New RIR president to spend time getting acclimated

New Richmond International Raceway president Dennis Bickmeier

plans to “stay out of the way” and get the lay of the land leading

up to the track’s race in September.

“These guys are professionals,” Bickmeier said Friday, one day

after introducing himself to the staff he inherited when he was

handed the job on Wednesday. “They know what they’re doing. They’ll

be ready for September and, if anything, I’ve got to get out of

their way.”

He replaces Doug Fritz, who resigned Wednesday to pursue other

career opportunities.

Fritz, who held the job 12 years, did not return a voicemail

message on Friday.

Bickmeier, 44, was a vice president at Michigan International

Speedway, like RIR owned by International Speedway Corp., when he

got the new assignment. He said he was given a heads up that it was

about to happen, and left home with a bag packed for Richmond

having never been to the track. He met with staff Thursday and

toured the track Friday before meeting with reporters.

The whirlwind didn’t stop there.

“I have a thousand things going through my head and they all

want to come out at the same time,” he said, adding that he arrived

with an empty notebook and had filled it with notations.

Despite the increased responsibilities that go along with being

the president, Bickmeier said his primary function will be the

same: Keeping longtime fans and attracting new ones at a time when

attendance is declining.

“One thing I always talk to my group about is, ‘We’ve got to

figure out how to sell a race ticket better today than we did

yesterday. If we keep doing that, we’re going to be ok,'” he

said.

Selling tickets at Richmond once required just putting them on

sale. The track sold out 36 Sprint Cup races in a row until the

fall of 2008 when there empty seats at the track for the first time

in decades.

The same was true at Michigan, and throughout the business of

entertainment, Bickmeier said.

“You can’t just turn the lights on anymore,” he said. “People

are demanding more for the money that they’re spending for a race

ticket. If we don’t meet their demand, they don’t come back.”

His work history also includes time in professional baseball,

football and hockey, as well as with the Big West Conference,

primarily in a public and community relations capacity. At MIS, his

duties included oversight of communications, corporate partnership

sales, and ticket sales and operations.

Community relations also was a focus for Fritz, and Bickmeier

said he spent Thursday evening reaching out to the 11 people on a

neighborhood community group. He said he was able to reach 10.

“We need to keep our neighbors happy and we need to keep the

collaboration going,” he said, adding that in the conversations,

“they all referenced Doug and the relationships that he built.”