A one-on-one talk with PIR President Bryan Sperber
(Photo: Sean Logan/azcentral sports)
Bryan Sperber’s last act as president of ISM Raceway could be to figuratively spike the ball in Gatorade Victory Lane after the Nov. 11 Can-Am 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
It turns out that celebration will include not only the race winner but the end of Sperber’s 16-year tenure at the former Phoenix International Raceway and completion of a $178 million transformation that many believe will make it the second-nicest track in the country with modern amenities and facilities for fans, sponsors and competitors.
Sperber notified his staff Monday. He and Joie Chitwood, chief operating officer of International Speedway Corp., the track’s parent company, met last week at ISC’s headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla. Daytona International Speedway is ISC’s flagship venue and underwent a $400 million modernization a few years ago.
Both Sperber and Chitwood, in exclusive telephone interviews with The Arizona Republic Monday evening, said the decision was Sperber’s and the parting is amicable. Chitwood said it was too soon to know when a replacement will be named.
“I’ve been thinking about ‘What’s next?’ for quite some time,” said Sperber, 52. “With the project coming to a successful conclusion, I feel like in many ways I’ve accomplished so much here that maybe I had done all I could do.
“There is no animosity on anybody’s part. I’ve had an incredible career with the France family (NASCAR and ISC founders and owners) and the company. I’ve been working for the France family for 25 years and I’ll miss the great people and memories but am excited about what I’ll do next.”
Sperber said he’s long been interested in entrepreneurial projects in sports, entertainment and consumer products and that ISC has been aware of that. He’s unsure if that will require him to relocate outside of Arizona.
“Bryan said he had an opportunity to pursue some entrepreneurial things that coincide with the completion of the project,” Chitwood said. “This project represents a capstone to his career with our company. He got this project started and we want to make sure he gets to finish it.”
Chitwood added: “I’m grateful Bryan gave us a heads-up on his thoughts so we can have a successful transition. We want to support Bryan in doing what he thinks is best for him and his family. I understand his mindset.”
Sperber said his most satisfying and important accomplishments other than the current construction include securing a second Cup Series date in 2005, the track’s 50th anniversary in 2014, temporarily renaming it “Jeff Gordon Raceway” for the NASCAR icon’s final Valley race in 2015, installation of lights for night racing, repaving in 2011, and career growth of his track team and staff.
The facility officially became ISM Raceway this year, a 10-year naming rights deal that could be valued at up to $100 million