Fall 2000
Vol. 17 No. 3
Publication Number:
USPS 244-800


Turkey Creek Vigil

It's the Excitement'

Genome Research Yields Quick Returns

Samford Ranked Fifth in South by U.S. News & World Report

Education School Scores High in Effective Teacher Preparation

Faculty Accolades

Upcoming Samford Tours

ODK Seeking 50 Exemplary Alumni To Mark Society's Anniversary

Manis Biography Wins Lillian Smith Book Award

University of Georgia Beckons Garver, Hanson with Sizable Postgraduate Packages

Alumni Office Seeks Samford Traditions

Sequoyah, Cunningham Join Men's Hall of Fame

Samford Begins Offering Doctor of Education Program

Deupree Recognized for Fighting Illiteracy

Tillette: Men's Team One
Big Question Mark

Cochran, Moore Lead Veteran Women's Basketball Team



Fall 2000

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 recalls.

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.