Lesa Kennedy cited as "Top Executive" By Dave Rodman DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 15, 1998) Lesa France Kennedy, executive vice president of International Speedway Corporation (ISC), has been named one of the "Top 20 Female Sports Executives"...
Lesa Kennedy cited as "Top Executive" By Dave Rodman
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 15, 1998) Lesa France Kennedy, executive vice president of International Speedway Corporation (ISC), has been named one of the "Top 20 Female Sports Executives" in the current edition of Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal.
Kennedy, the 37-year-old daughter of NASCAR President Bill France and a key figure in ISC's aggressive growth throughout the 1990s, was cited in the 14th position on the list, which was compiled through a subscriber survey in the publication. Each survey participant was allowed to name one female sports executive, and more than 90 women were cited in the random telephone survey conducted by an independent research firm.
Val Ackerman, president of the Women's National Basketball Association, topped the list with Susan O'Malley, president of Washington Sports and Entertainment second. Donna Lopiano, director of the Women's Sports Foundation; Wendy Selig-Prieb, president of the Milwaukee Brewers Major League Baseball team; Sara Levinson, president of NFL Properties, Inc.; and Pat Summitt, women's basketball coach at the University of Tennessee rounded out the top-five.
Kennedy was the only motorsports figure named on the top-20 list and said that the growth in stature and respect of the sport -- particularly NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing, which is heralded as the "fastest-growing spectator sport in North America" -- was the primary reason.
"It is really a compliment to our sport to be recognized within a group that includes some of the top figures from other sports organizations," Kennedy said. "Over the years our demographic numbers have broadened to the point where the audience attracted by our sport is now 38 percent female. On the business side, sponsors have also recognized this trend and it all works together hand-in-hand."
While Kennedy prefers to take a low-key role in ISC's up-front position as a "Motorsports Entertainment Company," it was her idea that has grown to become DAYTONA USA, "The Ultimate Motorsports Attraction." She said her position on Street & Smith's select group took her "completely by surprise."
"It was a huge surprise to me, personally," she said. "But I was not surprised that the business of motorsports would be represented.
"While ISC puts on other events besides those sanctioned by NASCAR, the NASCAR events that we present at our facilities do represent the majority of our business, and from a business perspective, I think that's what they were looking at when they made this choice."
ISC either owns or operates major speedways including Daytona International Speedway, the site of Saturday's Pepsi 400; Darlington Raceway in South Carolina; Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama; Watkins Glen International in upstate New York; Phoenix International Raceway; and Tucson Raceway Park in Arizona.
In addition it has a 12 percent interest in Penske Motorsports Inc., and is also a 40 percent partner in the operation of the Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex, which will hold its first NASCAR Winston Cup Series race in 1999.
Kennedy said that, while the motorsports business is never standing still, ISC would continue in the trends that had brought it success, and her to the fore in the business leadership community. The company is presently involved in developing a new motorsports facility in Kansas City, Kan.
"We will continue to concentrate on our core business, which is motorsports," Kennedy said. "There are so many opportunities that exist within motorsports that I think that's where our primary business strategy will be focused over the next five years."
And DAYTONA USA, which has exceeded its attendance projections and continues to be one of the company's strongest items, will continue in that role.
"DAYTONA USA has been a very effective vehicle to show people our product, especially in the off-season," she said. "There is really no good way to describe a motorsports event to someone -- you have be there. And that has been why DAYTONA USA has worked out so well.
"I think it has converted a lot of people into race fans, and it has proven to be a great family entertainment choice at any time of the year."
Source: NASCAR Online