Sunday, May 2, 2004
A quick chat with ... Mark Cassis
By Colleen Kane
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Kentucky Speedway will open its doors for its fifth season when it hosts the ARCA RE/MAX Series' "hhgregg Pole Night" and "The Channel 5-205" Friday and Saturday. Amid the hustle and bustle to get ready for opening day, Speedway general manager Mark Cassis took some time to discuss the track's last-minute preparations, what race fans can expect this season, and just how he came to get hooked on racing.
Q: Are these last couple weeks pretty busy for you?
A: Incredibly busy. We just opened up NASCAR 3D at the IMAX theaters. We have the Green Flag Festival at the Meijer store in Florence today. We've had summer testing with some of the NEXTEL Cup drivers. It's an exciting time, but it's good to get open.
Q: What have you been doing to get ready?
A: Just getting people lined up. We employ as many as 2,000 people on race day, so security, parking and everything down to the suite books, the menus ... the programs, the billboards. There's a lot on our plate to make sure we're ready.
Q: What kind of crowd do you expect for the season-opening ARCA event?
A: Probably 10,000 on Friday and 20,000 on Saturday, which is a good number to start our season.
Q: New additions to the schedule this year?
A: We have a fall date for the first time this year (the V-TAPS Triple Header Fall Classic on Sept. 18 with IPower Dash Series, NAEDSS and ASA). We've added another driving school. And we're trying for a fall concert series in September or October.
Q: What's the event you get most excited for each year?
A: There's nothing like having 70,000 people on our property for the Busch race. It's our showcase event, and it has put our venue on the map. I'm proud of that.
Q: What were your biggest projects this offseason?
A: We're constantly improving the venue. We're continually working with the state on roadways, with over $80 million dollars going to Kentucky roads. ... And of course, our biggest objective, to get a NEXTEL Cup date. That's our mission, and we're always asking, "How do we get there?"
Q: On race day, what can you be found doing?
A: I'm usually hooked at the hip with operations director Andy Vertrees, and then dealing with media and corporate sponsors. But sometime after the festivities get started, I'm a big race fan, so I like to walk the concourse. There's nothing like it, to watch the cars on the track and see the fans in person.
Q: How did you become a race fan?
A: I went to my first race when I was working for H.J. Heinz. It was at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1985, and I was just blown out. Not only the speed, but what really hit me was the marketing. ... So I went back to H.J. Heinz and helped them develop a racing team, and we put together the Heinz Ketchup Cars. And I helped do the same thing at Campbell and Johnson & Johnson.
Q: Have you ever raced?
A: Just schools - that's enough. I'm a business person.
130th KENTUCKY DERBY
wins with sentimental journey
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Jones draws a crowd at home track
sees good things in the future
special place in their hearts
make for a contrasting infield
ads raise no fuss
gallery: The race
Photo gallery: The scene
FLYING PIG MARATHON
push each other in Pig Relay
age 82, marathoner's been a long time running
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lose 4th straight
Faraway fan reminds us of what we have
will test free agency
AL: Tigers hand
Mariners eighth loss in 10 games
NL: Rockies get
win against Braves
need funding for new stadium
hoping to shake his past
struggles require patience
McEachern exudes that star quality
combine continues to grow
Walton-Verona both lose in All 'A' Classic
Sistrunk hurdles to Roosevelt event victory
take 'blue-collar' approach to winning
season ends in Game 7
remain alive on Sakic OT goals
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celebrates 18th birthday with the lead
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baseball team has 29 wins, 5 losses, 1 proposal
may get another shot at Illini
now is 'beautiful' and successful
quick chat with ... Mark Cassis
up with that?