Meet Jason Reed: Knoxville Raceway’s New General Manager

Meet Jason Reed: Knoxville Raceway’s New General Manager
Monday, March 20, 2023
By Joanne Cram

While his title of General Manager is new, Jason Reed is anything but new to Knoxville Raceway. With a long history and relationship with Marion County, the Melcher native is ready to hit the ground running at Knoxville Raceway with his newly acquired title!

Joanne: Please introduce yourself and explain what your involvement has been with Knoxville Raceway?

Jason: I was born and raised in Melcher, Iowa, where my family and I still live and are active in the community there. (Melcher is a small town about 15 minutes south of Knoxville.) My wife is Jaime, and we have three daughters: Kynser 20, Kasyn 17, and Kesley 14. Growing up in rural Iowa, I was always involved in 4-H, and was very glad to involve my girls as well. They are active with their 4-H family in sheep and pigs. Kynser is at Central for sports training or chiropractic. Kasyn is a senior at Melcher-Dallas High School and taking college courses to be an RN. Kesley is a typical 8th grader trying to figure life out. Jaime works for the Melcher-Dallas schools, so that allows her to be active in the community. We have always been big race fans. I went to races from infancy and was glad to introduce my wife to Knoxville Raceway when we first started dating. She’s been hooked ever since, and we have raised all three girls around the races as well. Even my parents were involved with Knoxville Raceway, my mom worked at the track concessions and my grandfather was a past fair board member and president. You could basically say I grew up at Knoxville Raceway. My girls all work at the track through summer and Nationals. Jaime also does a lot of volunteering for the fair and around the track. She’s always lending a hand and super supportive.

Joanne: What was your past work experience that led up to this career change for you?

Jason: I’ve spent the last eighteen years as a supervisor with the 3M Knoxville plant where I managed anywhere from 60 to 120 employees at any given time. I worked with a lot of community members, hourly employees and upper management delivering results for the company. It’s a great company to work for and allowed me to grow my strengths in leadership. My biggest accomplishment was achieving the Manufacturing Excellence Award. The challenge was to help my department double the output of what they were producing at the plant using the same budget, employee allocation, and same company footprint. We were to condense the product time output to create a faster turnaround. There are only eight of these awards given worldwide each year. I achieved it in 2015. It was a very big honor to earn this award and I was able to go the 3M headquarters in Minneapolis to receive the award. In my eighteen years at 3M I spent a lot of time collaborating with people and leading successful teams.

Joanne: Can you explain your experience being on the fair board?

Jason: I was elected to the Marion County fair board back in 2008, and have served as president twice. Of my time on the fair board, I have served on several committees: Eight years on the Executive Committee; four years as president and four years as secretary.

Our structure of the fair board has three committees: Race, Fair, and Grounds. The fair board meets the first Monday of the month where the chairperson of each committee reports on how each committee is progressing. The president serves on all three committees, so it’s a job with a big time commitment.

When I was on the Fair Committee, my goals were to increase attendance to the fair, improve the entertainment venues, and in general to bring more people to the fair. We started a new fair sponsorship program to raise more funds for the programs. This past year we brought in wrestling, blow up rides, and other free events to the fair through this program. All these activities were completely free for the public to attend. Our goal was to have more things for families and kids to do that is inexpensive or free, which in turn, brings more traffic to our fair. We also invited food trucks this past year to increase attendance as well. Our concession stand on site also supports 4-H, so we wanted to be sure the food trucks weren’t deterring from funds raised for 4-H. We didn’t charge the food trucks to be on premises, but instead asked them to donate to the 4-H program. We felt it was a great success as the 4-H concession stand sold more than they had ever sold, and the food trucks also donated to the program.

Bringing big name entertainment to the fair was also a huge accomplishment, starting back in 2014 with Hairball. We have had music artists such as Charlie Daniels, Martina McBride, Tyler Farr, John Michael Montgomery, JoDee Messina, Parmalee, Great White, and Warrant. Our goal was to have a bigger draw of people to come to the fair. It’s been a learning process to get into the concert promotion business. We host our event on the Friday night of the county fair and it’s an expensive venture to host. Our goal is to not lose money and bring 3,000 or more people to our event. Our bigger goal for the concert is to grow attendance to 5,000-7,000 people who in turn will attend the fair. It’s a very tough market with forty other fairs being held in our region at the same time competing for attendance.

