Skip to content

Q&A: Circuit of the Americas president Jason Dial on F1 year 2 prep

Nov 15, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

F1 Fan - Austin Getty Images

As Circuit of the Americas in Austin prepares for its second United States Grand Prix, we had the opportunity to speak with new track president Jason Dial. Dial, a veteran of Procter & Gamble for nearly 20 years and most recently chief marketing officer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has hit the ground running in his first month.

MST: Given your background, you see sports in several different contexts. How does a “race fan” compare to a “football fan,” per se?

Jason Dial: You realize going in that in F1, or in NASCAR, the fan is avid for different reasons. For a race, you’re usually backing a driver. NFL allegiance is usually skewed toward where you grew up, and since I grew up in Detroit, I was a Red Wings/Lions/Tigers/Pistons. Here, you’re a driver, and certainly in F1, a team fan.

MST: Last year’s race had the huge buildup, but it was also the first major event for a brand new facility. What were the pressures leading into that which you heard?

JD: I’ve been here a month, so I wasn’t here through the opening. But I heard things as simple as making sure the fences and gates were installed correctly, and making sure things were right from an ingress/egress standpoint.

Easy to forget, but 18 months ago this was fields. That’s when I tell people about seeing this place, that the staff worked around the clock to make it work.

This year it’s more planning, and making sure our transportation plan has sufficient infrastructure. We’re thankful that 94 percent said they’ll come back for another race; that’s the thing we need to see to grow our fan base 3-5 years down the road.

source:  MST: How has having 5-6 additional race weekends this year helped the preparation for this weekend? What are some of the great achievements?

JD: We’re celebrating our millionth fan in one year. And that’s an incredible feat on many levels, not just business operations, but really showcasing Austin. I was at Procter & Gamble for 18 and a half years, and you need time to develop a level of critical reach to justify an investment. We want people to say, “Wow, I’m going to Austin.”

MST: How does this race then avoid the so-called “sophomore slump” to sustain the promotional efforts for year two?

JD: I think first of all, 94 percent said they’d come back, but they didn’t say “come back next year.” What we’ve had to do is continue to build awareness and excitement, and expand the experience. We have the fan fest for instance, which is free, and magnifies the entertainment value of Austin. We’ve also built up our digital marketing fairly heavily.

We’re competing for everyone’s time and treasure. If we’re not compelling enough, people won’t come to Austin. F1 is amazing, but everything is amazing. We are integrating a lot more live music, because that is authentically Austin. It’s very important because this is the “live music capital of the world.”

Between the Longhorns (Texas game on Saturday), live music and entertainment, we need to expand our footprint. But having six stages, 12 blocks, music almost all around the clock all free downtown is great to have.

MST: Any concern about the UT game on Saturday?

JD: I don’t think it’s ideal and we tried to avoid the conflict, but to be honest some others come because they are in for the game and wouldn’t otherwise. The reality is that most hotels require a 4-night minimum. So what do you do for the other 3 days?

We know 55 percent of our fans bought tickets from outside the state of Texas. Over 50 percent are coming for first time. We have all 50 states and more than 40 countries in attendance. We’ve done a good job of creating compelling content.

MST: That will transition nicely into asking about ticket sales. Are they on course to match or exceed the first year?

JD: Yes. We’ll be up 30 percent on general admission this year, and new this year, people can buy just the race day ticket. It’s $129 for a GA and up; for $229, a reserved bleacher seat. Our attendance will be very strong, over 250,000 for the three days.

MST: What’s been your racing integration like?

JD: I think what’s great about our calendar of racing, is that it can be very different for different series. F1 versus vintage for instance? It’s pretty amazing to watch the muscle car era around the 3.4 mile track, where you’ve got a Shelby and a Sting Ray battling for the lead! That’s a different fan than the F1 fan.

We need to continue to appeal to a very diverse consumer. What we’re trying to do is think of Circuit of the Americas as an entertainment destination. And it’s always amazing to have (different generations) because that’s what everyone can relate to.

