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Promoter's Perspective: Brett Deyo, Georgetown Speedway

 

Georgetown Speedway in Georgetown, Delaware, was constructed in 1949 by Melvin L. Joseph, who also built NASCAR’s Dover International Speedway.  In its early years, Georgetown Speedway was NASCAR sanctioned, hosting several of the series’ top drivers for hot laps around the half-mile clay oval.

Joseph himself was a successful NASCAR owner, representing Bobby Allison-caliber racers.  “In those early days, Georgetown and Delaware were very tied to NASCAR’s beginnings,” said track promoter Brett Deyo.

From the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, a lull in racing resulted, in large part, from changes in the economy and expanded entertainment options.  At that time, the facility would host a single, non-racing event per year just to maintain its conditional use permit.

Then, in 2014, Deyo decided to sublease the property for one night to run a big race called the Beach Blast; it was so successful that Deyo presented the same event the following year.

“When I was there for that race in 2015, the promoters at the time sat down with me and told me they were looking to get out—they had realized it wasn’t the business for them,” he explained.  “I was the first person to come to mind because I had already done a couple of good events there.  So I sat down with my wife and the people who had helped put the two shows together, and we decided to try it. We signed a lease in November 2015, and we spent weeks and weeks just cleaning the place up.”

Since then, the facility has been equipped with additional lighting, each grandstand seat has been repainted (totaling more than 2000 seats) and the concessions were completely renovated.

“One thing we’re doing this year that’s becoming really popular is bringing in Fat Daddy’s BBQ.  That’s really big in this area, and we actually brought them in to manage our concession stands,” Deyo said. “We used a well-known brand and brought them to the track—almost like a satellite location.”

Further upgrades include an updated announcer tower, a brand new sound system for the grandstands and pits, and several other enhancements to freshen up the facility.  More recently, 204 dump truck loads of new red clay were put down on the track to improve its surface.  “It’s probably one of the fastest tracks in the Northeast or Atlantic region that you can run a big block modified or super late model on.  I think that’s something that really sets our place apart.  The red clay we have on it now is really nice and tacky, and just its size makes it fast.  We’re a legitimate, big half-mile, and that makes it so much faster than a lot of the smaller tracks around us,” Deyo explained.

In the next few pages, Deyo reveals more of what makes Georgetown Speedway so distinctive, as well as the marketing strategies and profit-building techniques that have proven successful for the popular Delaware race track.

Less Is More

What’s kind of unique about our place is that we race specials only.  We’re not an every Friday or Saturday night-type track.  We only run big events.  From May through September or October, we race once or twice a month.  And each race is a unique, big event; and we’re able to alternate between the super late models and the modifieds because of our location.

The Delaware location is right on the line for northeast big block modifieds and super late models, so running them both helps keep our program fresh, because this month (interview was conducted in April) you can go see a modified race, and next month you can see the super late models, and in July we have a sprint car/modified double header—so each of our events is really unique.

I think because of the changing times, especially the Delaware area—with camping, boating, the Delaware beaches, the Ocean City, Maryland, explosion and popularity—you almost have to step back and re-adjust your strategy, because you’re not in the middle of nowhere with not a lot of competition.  And the way we’re attacking that is that we’ve become just as special as our competition.  If we tried to race every Friday or every Saturday and just ran the same program over and over again, I think our success wouldn’t be what it is now.  Right now, each time we open the gates, we have a really big crowd, and we try to run a quick show and bring in other drivers from out of state to challenge the locals.  We’re able to pay a little bit more because we race less.  This strategy has really worked out in our favor.

We have a big event in March (the Melvin L. Joseph Memorial Race) that opens the Northeast modified season.  I’ve been promoting for a lot of years, and the biggest crowd I’ve ever had at any track was the Melvin L. Joseph Memorial last year, which was our grand re-opening.  I think the Melvin Joseph name is huge for what he’s done for racing in Delaware, so a lot of people came to support that name.  We ran that race again this year in March, and the temperature high was only 37 degrees F, [but] we still had the grandstands almost three-quarters full. So that’s a race that people look forward to.  And Georgetown Speedway opens the Northeast modified season, so that’s an event that race fans really mark their calendars for to get rid of the winter blues.

Another big event is the Blast at the Beach during the summer—a Tuesday night race at the end of August.  We always schedule it the Tuesday before Labor Day because a lot of kids go back to school after Labor Day.  We see a lot of northern fans come down and spend the week at the beach, go to our race and then go home.  It has kind of become a popular vacation week, and has taken off over the past few years.

We run a class called Little Lincolns, which is really popular with the fans. They are old-school ’55 Chevy-type cars, and they actually race.  People who come to our track for the first time are always kind of blown away because it’s such a throwback.  We also have a very strong Southern Delaware Vintage Stock Car program that we run at almost every show.  Those two classes are our throwback classes, and they tend to get a lot attention, especially from the older fans who come through—it kind of brings back some nostalgia for them.


Building Relationships

 

We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to forge good relationships with the neighboring tracks and have a little mini series.  We work well with Potomac Speedway in Maryland and Winchester Speedway in Virginia with the super late models, and then we also get along very well with the surrounding modified tracks, so we can bring in different drivers and cross-promote.

