While it’s easy to say the glory days of Michigan International Speedway are in the rearview mirror, new track president Joe Fowler is excited for the opportunity to start the comeback.
Fowler, who spent 17 years at Kansas Speedway in various marketing and leadership roles, was introduced as the new president at Michigan on Wednesday. Fowler is not a complete stranger to MIS, as since 2020 he has served as NASCAR’s senior director of track marketing for the Midwest Region, which includes Iowa Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Michigan International Speedway and Watkins Glen International.
Fowler made the transition from his job at Kansas Speedway to the regional NASCAR post upon NASCAR’s merger with International Speedway Corp in 2020.
At MIS, Fowler replaces Rick Brenner, who served in that role since 2016. And unlike Brenner, who commuted from his home in New Hampshire during his tenure at MIS, Fowler is looking forward to relocating to the Brooklyn, Michigan, area with wife Ashlee. The Fowlers currently reside in Olathe, Kansas.
Unlike the previous track boss, Fowler brings a career in the racing business to his new post. Brenner came to MIS after a two-decades-long career in Minor League Baseball.
“I’m honored to be the new president of Michigan International Speedway,” Fowler said in a Zoom press conference on Wednesday. “I’ve been around the industry for awhile. This is a really exciting opportunity for me, personally. I’m really excited to get to Michigan. It’s a great area. It’s a great track, and I’m ready to get to work.
“We absolutely look forward to moving to the Brooklyn area. I spent a little time there in my track marketing role in August and got a little bit of the lay of the land. My wife and I are from small towns in Missouri, and I remember telling her when this became a possibility that this reminds me a lot of home.”
At MIS, Fowler inherits the keys to a track that has fallen a bit in stature, both regionally and nationally.
MIS was built in 1968 and pulled out of receivership by Roger Penske in 1972. Penske owned the track until selling it to International Speedway Corporation in 1999. The track hosted two NASCAR Cup weekends every year from 1969 through 2020, with the exception of 1973 when there was just one NASCAR Cup race. Michigan also hosted Indy car in 1968 and from 1970 though 2001.
The track had a seating capacity of 137,243 as recently as 2005. Add in the massive infield, and the attendance for several Michigan NASCAR Cup races in the late ’90s and early 2000s would eclipse 150,000. The facility, however, has gone through multiple reductions in its bleachers and now lists its grandstand seating at just 56,000.
NASCAR eliminated one of Michigan’s two Cup dates from the schedule beginning in 2021.
“I don’t think the track is in trouble at all,” Fowler told Autoweek. “As a matter of fact, I think the future is really bright here. It’s got a really strong fan base. The people that come to MIS are really passionate about not only the sport, but also the property.”
Michigan International Speedway boasts close to 9,000 campsites on its property, making it claims to be the largest registered campground in the State of Michigan.
“MIS is an important track for our industry, and the races here are very important because of the close ties with the automotive industry,” Fowler said. “We have a lot of momentum in our sport right now. NASCAR won the League of the Year Award (by Sports Business Journal) this year, which is extremely exciting. We have the next generation car that’s going to make its debut (in 2022).
“I’m very excited where the track is headed and I feel good about our future.”
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