This month, Women’s History month, Phoenix Raceway will host its first race of the season, which will also be the first home race for new track president Latasha Causey who stepped into the position in late 2022. She has spent the last few months learning NASCAR and the nuances that come with it, but the responsibilities of the job are just part of her focus. As a West Valley native and the track’s first black female president, Causey said she feels a responsibility to those who helped her get here, and those who will follow in her footsteps.
“For me I would say it comes with an obligation to be successful. What does success look like for me as well as making sure I’m not the first and the only; making sure I set up opportunity for others. Maybe we’ll have our first Latina track president, maybe we’ll have our first Asian track president, so making sure I open up and pave the way for others just as, honestly, as Julie did for me,” she said. Julie Giese was Phoenix Raceway’s first female track president before accepting a position as track president of NASCAR’s first street course in downtown Chicago.
“She saw something in me and thought I would be a great fit for NASCAR and a great fit for Phoenix Raceway, so I wanted to be able to pay that forward and pay that back for others,” Causey continued. And she’s well aware of the responsibility that comes with her role. “When you’re the first at anything it comes with a lot of pressure, but as a woman in business that comes with a lot of pressure, right? I mean not only am I a woman in business, I’m a wife, I’m a mother, so yes, there is pressure of course… but we’re powerful as women.”
One of Causey’s top priorities will be community outreach, specifically to local children and those who have never experienced a NASCAR race before. “Being able to engage the community’s kids early is important to me. I really want in this first year to be able to invite people into the track who haven’t been before and that includes young ones.”
That outreach has been a part of the legacy that got her here. A volunteer member of several boards, Causey spends a great deal of time giving back to the community that helped shape her. “I grew up right down the street from the raceway; my parents still live in the same west Phoenix house I was born and raised in. So, I’m very familiar with the area.” She said she plans to extend that outreach early and often. “Some of our nonprofit partners like Boys and Girls Club of Avondale are great but we want to expand across the Valley. We also can’t forget about the high schools,” Causey laughs. “You forget our next generation is right there. So, we want to be able to build high school partnerships as well as at the college level. I mean you think about internships and individuals who can actually partner with us. We have a great relationship with GCU, I’m a die-hard ASU fan, an ASU alum. We want to be able to create some of those partnerships. I want to make sure they understand what does NASCAR mean? What does Phoenix Raceway mean? What does it mean to have a career in motor sports? So really being able to continue that path of those partnerships and conversations.”
While Causey works to increase the accessibility and partnerships for the Raceway, she isn’t losing sight of the track’s economic impact and the growth that’s on the horizon. “It’s huge. The fact that there are so many people coming from outside of Arizona staying in local hotels, eating at local restaurants, it advances our economy. The other thing we have is the championship race in November which brings people from absolutely everywhere. We have the grand finale NASCAR race of the season and I think it’s sometimes an oversight here in the Valley. We had the Super Bowl this year, yes, but we have the Super Bowl of NASCAR here, too, and have for the past two years.”
Phoenix Raceway employs just shy of 100 people full-time, year-round. Come race season, that number increases dramatically with contractors, vendors and other partners who serve the 40,000 to 60,000 fans on-site.
Causey describes Phoenix Raceway as a world-class experience. The track was refreshed in 2018 and she said the team has done an amazing job of making sure fans have a great experience. “Everything from the campgrounds to your seats in the grandstands and your experience in the suite. It’s a hidden gem, a hidden treasure that locals hear about and know about, but they don’t necessarily experience,” Causey said. “Drivers and pit crews are right there in the garages. You can go and talk to the mechanics working on a car, it’s an overall experience different than any other sporting events you’d go to.”
Her message to Valley residents who haven’t experienced Phoenix Raceway beyond the traffic congestion is this: “Give phoenix raceway a chance. We have some great partnerships and relationships with traffic control and we’re working on making things even smoother! At minimum, go to website and see what we offer. Our first race is March 10th. See what day would make the most sense and come give us a try.”
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