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Hebenstreit: Another Reason to be Proud of Indy

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IBA-hebenstreit“It’s a new track record!” I can still hear that deep, deliberate, and excited voice of the late Tom Carnegie over the loudspeaker at the Speedway. We all instantly knew that familiar and iconic voice announcing the new speed record of the likes of Mears, Andretti, Luyendyk, or Fittipaldi as they flew around that two and one half mile oval. It was even more recognizable than the voice of Jim Nabors singing “Back Home Again in Indiana.”

My love of the Indy 500 began in high school when I sold programs at the Speedway. My Dad would get up about 3 a.m. to drive me all the way across town so I could be there on time to sell the $2 programs. In addition to the economic incentive, the draw for me was that we all had total access to the Motor Speedway and could stay and watch the racing. Over the years, I discovered most of the nooks and crannies of the world’s greatest race course. In the intervening forty plus years, I have only missed the Greatest Spectacle in Racing a handful of times. It has become a tradition.

In Indy, we are quite fortunate to have such a magnificent facility as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It is hard to believe that such a huge venue is only about 5 miles from the heart of downtown. This year the Speedway is celebrating the Centennial of the Indy 500. As with most other sports, the motorsports industry has grown and changed considerably. Racing used to be a barn storming event loosely held on weekend afternoons. Watching AJ Foyt over the years, I wondered if the day would come that he would not be able to squeeze into the cockpit. Now the drivers are as physically fit as Olympic athletes. Just as the technical engineering and physicality of the drivers have changed, so have the business and legal aspects of the growing sport.

In mid April, the IndyBar is co-hosting a great racing event. TRAC, the acronym of The Racing Attorney Conference, will take place at the Conrad Hotel on April 13 and 14th. IndyBar member, Wes Zirkle serves as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Just Marketing International. If you read the IBJ, you surely have seen many articles about Just Marketing due to its high profile work in sports marketing and particularly in the motorsports industry. Several years ago, Wes was in Toronto at a conference for the Sports Lawyers Association. Over the years, Wes had become friends with many sports lawyers across the country including Brooke Beyer, Jr., the Assistant General Counsel of NASCAR located in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Stoke Caldwell, Jr,. a Charlotte motorsports attorney. During that conference, these three decided that most sports conferences did not sufficiently address motorsports. They decided to host a dedicated motorsports law conference and attract the biggest names in the motorsports world. They then recruited William Bray from Charlotte and Mark Richards from Indianapolis to join them. TRAC was born.

The group decided that the venue would alternate on a yearly basis between Charlotte and Indianapolis. The first conference was held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway while, coincidentally, the roar of engines often overtook the speakers as testing was simultaneously occurring. The following year the event was held in the press room of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, impressing many of the out-of-state attendees who had never been to our iconic speedway. Indianapolis is fortunate to host the conference again this year but the size of the crowd as well as the acoustics and room configuration made the Conrad a better location for the event.

In addition to being a very effective networking opportunity for the leaders of the sports and motorsports world, the conference features first class educational CLE presentations. The topics covered are fascinating and wide ranging. They include preparing your driver for opportunities outside the race car, dealing with state and local governments, obtaining injunctive relief in motorsports transactions, as well as new aspects of sports licensing and sponsorship. The presenters are a “who’s who” of the most noted and respected leaders in the sports racing industry from all over the country They are attorneys, corporate sponsors, team representatives as well as leaders of the various racing organizing bodies such as IndyCar and NASCAR. Attendees range from corporate leaders and attorneys to “mom and pop” dirt track racers who want to be better informed.

TRAC is co-presented by the IndyBar and the North Carolina Bar Association. Although Indy and Charlotte compete for some of the same clients and sponsors, the group has worked very well together to raise the level of awareness and information about Motorsports Law and the industry as well. If registration continues to go as well as expected, this year, the conference will set “a new track record.”•

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