For example, at our next event, we have a Thursday, Friday and Saturday program—Georgetown runs Thursday night, Potomac runs Friday and Winchester on Saturday.  So we’ve joined together to put on a three-night points fund, and each night has some extra money and bonuses.  That way we can get drivers from Delaware to go to them, and their drivers to come to us, and they can run three nights in a row for some really good money.  And that’s just for super late models.

With our modified program, we’ve put together a series with Delaware International Speedway, which is our closest neighbor, Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey, Big Diamond Speedway in Pennsylvania, and Susquehanna Speedway in Pennsylvania.  We’re all part of a $30,000 points fund for the modifieds, where we each have non-conflicting dates and run toward one goal.  And what’s nice about our track is that we can start and end the series because we’re neutral.

This year we’re also doing the Kenny Wallace Driving Experience, so fans can try it out.  We’re looking at doing some other options as well, like Jeep Jamborees and stuff like that, to bring in some non-racing income.  We’re looking at some classic car events, which are very popular in this area—the cruise-in type things— and we’re looking at the possibility of some off-site car sales.  The car dealerships in this area are very aggressive with their marketing, and they’ve looked to us to maybe do an off-site sale.

We’re in a unique location because, where our speedway is, 22,600 cars on average go by daily.  It’s on one of the busiest roads in Delaware, so if we were to put something together along those lines, it would be a huge success.  So those are the things that we’re looking to do to bring in extra money.


Profits & Marketing

 

We have a tremendous amount of sponsors.  Sponsorship, I would say, is No.  1 for us with regards to profit.  We’re on a main road with so much traffic, so we’re able to sell many billboards using the road, which is something that not a lot of race tracks can do.

Something that sticks out in my mind was last year, when Ken Schrader came to the track to do his Federated Auto Parts day.  We were talking about my schedule, and he said, “You know, if you want to make more money don’t race more, because you’re going to wear out your novelty; go out and get more sponsors.”

And sometimes it’s hard when you have a facility sitting around to not say, “Let’s schedule another race.” But Ken Schrader told me that I have a good formula going and to keep the novelty and the specialness of each one of my races, and try to sell more billboards. That’s something we’ve done, and we’re very fortunate that we’re in an area with a strong economy and a strong tourism economy, so we’ve been able to go out and sell those billboards and do all of that stuff that sets us apart.

We also have a pretty solid sponsorship package.  We have an entry-level billboard that’s $650, and that kind of gets people in on the ground.  Then we do night sponsorships, and companies can bring their employees out and things like that. We also sell class sponsorships.  I try to have something for every type of budget. It’s not too hard for a local business to get in on the ground floor at $650 for a billboard.  Then, once they are involved, many of them increase their sponsorship.

We have a local car dealership sponsor that’s actually going to raffle off a four-wheeler for St. Jude’s, which is pretty cool, because then it gets the fans involved and a charity involved.

With our marketing efforts, we try to do more stuff that helps engage the public. A lot of local bars and restaurants have cruise-in nights, so we’ll bring race cars to those type of events.

We’ve actually been doing quite a bit more old-school advertising, too, with posters and schedules, leaving them in local businesses, and that seems to work out pretty well.  We’re big on our social media, too, and we do a lot of videos— highlight videos, preview videos, etc. I work with outside marketing people for our social media because there are quirks to Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff to get more impact.

We also advertise on the radio locally, and we have a relationship with the local ABC TV station and run commercials on there for pretty much every race.  In our area, we also have a racing news trade paper, and we do quite a bit with that, too. The TV and the radio gets your average, everyday people; the social media really applies to the younger people; and the trade paper hits the core race fans.  We try to cover them all.

We first started doing TV half-way through last summer, and it was a big wake-up call.  For the first race that we did significant television advertising for, we saw a huge change in our demographics—we saw many first-time people and families.  So that worked out pretty well for us.


The Good & The Bad

 

I go to all kinds of tracks and have seen the good and the bad, and you certainly don’t want your place to be on the bad list.  When you walk into the gate, you don’t want to be greeted by dirty bathrooms, or a place that hasn’t been painted or where the grass hasn’t been mowed.

I’m a big believer that your facility needs to be neat for two reasons—one, you’re competing with minor league baseball stadiums and state-of-the-art venues; and two, just to be a good neighbor.  We have people living all around the track, and I certainly wouldn’t want them to get up in the morning, have their coffee and look out at something that’s an eyesore.  Keeping the place clean is very important to me.

And concessions are a big part of it as well.  We put a tremendous amount of effort into our concessions here because I want it to be like a mini restaurant.  When we started, we had to build a lot on that, and now we’ve got award-winning BBQ and all these cool foods that other tracks don’t have—homemade baked beans, macaroni salad, potato salad, pulled pork platters, loaded nachos, loaded fries, a full line of brisket, and those types of things that you get at a restaurant and aren’t necessarily common race track items.

I’ve learned quite a bit about running a quick show by going to other places. I try to take away the good stuff I see at other tracks and apply it to our track.  And then the things I see that maybe aren’t so attractive, I keep that out of our facility.




Promoter's Perspective: Brett Deyo, Georgetown Speedway

Among the keys to Georgetown Speedway’s success is the track’s broad-based marketing efforts. As promoter Brett Deyo noted, TV and radio ads get “average, everyday people” in the grandstands, while social media covers younger demographics, and racing news trade paper ads “hit the core race fans.”


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