MST: Do you have a particular favorite part of the track?

JD: I’ve only been here a month to see the vintage race. But I’d say based on all the walkthroughs, I like Turn 1 the most, because you’ve got that hairpin after the rocketing up the hill. That one’s probably my favorite. Otherwise Turns 18/19 are very good if you’re elevated. There are several great general admission places.

The drivers love it. When you get drivers raving about the complexity, the challenge, the design, that’s when you know you’ve hit something special. It’s so amazing to watch them go through here. But then to have to break it down really fast, and put it in layman’s terms, I couldn’t believe how challenging it was with a 40 mph go kart up the hill! That gives you a brief idea of how tough it is.

MST: The USGP has, for several reasons, always struggled to “stick” at a single facility. What’s COTA’s “master plan” to ensuring OK, this is it for the next 5-10-15 years?

JD: We’re very confident and the big difference here is only 9,000 of our seats are permanent fixtures. We build to demand. We’re not bound by concrete. But we’re purpose-built for racing and other events as an entertainment destination.

This year you’ll see more high-end hospitality and GA. We’ll read our consumer reviews. That’s part of our DNA from P&G is asking what the consumer wants, and making sure we’re delighting them. People said they want to bring clients in. We have families that love general admission. We’ll be up 30 percent on that.

The calendar of events helps too. A lot of the places that struggled didn’t have 19 concerts to diversify. It’s a portfolio play.

We’re not just F1. We absolutely want to have F1 for foreseeable future, and it’s very important we do. From an international attraction play, we have to showcase how incredible of a brand F1 is.

But we want to make sure we grow our MotoGP event. We have the X Games coming in June. We’ll have another incredible other festival in May we’re getting ready to announce. And the versatility helps us with our television partners, NBC for F1 in this case, to be one of our strategic advantages.

How do we make sure we do this and market the hell out of it? We make it compelling, and sell it to the people.

Latest Posts
  1. Ever wonder what Dale Jr., Danica, and others would look like as Boris Said?

    Sep 18, 2014, 9:21 PM EDT

    (Image courtesy FoxSports.com's Shake and Bake) (Image courtesy FoxSports.com's Shake and Bake)

    While Boris Said was getting ready for this weekend’s IMSA Tudor Championship event at Circuit of the America’s in Austin, Texas, it’s noteworthy to mention that Thursday was his 52nd birthday.

  2. Michael Waltrip challenges Dale Jr. to go Dancing With The Stars

    Sep 18, 2014, 9:02 PM EDT

    (Courtesy Dancing With The Stars) (Courtesy Dancing With The Stars)

    Michael Waltrip took a big step when he agreed to compete on Season 19 of “Dancing With the Stars.” Now, Waltrip has gone and put his foot in his mouth by trying to kick Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the behind, so to speak.

  3. Phoenix track bringing in more muscle for Chase race: UFC legend Chuck Liddell

    Sep 18, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT

    Chuck Liddell (Photo courtesy UFC) Chuck Liddell (Photo courtesy UFC)

    Given how important – and potentially how wild – the ninth and next-to-last race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup will be, Phoenix International Raceway is calling in some extra muscle for drivers who may potentially get out of hand.

  4. Report: NASCAR’s top 9 richest teams worth a collective $1.25 billion

    Sep 18, 2014, 7:04 PM EDT

    (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Owning a NASCAR team is like being a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, they both answer to “Big money, big money.”

  5. NASCAR America video: How New England is helping NASCAR grow

    Sep 18, 2014, 6:29 PM EDT

    nhms logo 2014

    New Hampshire is one of four New England states to host a NASCAR event and is huge to the racing community in the area. Having four tracks that far North allowed the sport to grow from its southern roots.

  6. NASCAR America video: Roush Fenway Racing not competing up to team standards in Chase?

    Sep 18, 2014, 6:17 PM EDT

    ((AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Jeff Siner) AP

    On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, analysts Parker Kligerman and Frank Stoddard are split when it comes to the Roush Fenway Racing team. Looking to the Chase, Frank predicts a top 10 finish for Greg Biffle or Carl Edwards, but Parker is less confident.