Our Race Committee goals are also big. It’s no secret that the Knoxville Nationals is what keeps Knoxville Raceway’s weekly program afloat every year. Our goal is to make it a great event every year, a better Nationals than the year before. We always want something unique to do for each type of fan. It’s an ongoing challenge making sure all day, every day before and after the races there is something to do besides the racing. We want to create a festival atmosphere. We are proud that our race committee has a strong car count for 360 and 410 Nationals because of the high caliber of the weekly car count and program we have at Knoxville. We know it takes a dedicated weekly car count to continue to make Knoxville Nationals the biggest and best sprint car event in the world. It’s tough to make racing balance financially because we pay one of the best weekly purses in the country. It’s a balancing act but keeping our weekly purse higher is something we need to do to keep our weekly sprint car racing healthy and strong, which in turn keeps the Nationals strong.

Our Grounds Committee is also dedicated to making the Marion County Fairgrounds and Knoxville Raceway better by investing directly in the grounds. Some examples of what we have accomplished in recent years includes purchasing of the old Pamida building and parking lot. We have been able to repurpose that building and parking lot for storage and parking during race season and Nationals. We have also been able to partner with local race businesses such as Leavitt Graphics which is housed on the north side of the building. The old Pamida building gets traffic off fairgrounds property for flow, offers more area for media check in, and more area for the fan base to walk around and for the teams to park during the Nationals. Other things we have done include resurfacing the entrance and exit to the fairgrounds property, building a much needed additional shower house at the north campground and we are in the process of adding elevators and rest rooms to main grandstands.

Joanne: How did this new GM position come about?:

Jason: The fair board had been discussing for the past year or so about bringing more local leadership at the track. At the June fair board meeting, it was decided to pursue a general manager position, and at that same meeting, a fair board member spoke up and nominated me. My response was heck yes! I was ready for a career change and new challenges. The Executive Committee then needed to create a job description, salary, and steps for proceeding. In September the job description was created, and the fair board appointed me as General Manager. My duties will include working with sponsors, scheduling events, day to day operations and working closely with John McCoy who is our competition director and has a wealth of knowledge to lean on.

Being on the board for fourteen years has helped me with my fair board member relationships. I see things from their point of view on what they expect out of a GM. I didn’t have to learn the fair board or the fair business, I could go right to work. I knew what needed changed, fixed, and grown so I was able to dive right in October 1. I knew I had a lot to tighten up on when I became GM, most people won’t see it, but a lot of the work will be seen eventually.

Dealing with sponsors is new to me, but I’m excited to learn and grow professionally with this process. Our operations manager, Jim Uitermarkt has been a great partner to help me continue working with sponsors and build those relationships.

Joanne: What are your goals for the 2023 season?

Jason: My goals are to partner and collaborate on big decisions and to work hard to make Knoxville Raceway the best place to race. One of my major goals is to keep the Nationals as big as the year before and continue to make it an even bigger event in the future. We need to continue to prioritize the selling out of Saturday night’s event and hopefully get to where we sell out Friday night as well. So far, ticket pre-sales are up already from a year ago during the same time. The phone has not stopped ringing since the day tickets went on sale to the public. We have also added a two-day outlaw show over April 22 and 23 as well as keeping our June 9 and 10 Outlaw dates that we have held for several seasons. We also added a two-day USAC non wing show on June 2 and 3. We think this gives people more of a reason to come to Knoxville Raceway before August, and hopefully encourage them to come back for the Nationals.

Joanne: What is your vision and plans for Knoxville Raceway beyond 2023?

Jason: I am discussing these things with John McCoy daily. We are committed to running and maintaining a healthy weekly show. We would like to grow the Late Model Nationals in September. That event has potential to grow. I’d like to go to the World 100 at Eldora to see how that race is ran and how we can better grow our race and better meet the needs of the late model fans. Another priority is to grow the 360 Nationals; it’s a great race and we want to highlight the amazing 360 talent from all around the world and make it as big of a race as it deserves to be. I am just excited for this new role in my career, for our future and I want to thank the fair board for trusting me with this position and believing in my vision for Knoxville Raceway.

About Knoxville Raceway…
Located on the Marion County Fairgrounds in Knoxville, Iowa, Knoxville Raceway is a half-mile dirt track that hosts winged CT525, 360- and 410-winged sprint car racing Saturday nights from April to September. The “Sprint Car Capital of the World” also hosts the Knoxville Nationals, sprint car racing’s most prestigious event, every August. Additionally, the storied venue hosts the 360 Knoxville Nationals as well as the Late Model Knoxville Nationals. Knoxville Raceway is the third-largest outdoor stadium in Iowa with 20,377 seats and 33 luxury suites.

Contact: Eric Arnold
PR | Digital Marketing | Track Historian
Knoxville Raceway
(641) 275-1260