By Wesley A. Zirkle, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, JMITRAC Co-Founder & 2015 Conference Chair
The seventh annual The Racing Attorney Conference (“TRAC,” as it is better known) was held this year in Charlotte, N.C., April 8 and 9. For those of you already familiar with TRAC, please allow me a few sentences to provide others with some background.
TRAC was founded to facilitate networking and learning among attorneys whose practices touch some form of motorsport, with particular emphasis on uniting the open-wheel and stock car legal communities. The conference therefore rotates between Indianapolis and Charlotte every year, co-sponsored by the Indianapolis Bar Association and the North Carolina Bar Association. Over the past few conferences, a friendly rivalry has developed between conference organizers in Indy and those in Charlotte, trying to one-up each other with better and better conferences. This year, Charlotte set the bar high for those of us organizing TRAC 2015 in Indy.
What started as an effort to get a handful of attorneys from Indy and Charlotte to share ideas has turned into something much greater. TRAC 2014 had more than 100 attendees from 15 different states! Moreover, it has turned into the “must attend” event for many of motorsports’ behind-the-scenes power brokers. Attending TRAC virtually guarantees a conversation will be had, or a friendship formed, with men and women who had a part in shaping motorsports from just a bunch of speed freaks and moonshine runners to a multibillion-dollar industry.
And speaking of moonshine runners, I said that the Charlotte organizing committee set the bar high and they did. The cocktail reception featured an appearance from legendary NASCAR driver Junior Johnson, one of the original pioneers of the sport who literally turned moonshine running into stock car racing. And he brought presents! In his retirement, Mr. Johnson founded a legitimate moonshine manufacturing business, creating traditional and flavored moonshine. Each speaker at TRAC received a complimentary jar of Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon moonshine. Mine was cranberry… more on that below.
But my Charlotte colleagues didn’t stop there. The keynote speaker for the conference’s second day was Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s sister and business manager. She is widely regarded as one of the most powerful women in all of motorsport, and I can add to that a very gracious and sincere person… and a terrific storyteller.
TRAC also takes time each year to honor an individual who has made a significant contribution to the field of motorsports law by giving the TRAC Star Award. This year’s honoree was Stokely (“Stoke”) G. Caldwell Jr. For those of you who don’t know him, Stoke is the guy that many of NASCAR’s elite rely upon for legal advice (including Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick, Ray Evernham, and Roush Fenway Racing). He is an expert practitioner, a true gentleman, and an example to those of us younger attorneys who follow him. Stoke is also a co-founder of TRAC. He is a truly deserving honoree.
We also managed talked about law this year. The quality of the panels and discussions continues to be exceptional, providing high-quality content that isn’t available anywhere else. This year’s panels discussed sponsorship, tax and finance issues, insurance, compensation, intellectual property, immigration, sponsorship activation, track and facilities issues, and SAG/AFTRA, all with a focus on the issues unique to motorsports.
TRAC 2015 will be in Indianapolis April 14-15. Planning is already underway, and we endeavor to exceed the exceptional conference that our Charlotte friends hosted this year. I hope to see you there!
Before I close this column, I must share my Old Fashioned recipe which I created after trying Junior Johnson’s cranberry moonshine:
2 oz. bourbon
1 tablespoon of Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Cranberry Moonshine
1 splash of orange liquor
1 dash of orange bitters
As much or as little ice as you like in your Old Fashioned
Think of a cranberry-orange muffin in bourbon form. Wow!•