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Jason Rittenberry is President and Chief Executive Officer of IRG Sports + Entertainment, the privately held parent company of multiple sports and entertainment properties including Palm Beach International Raceway, Southwestern International Raceway, Memphis International Raceway and the International Hot Rod Association.
With more than thirteen years of venue management and live event experience, Rittenberry is certified by the International Association of Venue Managers as a Certified Facilities Executive (CFE).
Memphis Business Journal recognized Rittenberry as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Award recipients in 1999 and he was included in Memphis Magazine’s 100 Who’s Who in Memphis for ten consecutive years.
DRO Editor Jeff Burk spoke with Rittenberry about plans for the IHRA and other venues.
: What was the series of events that led you to end up working for IRG Sports + Entertainment?
Jason Rittenberry: When Dover Motorsports decided to close their Midwest tracks in St. Louis, Memphis and Nashville, I was for the first time in many years going to have to find a new job. Fortunately for me the new investors and owners of Palm Beach International Raceway had contacted me a year earlier. While the opportunity was not right in 2008, when the Dover operation shut down I reconsidered and relocated to Palm Beach as President of PBIR. I was at the right place at the right time.
: Why did these businessmen become interested in racetracks and what was it about the IHRA that motivated them to buy the company?
JR: The businessmen who make up the IRG group are very aggressive in their core businesses and are the same way with their racetrack business. Shortly after coming on board as President of PBIR, we started looking for additional tracks to acquire. Our business plan was also to own the content and the venues. While the IHRA was not initially for sale, we were persistent with Feld Entertainment. The idea is that the group would both own tracks and a race series to race at those tracks, so that the tracks and the organization would be self-sustainable. It actually took three years from the time we started working on buying the IHRA until we actually got the company bought this year.
: What are the immediate and long-term goals for the IRG organization regarding the IHRA?
JR: For the 2013 season the IHRA agenda and schedule was set before IRG acquired it so we are sticking with the Nitro Jam and sportsman race programs that were already in place for this year. Next year you can expect some changes in the Nitro Jam format in that there will be more racing action. The Nitro Jam format will be a competitive series with a champion for each event and series champion. But it won’t change completely from what it is now; we’ll continue to offer fans exhibition acts but also we’re going to offer them and the racers more racing. The IHRA management team at the headquarters in Norwalk led by Aaron Polburn and Skooter Peaco are still working on the 2014 program as far as what classes and cars we might include in the Nitro Jam.