Steve Phelps knows the list well, as do most folks with even a passing knowledge of NASCAR’s history. As far as "short lists" go, this one is just about as exclusive as it gets, and today NASCAR announced Phelps as the newest member of that club – one that now is just five deep.
NASCAR today named Steve Phelps its President, an honor that left the lifelong fan at a loss for words.
"I don’t even know how to describe it," Phelps said after a thoughtful pause. "I mean this sincerely: What an incredible honor it is to be President of NASCAR."
Phelps joins only four other individuals who have held the title of NASCAR President since the sport’s inception in 1948: Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Mike Helton and Brent Dewar.
MORE: Official NASCAR release
The post comes following – and in the midst of – a lifelong love affair with the sport. Phelps’ first NASCAR experience came at the age of 5, when he attended Catamount Speedway in his home state of Vermont. The track, then owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Ken Squier, sparked a passion for racing that continues to the present day.
"I want fans to know that I love NASCAR. It’s in my blood," said Phelps, who joined the company in 2005. "For our fans, we will work tirelessly to fulfill the promise of what NASCAR racing is – and that’s the best motorsport product on the planet. It’s our job to continue to fine-tune it and give you more of what you want – close, competitive, side-by-side racing."
Phelps’ intimate knowledge of the on-track competition has given him unique insight into what is necessary to move the sport forward. As a major proponent of the creation of such groups as the Driver Council, Phelps looks at the communal aspect of NASCAR as the key to its future success.
"A day does not go by where I’m not speaking with a driver or team owner or race track," Phelps said. "Collaboration amongst those groups and NASCAR is so important, and why I’m so excited about the future. Our competitors care so much. That passion is why I’m eager to continue the great work everyone in the sport has done to move it forward.""
Prior to his ascension to President, Phelps held a variety of senior leadership positions in NASCAR, including Chief Marketing Officer, and most recently, Chief Operating Officer. Throughout his tenure, Phelps has played significant roles in negotiating major partnerships with Coca-Cola, Monster Energy, Comcast and Camping World, among others.
To Phelps, landmark deals with major companies are made for one reason: NASCAR has the most passionate fans in all of sports.
"Brands come to NASCAR because of the size and loyalty of our fan base," Phelps said. "From a business standpoint, it is the single best thing about NASCAR. We have more Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies partnering with us than anyone, and that’s because of our great fans."
It also is why Phelps has placed a high priority on growing the sport’s ability to engage with those fans through dynamic content.
Phelps spearheaded the effort to reacquire NASCAR’s digital rights in 2013, which led to record growth in the digital, video and social media space – all aimed at stronger engagement with fans.
"From our drivers, our teams, our race cars, there’s no other sport like it, and our fans recognize that," Phelps said. "We need to tell those stories, and give the fans an experience they deserve through rich, engaging content."
Now stepping into the role of President, Phelps will look to continue the collaboration that he has helped shepherd, especially in recent years.
"We are at a vital point in the sport’s history," Phelps said. "The decisions that we’re going to make over the next 12-18 months are important for this sport, and we need to make sure we’re collectively making the right decisions. It’ll be important to get everyone’s point of view. Everyone plays a role, and that’s what makes NASCAR great. It is a community. It is a family."