With the recent success of the local sports teams, how is Texas Motor Speedway impacted? Any thoughts? I think it's a 'rising tide floats all boats' kind of thing. The beautiful thing about us is that we never have a losing season. I can remember when everybody had Stars fever, and I mean everybody. People who had never seen a hockey game in their life had a Stars flag hanging on their car or something, because they were jacked up and excited about winning and bringing the Stanley Cup to a southern town. Right now, everybody's been pumped up about the Rangers, and this of course is a Cowboys town. All those things I think just raise the attention of sports, and that's good for us.
With the upcoming race, you've pulled off a coup. You have country star Trace Adkins performing. How well do you know him? How'd you make this happen? I've been chasing after Trace for a good while because he certainly fits that noble image attitude, which is our promotional campaign. I'm from Nashville originally, and one of my best friends is one of Trace's best friends. Sometimes you can work deals through the contacts you have like that and then there are other times where things just kind of fall together, you kind of laugh at those kinds of things sometimes.
How's the NASCAR season been so far? What do you think we can expect for the upcoming race? It's been really, a tremendous season. If you use objective standards like margin of victory or lead changes or things of that nature, it may be the best season ever in NASCAR. The chase has been just amazing. It looks like we'll probably have a new champion this year, after Jimmie Johnson has won five straight titles. Which is just unprecedented, you know? Nobody wins five straight Super Bowls or five straight World Series, and Jimmie has won five straight championships in a sport that, it's tough, tough, tough to win that title. Mark Martin, one of the greatest drivers of all-time, for instance, has never won a championship, and yet Jimmie won five. However, it looks like we'll have somebody new. Carl Edwards is at the top of the standings. Matt Kenseth has quietly snuck in there. [As for] Brad Keselowski, [it] has been a breakout season for him as a young guy, just kind of everybody says snuck into the chase, the playoffs. And here he is, solidly in third or so, and then Kevin Harvick I think is up there. In my gut I've got Harvick winning the championship this year, so he's still got a good shot at it. There's a bunch of guys in contention, so I'm excited about it. I think it's been a great season, a great Chase, and after Texas there are only two races to go. This is the race the last couple of years that was the most dramatic in the Chase. It'll probably determine the champion. Texas is where it comes down to, so this is exciting stuff. I can't wait to see what happens because, you make a mistake here in Texas with two to go, a whole year's worth of work is gone.
Danica Patrick is returning for this race. What do you think her impact or influence will have on the local fans and increasing NASCAR's visibility, with local Dallas-Ft. Worth fans? Danica will be going to NASCAR full-time next year, and it's the first time she'll run a NASCAR Nationwide car here. She's run a bunch of Indy car races, but she'll be here on Saturday. It's big, it's huge. Danica is the second most recognized female athlete in the world behind Anna Kournikova. She's done extremely well here in Indy cars. She's finished as high as second before, here in Texas. Can she make the transition? You know, Indy and NASCAR both use race cars, but that's about the only similarity. It's like saying football and golf use balls. There's nothing alike about them. Danica's been part-time in NASCAR for two seasons while she's run Indy cars full-time, and that transition is sometimes easy for some drivers. There are a couple of drivers that come to mind recently that have not enjoyed the success of stock cars and NASCAR that they did in Indy cars. Danica has had some good runs. Now that she's focused full-time on NASCAR, she's got a load of talent, I wouldn't be surprised. It's probably going to take a little while for her to get up to speed, but who knows, she might just pull it off here.
You have a new Great American Sweetheart. Can you tell us a little bit about her? Absolutely. Katie is her name, and she's the fourth Great American Sweetheart. The Great American Sweethearts are our ambassadors. Fans want their pictures made with them, and their autographs, and that kind of thing, and so Katie's the newest addition. She's from just south of Ft. Worth, played college basketball, she's about 6'1, and I don't think I'd want to play her one-on-one. I think she'd probably kill me in a game of basketball. She's just the sweetest lady to talk to and easy to talk with, so we're looking forward to having her with all the fans. Stephanie, Brittany, and Becky have been great. You know, we just rolled that program a year ago, and they are huge celebrities with their fans. We'll probably add more as we go down the road, but Katie's really a sweet lady.
TMS has always provided great value for the fans. How do you keep making this happen? Well, you know, just by not being greedy. I look at it and, I go to a lot of sporting events myself and you pay $30 or $75 to park your car, and you're not even talking about the price of a ticket. And that's tough for a family. [When] I grew up, you know, my dad dropped out of high school to fight in World War II and came back home and got a job loading box cars. And we had a life growing up, but we never had a bunch of money to do things with. I remember sneaking into sporting events when I was a kid or not getting to go and what not. It's just important to me that we keep it where fans can enjoy and come with their families. You can park for free here. Nobody else in Dallas-Ft. Worth sports does that. You can carry a cooler in with your own food and beverages, as long as it's not bigger than 14 inches in dimensions or any glass in the container, you can bring it in. That's a huge savings. We always try to have some special ticket values like "2 for $99" or things like that. I remember how I grew up. Bruton Smith, our chairman, he's the same way, a self-made man and now he's on the Forbes 400 list as one of the wealthiest men in America. If you remember where you came from, it's easy to do. I think that's just the way our sport does things. So, you know, money shouldn't keep you away.