Gearing Up for Race Weekend at Richmond with the Track President

Some of the best short-track racing in the world occurs at the Richmond International Raceway. Twice a year, fans pour into the facility to witness classic short-track racing and to see the stars of NASCAR do what they do best. The whole show is run by many people, but Track President Dennis Bickmeier oversees the entire facility. He is just as excited as race fans are for the upcoming race weekend and he expects fans to have a great experience. In addition to all of the great things that the track has had in the past, they have added even more for this season.

I was fortunate enough to interview Dennis and he gave me some great insight on what is happening behind the scenes to prepare for race weekend at RIR. Below, you can read the interview and get stoked about the upcoming races that will be occurring at RIR.

What are some of the exciting things you and the Richmond International Raceway staff have in-store for race weekend?


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“I think the biggest thing that comes to mind right now is “new.” We have a lot of new initiatives we are rolling out, as well as finalizing some new construction in an effort to enhance the facility that will greet our fans. Some examples include: a new frontstretch gate and redesign of our midway area; new food courts with some local and national restaurant flavor; new tent camping; additional traditional camping opportunities; new flow for our pit pass guests to enjoy more in the infield.”

Through social media, I see that you guys have many more exciting additions scheduled for race weekend this year, it’s a great thing to see, but how did you guys come up with all of these new and exciting things?

“Our team has gone through an extensive strategic planning process on what we want to be and then how do you get there and make it happen. So, you need a plan first and part of that plan is generated by feedback from fans. We get a lot of that via social media and post race surveys, but we also utilize our fan advisory council to provide input. Most importantly, a lot of the ideas are generated by one on one conversations that I have and our team has with fans on race weekend.”

As track president, what are the things that you most look forward to on race-weekend?

“There are many but I really like seeing the place come to life. Each day during the week something new is happening. People are arriving to set up the midway or the TV compound or something in the infield. Then, campers start arriving, followed by the drivers and teams. Then, it’s time to get into the on-track schedule and the fans are arriving. Each day builds and I really enjoy the energy that builds with it.”

What do you believe is the one factor that keeps bringing fans back to Richmond each year?

“One factor is probably difficult to chose, but I will say the short track racing action that is produced here! I think the fact that we’ve been doing NASCAR racing here for more than 60 years is a great advantage.”

Kyle Busch has been super successful in the Spring Races at RIR, do you believe his fans are attracted to the track because of his dominance and do you think he can make it five straight Spring Race victories?

“I think he is off to a tremendous start of the season and has certainly rebounded from a tough season-opening race in Daytona. Yes, I do believe he can make it five; however, I do think there are some unknowns with the new Gen-6 car, so I think everyone will be on a bit of a learning curve. I think his fans appreciate him for who he is and he wins. We had a great turnout of his fans recently at an event in the DC area, and I could definitely see their appreciation for “their” driver.”

Truck Series fans love short-track racing and many of them would like to see the Trucks back at RIR, do you see that as an option for your track in the coming years?

“I would never say never. I love the Camping World Truck Series, but you have to have a lot of things align on the scheduling and ticket sales side to make it all work.”

As the race weekend grows closer, are your ticket sales where you would like them to be for the race weekend?

“There continues to be room for growth, but I like our plan and I like our momentum being a week out. There are some great wins that we’ve experienced in some our ticket initiatives, for example, we implemented tent camping for the first time, and it is sold out; we’ve launched a car corral for car clubs for the first time and it has sold out. We’ll keep building every day.”

What are a few of things that you are most anticipating for race weekend?

“For me, it’s getting around to see and talk to the fans. I look forward to hearing their stories and putting on a good show for them. Our satisfaction comes in knowing we executed a great event. I think the other thing is seeing all the hard work and dedication our team puts in to staging these events come to life.”

Is there anything you want the fans to know regarding the upcoming races at RIR?

“I want people who have never been here before to come check us out, and for our fans who are attending or returning to have a good time. I want everyone who is coming to prepare for a great weekend of racing and take advantage of our mobile app and the information on our website to help them enjoy the weekend. We have a lot of new initiatives here this race, and I hope everyone enjoys what they see. And, as a reminder, we have three days of racing for this event, April 25-27, and go to rir.com for ticket and event information!”

If you don’t attend the races at Richmond next weekend, you’ll be missing out on a great show. The track always puts on a great race weekend for the fans and this year’s races will be as thrilling as always. You can keep up with the happenings at Richmond next weekend on twitter if you follow Dennis on twitter (@RIRPrez) and follow the Richmond International Raceway (@RIRInsider). Get ready race fans because NASCAR will be invading Richmond very soon for some classic short-track racing.


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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. Dennis, I came to Richmond at least once a year starting in 1988, and starting in 1999 I bought season tickets (6 seats) and came to every event including Trucks, IRL, etc., until last year. We sat in practically every section and finally made our way over to the new front stretch Commonwealth Tower where we sat until last year. When I was asked by the speedway to renew my tickets last year I said I would provided I could just renew for the Cup races and not the Nationwide events. I was more than willing to buy both events and pay whatever the price. Due to the economy I could no longer afford to attend both Friday and Saturday nights. I was told by the speedway that my Tower tickets were a “package” deal and that I could only renew if I purchased both Cup and Nationwide tickets. Given that the grandstands were about 60% full the last 3 or 4 events I attended. and the fact that I was a long time season ticket holder, I was surprised by RIR’s insistence on sticking with this policy. Since I could no longer afford to attend both events I did not renew my season tickets (6 seats) and I have not been back to RIR since. So while a new entrance and new camping spaces are great additions to the track, I believe if you really want to improve the fan experience and provide true value for the entertainment dollar you might want to take a good hard look at your ticket policies. Not that 6 seats will make or break RIR but those were 6 seats that were sold every season for 15 years and would have continued to be sold for as long as I was able to attend the events. Also, these seats would have likely been handed down to my children since they enjoy the sport as much as I do. I understand ticket policies are necessary and work well when times are great and every seat is full. However I don’t understand them when the grandstand is half full and putting fans in the stands is the biggest issue facing the business of the sport.

    Thanks for listening,
    Jim

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