Excitement of Racing Grabbed
Shelton Long before Talladega Named Him GM
Samford business graduate Brett Shelton '87
likens managing Talladega Superspeedway on race weekend to running
a city of 125,000.
Brett Shelton '87 saw his first race at Talladega Superspeedway
in 1994. Something about watching 43 guys driving 200 miles an
hour, inches apart, for 500 miles "really hooked me,"
He's been a fan since, but today he looks at the world's largest
enclosed superspeedway from a different perspective. After three
years as director of operations and vice president, he was named
the track's general manager earlier this year.
"It makes for a lot of 11-hour days, and 18-hour days during
race weekends," said Shelton. "But it's a great job
that fits me like a glove."
The Samford business graduate is responsible for all of Talladega's
marketing, sales, public relations and governmental relations
as well as overseeing the work of the track's seven departments.
On race weekends twice a year, it's like being responsible for
a city. Talladega seats 140,000 people, and another 10,000 jam
its infield to watch. During a typical four-day weekend, more
than 35,000 fans will camp on the track's spacious grounds.
"We sell about 250,000 tickets to each racing weekend [April
and October], and our job is to deliver an experience that gives
fans a nice return on their investment," said Shelton.
Talladega has 45 full-time employees, but the number swells to
3,000 on race weekends, including 400 security people.
NASCAR racing has long since come of age. What was once a Southern
phenomenon-stock car racing-draws half a million fans from 50
states and 48 other countries to Talladega's two yearly events.
Fans travel an average of 600 miles one way to see a race at
the Talladega tri-oval.
"NASCAR fans are passionate about their sport," said
Shelton. "It's tremendously exciting, and all the big names
race somewhere every week, so there's never an off-season. It's
a sport that's easy to follow. They just line up and race, and
clearly determine a winner."
Talladega is 31 years old, and the track works constantly to
upgrade and improve. It has spent about $40 million to add 37,000
seats and numerous fan amenities since 1997. It will unveil another
5,200 premium seats for its April 2001 race.
"The goal of servicing our fans and sponsors remains paramount,"
said Shelton. "Ours is a very public operation."
NASCAR racing has a bright future, he believes. Next year, for
the first time, both Talladega races will be telecast by national
networks. "TV is everything," said Shelton, noting
that the network telecasts will reach 100 million homes.
"It's this kind of national exposure that has helped take
NASCAR racing beyond the southeast."
Sports event management is not new to Shelton. Before joining
Talladega, he worked with Birmingham's Bruno Memorial Classic,
a Senior Professional Golf Association event, for six years and
the Senior PGA staff for two years.
The Moulton native attended Samford on a golf scholarship. He
still plays a few tournaments "and four or five other rounds"
a year, but racing is his game now.
Shelton, his wife, Elisabeth, and their son, Blake, 3, live at
Hoover south of Birmingham. Except for race weekends, when they
reside in a motor home close to the action at Talladega Superspeedway.