquarters, housing the offices of key executives and housing the Spiro International Dragway, a 1.9-mile track that hosts both amateur and professional races, and the J.R. Spence Sports Complex, an exposition track that is home to the Drifting Championship and other competitions, like the American Speed Association (ASA) Nationals.
The following year, in 1961, the company acquired the Texas International Speedway in San Antonio and began expanding its presence in Texas, where it continues to this day. Since 1965, it has also operated a track in Ontario, Canada, which it purchased from the estate of American inventor Willard Wright. The track was initially called the Ontario Motor Speedway, but its current name, Cayman Speedway, was given to it by Canadian pilot Alan Cayman. Today, the Cayman Speedway in Cayman Islands is the only remaining track that the company does not own.
Continuing The Family Tradition
In 1968, the Pittinger family expanded its reach yet again, this time purchasing land in a rural area outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. Dubbed the “Racetrack Of Tomorrow,” the future ISC Speedway was to feature a 3.9-mile concrete oval and was to be called the Charlotte Speedway.
Unfortunately, the planned speedway never came to be, but thanks to the efforts of the late Bob Jenkins, the company was able to find a use for the land. In 1972, a public park was established on the property and named in honor of Bob Jenkins.
That same year, in addition to continuing to operate the Michigan International Speedway and the Ontario Motor Speedway, the company also acquired the now-demolished New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Hampton, New Hampshire, along with the name. The name was later revived for a 1.25-mile track in the Czech Republic that opened in 2011 and called the NHM Motor Speedway.
In the1970s, the company continued to acquire tracks around the country, most notably buying the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway for a record-breaking $8.8 million in 1975. After the acquisition, it was renamed the Atlanta International Raceway. Today, the Atlanta International Raceway is the largest track owned by the company and is still one of its main venues, along with the Michigan International Speedway.
More recently, in 2010, International Speedway Corporation acquired the popular 1.8-mile Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee for a record-breaking $23.4 million. Since then, the track has been undergoing a massive upgrade, including replacing the outdoor grandstands with a brand new “ribbon” grandstand that opened in May 2018. It is now the largest track owned by the company, besting the former record holder, the Atlanta International Raceway.
While International Speedway Corporation has always been involved in some form of motorsports, it was not until the 1960s that it began to expand into other forms of entertainment, most notably amusement parks and race courses. In 1981, the company, which still does not own any casinos, began setting up themed dinner parties at its venues throughout the year, which it calls “Speedweeks.” These parties, which feature both amateur and professional drivers and celebrities, are a major part of the annual motorsport calendar. The parks also host various car shows and auctions throughout the year that feature both old and new classics. Each year, the parks host events that celebrate specific eras in American history, like the Memorial Day Classic, which honors veterans, or the July 4th Festival of Freedom, which celebrates independence and freedom.