How Speedway Motorsports’ return to private ownership triggered a wave of innovation

CONCORD, N.C. — Adjusting on the fly to wildly varying conditions has long been a hallmark of top race teams. What else does a pit crew do but navigate the constant vagaries of troublesome engines, faulty tires and slippery handling?

Now, more than ever, Marcus Smith knows the feeling.

Smith, CEO of locally based Speedway Motorsports, has spent the past couple of years steering his family’s company through a once-in-a-century pandemic and an industry undergoing significant changes and challenges.

So, why not throw in an impromptu reorganization along the way?

That, in fact, is exactly what Smith and his lieutenants decided to do in March 2020 as Covid-19 shuttered NASCAR and other sports leagues. Over the course of two weeks, Speedway Motorsports executives formulated a shift in operations that included a companywide 37.5% reduction in employees.

By the end of the spring of 2020, Speedway Motorsports had gone from 800 full-time employees to 500 through a combination of layoffs, furloughs and attrition. Just as important in Smith’s view, the company went from a collection of mostly independently operated racetracks scattered across the country to a much more collaborative model, drawing on collective expertise and manpower far more often than in the past.

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