  7. NASCAR America video: What Chase driver outside the top 12 can still advance?

    Sep 18, 2014, 6:12 PM EDT

    (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

    On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, analysts Frank Stoddard and Parker Kligerman both agreed that Ryan Newman is the driver just below the cutoff line with the best chance of moving on in the Chase.

  8. Report: Why Mark Martin wasn’t able to serve as driving coach for Danica Patrick this season

    Sep 18, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT

    (Photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images) Getty Images

    NASCAR legend Mark Martin was slated to be a driving coach for Danica Patrick in 2014. Now, in an interview with NASCAR Illustrated, we learn what happened.

  9. Flagman struck, killed by race truck at Florida short track

    Sep 18, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT

    (Image courtesy Bronson Speedway) (Image courtesy Bronson Speedway)

    A flagman officiating a race at Bronson Speedway in Archer, Fla., was killed in a racing accident at the track this past Sunday.

  10. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR America at 5 pm ET — Harvick, Biffle, Edwards, New Hampshire racing history

    Sep 18, 2014, 3:51 PM EDT

    140918-NASCAR-AMERICA

    Today’s NASCAR America includes two teams in different directions as we prepare for the second race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Things are looking up for Kevin Harvick’s team, while there’s concern that Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle may not get past the first round of eliminations.

  11. NASCAR legend Mark Martin to serve as grand marshal for unique St. Patrick’s Day parade

    Sep 18, 2014, 3:01 PM EDT

    (Photo: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Mark Martin has received numerous honors in his racing career, but this one could be one of the most unique that will ever be bestowed upon him. Martin will return to his native Arkansas next March to serve as grand marshal for the “2015 World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”

  12. IndyCar: Brasilia, Brazil race confirmed for March 8, 2015

    Sep 18, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Sao Paulo Indy 300 - Day 3 Getty Images

    IndyCar confirms return to Brazil as first 2015 international race.

  13. Jeff Gordon to set significant milestone Sunday at New Hampshire

    Sep 18, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    jeff gordon 2014 atlanta1 Getty Images

    Jeff Gordon will set a significant milestone in this Sunday’s second race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

  14. 8Star closing on Indy Lights confirmation with Sean Rayhall as one driver

    Sep 18, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT

    Photo: Getty Images Getty Images

    8Star Motorsports’ intentions of joining the Indy Lights grid for 2015 are close to becoming a reality.

  15. Ecclestone: Drivers wanted radio ban

    Sep 18, 2014, 1:05 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Germany Getty Images

    FIA could be forced to backtrack on plans for this weekend, though.

  16. F1’s Modern Wonder: Under the lights, Singapore shines brightly

    Sep 18, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore - Previews Getty Images

    F1 is renowned for being exuberant and exotic. No event screams it more than the Singapore Grand Prix.

  17. Sochi Autodrom gears up for Russian GP in three weeks’ time (VIDEO)

    Sep 18, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Sochi Olympics AP

    Everything is in place for the first Russian Grand Prix in 100 years to take place on October 12th.

  18. 12 MAXSpeed/Rotax finalists named for USF2000 test

    Sep 18, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    MazdaRoadToIndy

    Twelve finalists named in USF2000 seat shootout.

  19. Massa not giving up on runner-up spot in constructors’ championship

    Sep 18, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Italy F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Massa believes that Williams should be aiming to beat Red Bull despite trailing by almost 100 points in the constructors’ championship.

  20. Red Bull GRC: Andretti Autosport premieres Beetle in LA

    Sep 18, 2014, 9:27 AM EDT

    Photo: Andretti Autosport Photo: Andretti Autosport

    The Volkswagen Beetle makes its debut at the LA doubleheader round this weekend.

Video from NASCAR America

Looking ahead to New Hampshire
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. K. Busch (1608)
  2. B. Keselowski (1489)
  3. K. Harvick (1400)
  4. D. Mayhew (1303)
  5. J. Gordon (1280)