Weekly column from Track President; Al Garcia
When someone can take something for which they have an extreme passion and turn that into a profession, it should make for a very rewarding career. I am fortunate enough to have done that for the past 35 years. I didn’t think it could get any better than that, but when I was named President of Homestead-Miami Speedway last week, in retrospect it got even better.
And I don’t say that because of my own personal standing, but more so because having been at the track for all 24 years of its existence, it has been a labor of love for me. Not just in what I do when I come to work every day, but more importantly the impact we have been able to make on south Miami-Dade County and the City of Homestead.
Before I go on, I want to wish Matt Becherer the best of luck in his new role as an officer in ISC. I learned an awful lot from him during his 10-year tenure as President - especially as it pertains to the business side of the operations. There is nobody who is more qualified for his new role, and he is someone who cares deeply about our company and the sport.
Matt is just one of the many mentors that I have had in my career as I worked my way up the ladder. Having the opportunity to learn from our track’s founder, Ralph Sanchez, as a young kid not far removed from high school was an unbelievable experience. I took so much away from him and remember how he made sure people knew that first and foremost we were promoters. He knew how to treat people the right way and had an uncanny way of making people feel good about themselves no matter the message. He also taught me how to think creatively and big. His one motto that still sticks with me to this day is, “If your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough.”
I also had the chance to work for a NASCAR Hall of Famer in “The Captain,” Roger Penske. When you work for Roger, there is no mistaking who the boss is or what set of rules exist. He demands professionalism in everything that is done, and that rule of thumb applies to the marketing people, the crew members, all the way up to the President of the company and the drivers. There is a level of accountability that must be adhered to in order to be a successful part of the Penske organization.
There are many others who have impacted my career, including former NASCAR President, the late Bill France Jr., and current ISC President John Saunders.
As President of Homestead-Miami Speedway, I hope to take a little something from all of them, in addition to many others whom I have come across from all of my years in motorsports.
The one thing I can tell you is that this job will never be about me. It’s about us – the staff at Homestead-Miami Speedway – continuing to make a difference in our community. It wasn’t about Ralph Sanchez when he entered into a partnership with the City of Homestead and Miami-Dade County in 1993. It was about something much larger than that. It created an opportunity for Ralph to give back to a community that not only took him in as a young child from Cuba, but was also devastated by a catastrophic force of nature.
I witnessed first-hand the genuine love and passion that he had for this area, how much he wanted to bring professional motorsports to Miami and then reinvigorate this area following the devastation spawned by Hurricane Andrew.
For me, Miami and motorsports is all I have ever known. I grew up here, and outside of some small pockets of time, have lived here my entire life. Besides the opportunity to make a profound difference, I enjoy educating people. Whether it’s the many employees who have come through here over the years or the countless fans who have flocked here for our multitude of events, I take great pride in showing off our facility’s unique attributes. Homestead-Miami Speedway is about a lot more than just our three lakes, infield beach and even the championship races that have been hosted here each year since 2002. It’s about why it was constructed almost 25 years ago and who it was built for - the betterment of a region.
That will continue to be our main focus as we move forward, culminating 18 years of championship racing during Ford Championship Weekend this November, and then evolving into a March “Spring Break” race starting in 2020, March 20-22. It will truly be something special for everyone as we commemorate our 25th anniversary next year, conjuring many memories for families who have come through our gates over the years. It will also be a time for me to reflect.
Not just to think about how far I’ve come in my career, but also how much of a turnaround Homestead has experienced due in large part to our existence. While certainly there have been other things that have contributed to the resurgence of this tremendous city, I like to think we have played a major role in it. More than $300 million annually in economic benefit is something which carries great significance.
Starting in March 2020 we will be returning to our roots in a way, as we hosted IndyCar and the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series during that same time of the year when we first opened almost 25 years ago. In fact, it was Ralph Sanchez’s vision to host spring racing here, as we did when it started off as the Grand Prix of Miami in 1983.
I remember that year well for all of the long hours and hard work that our entire staff put into setting up that course around, what is now home to the Miami Heat. For me, it was as gratifying then as what it is now, just in a little different role and in a different setting. That is just one memory which is still very vivid to this day, as many more will come to mind as I settle into this new position.
And as I do that, I look forward to the opportunity to meet many of you around the community, either here at the track or at one of the many events where we are present.