Checkered Flag Concessions

Checkered Flag Concessions
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
by Joanne Cram

New for the 2017 race season has been a new concessions partnership bringing some fun changes to the Knoxville Raceway food line up! Nick and Kirsti Peterson, of Rosemount, Minnesota, are no strangers to the Sprint Car Capital of the World; they now just make it part of their career as well as their hobby.

The husband and wife team have spent nearly every weekend of the past decade at Knoxville Raceway, supporting and watching Nick’s cousin, Clint Garner race every weekend. Clint and Nick grew up in a tight knit family, so racing is in their blood.

Nick has always been drawn to the food industry, and took his passion for food to the track each weekend, cooking up an after-race buffet for anyone willing to venture down to the 40 car’s pit post race. When the current concession management of 40 years (Colleen Latham) decided to step down and into retirement, that left a dilemma for the track. Colleen had poured her heart and soul into the track concessions, so finding someone to step into those shoes was going to be a big job to fill. The conversation of filling those shoes began at the 2016 race banquet when a candid conversation came up between track management and a few fair board members. The decision to put the concessions up for bid came at the end of 2016.

Eager to make their mark on Knoxville Raceway and take their involvement in the track to a new level, Nick and Kirsti threw their names in the hat. Nick has been in the food industry for 15 plus years on many levels. He is currently a Territory Manager in the Minneapolis metro, handling several large restaurant accounts. His past experience has been deep in restaurant management and food sales, and both he and Kirsti had entertained the idea of opening their own restaurant. Their thoughts were never far from Knoxville Raceway, however, knowing a restaurant would possibly inhibit their passion for weekly attendance at the track. Add their new-found hobby of go kart racing with their seven year old son, Knox (yes, named after Knoxville Raceway); they knew they were committed to the weekly journey to Knoxville, Iowa five and a half months of the year.

When word came in mid January that the Peterson's won the bid to take over the race track concessions, it was full speed ahead. There was so much to do in only three months. With hiring of staff, menus to revamp, equipment to replace, and a brand to create; Nick and Kirsti had no down time between winning the bid and the start of the race season. They began their weekly pilgrimage almost immediately, coming down on Fridays and staying in Knoxville to work throughout the weekend. With race season looming, they knew their weekends would get even more packed; Knox races at English Creek each Friday night.

They are thankful for the help and guidance received from John McCoy, Gary Schumacher and Doug Clark, as well as to their dedicated employees past and present - Gary Smith, Pat Parker, Elsie Krpan, Sherri DeMoss, Terry Taft, Donna McDonald, Martha Dykstra, Deb Seiver, and several of the fair board members- much of the success Checkered Flag Concessions wouldn’t have been achieved.

A typical weekend finds the husband and wife team working as early as 8:00 Saturday mornings prepping food, and as late as 4:00 Sunday afternoons finishing the grueling task of a deep clean after a busy weekend- with a four hour drive home after that. With 40 employees showing up ready to jump into action each Saturday night by 5:00, tills have to be made ready, last minute food preparations in place, and staff ready to run. Nick and Kirsti are grateful and very proud of the staff they have in place for their inaugural season of concessions, approximately one-third of last year’s staff returned.

The vision for Nick and Kirsti is simple: provide a high quality, good value product that fans come back for more each week. There have been some changes, as expected when a new venture begins. There is a new cost structure to evaluate, product quality to assess, and facilities to improve. Some of those improvements are visible, while others are behind the scenes.

Fans can watch live streaming of the races on new 60 inch flat screen monitors placed when waiting in concession lines. There have been streamlined product lines at a few of the concession locations.

A new fan favorite has been the addition of the West Mex stand near the pit entrance, selling burrito bowls. Nick and Kirsti are proud to offer 100% fresh made ingredients for these bowls; they begin prepping the burrito bowl ingredients Friday; making pico de gallo and salsas from scratch, cooking meat, and slicing fresh veggies.

Each of the stands have a unique twist on offerings, and the Peterson's hope to continue to build on this year’s successes, listening to the wants of the fans. They hope to add stand service of popcorn, candy, water, soft drinks, peanuts, and sunflower seeds very soon, and are working diligently to expand their in-suite ordering and delivery service.

As Checkered Flag Concessions gears up for the Nationals, they will see an increase in food preparations, as their signature items will balloon in quantities sold; tenderloins are near 4,000 in sales, compared to 500 on a weekly show; hot dogs and hamburgers increase from 300 to 4,000 as well; and chicken bites grow from 450 sold to 4,500 during the Nationals. The team will also be looking for an additional 10-15 employees for their Nationals crew.

In reflection on the season now that it’s halfway over, Nick and Kirsti feel like they are juggling things as well as can be expected when they both have careers and busy 3 and 7 year old kids to chase around. They are excited for the new changes they have made, and the feedback has been positive.

The Peterson's are excited to continue offering a high quality product fans can consistently count on. They are listening to fans, offering healthier options, as well as gluten free and vegetarian options to provide a varied range of choices for patrons.

Nick and Kirsti would love to hear from you, too! Let them know what you love about Checkered Flag Concessions, and what new ideas you might want to see offered in the future. These two have a passion for Knoxville Raceway and hope it shows in the product they are delivering to you each week.

Those 16 and older seeking employment during the Nationals can reach out to Nick and Kirsti at