Never a Dull Moment

International Speedway Corporation’s Brett Scharback reveals how his legal team keeps the motorsports company on course with predictive action in the risky business of NASCAR

Working as an attorney for a company that is literally a high-speed operation might scare off even the bravest in the field of law. But for Brett Scharback, high risk is just part of his job description as senior vice president of legal and chief compliance officer at International Speedway Corporation (ISC). The company is one of two arms that work together to promote the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. While NASCAR handles on-track issues and rules, ISC promotes the races through ticket sales, fan relations, and stadium issues. ISC is a publicly traded company and the largest promoter of NASCAR, operating thirteen motorsports entertainment facilities in ten states.

In his role, Scharback oversees the ISC legal team and serves a complex business model. He sees the typical business legal issues including employee relations, contract disputes, and sponsorship negotiations, but also thrown his way are the occasional crisis situation and event-specific injury. “There is the day to day that makes it exciting because you have all the stuff that comes from running a business,” Scharback says. “But then, when you are in a sport, there’s never a dull moment because there is always something new. I always joke that we see a lot of the same people, but it always seems to be new things these same people seem to generate.”

“Being a general counsel for a racetrack organization, what you have going on, on your property is by definition, risky.”

The fast-paced environment that exists in a motorsports environment might be overwhelming for some general counsel, but Scharback came into it well equipped to handle whatever comes his way. He spent four years with a law firm learning the incredible value of client service and that placing clients first is paramount. Scharback takes this lesson and instills it in his team to help mitigate risk. According to Scharback, that kind of predictive action only happens if strong relationships are at the foundation of one’s business.

“You have to make people feel like they can come to you, feel safe, and talk to you about a particular issue and that you aren’t going to be nasty or blow them up to senior management or create even more issues for them,” Scharback says. “A lot of times people are calling my team with really sensitive, worrisome issues that they need help with. I think customer service is important in that regard, to make them feel comfortable. That was something my previous job prepared me well for.”

To a nonmotorsports attorney, Scharback’s job might seem like it involves some litigation, a little risk, and a bit of contract negotiation. However, Scharback says many “standard” general counsel are surprised to realize that description is only about 10 percent of his workload. His team also handles interrelationships with NASCAR and the race teams, and the complexities it brings. Plus, there is the racing element itself, when speeds can reach nearly 200 miles per hour during a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.

“Being a general counsel for a racetrack organization, what you have going on, on your property is by definition, risky,” Scharback says. “It’s exciting, it’s fun, but for lawyers who are risk averse, it’s kind of like, ‘Oh my God, how am I supposed to mitigate this risk when I have that kind of activity going on?’ This is what we do every day and you can’t come into this job with a ‘no’ stamp, because if you’re afraid of risk you have to find another job.”

It isn’t only the core business that Scharback and his team have to handle, however. Real estate development also plays a significant role. ISC has a new 300,000-square-foot, mixed-use project currently under construction across from Daytona International Speedway. It is called ONE DAYTONA and will feature a Bass Pro Shops, Cobb Theatres, a P.F. Chang’s, and two hotels including a Marriott Autograph Collection property, along with residential apartments. Scharback’s team is managing tenant leasing and construction contracts, in addition to other items.

“It’s quite a bit, believe me,” Scharback admits. “Granted, we have outside counsel assistance that’s invaluable, but we are responsible for supervising that work. We’re spending a lot of time, and it’s exciting, especially when I look out of my window and see all of the activity.”

The company also owns and operates Motor Racing Network, the largest independent sports radio network in the United States, and Americrown Service Corporation, a subsidiary that provides catering services, and food and beverage concessions. In addition, ISC has a 50 percent interest in Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway.

ISC also has its sights set on reinvestment. Its Phoenix and Richmond raceways are both in top media markets and the destinations boast rich racing history, not to mention significant events on the NASCAR schedule. Scharback and his team will lead all legal work, planning, and processes that will come with the potential redevelopment of those two facilities.

Working as a lawyer in this industry can be a challenge, but Scharback wouldn’t have it any other way. He says that having a great group around him definitely plays a large part in looking past the long days and the unpredictability of his role.

“There are long days, rough days, and frustrating days, but every job comes with those, right? The amount of variety this job gives me every day continues to be the reason why I’m still here, enjoying this job, and having fun,” Scharback says. “I really love our team; we’re a family here. It’s exciting to deliver good results for a company, but it’s just as exciting and more fun to deliver good results with this team and the pride they exhibit when that happens.”