John McCoy Named 48th Annual Auto Racing Promoter of the Year

John McCoy Named 48th Annual Auto Racing Promoter of the Year
Monday, April 1, 2024
(From Racing Promotion Monthly) Knoxville, Iowa's John McCoy, who promotes the legendary Knoxville Speedway was named the 48th Annual Auto Racing Promoter of the Year (ARPY) at the 51st Annual RPM@Daytona Workshops at the Shores Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida on February 13, 2024. McCoy represents Region Five (Midwest / Great Plains Region as part of the RPM balloting).

McCoy, who has been a regional winner in the past, follows in the footsteps of Ralph Capitani, who was named the 26th Annual ARPY in 2001 after guiding Knoxville through 34 seasons. McCoy served in roles under Capitani learning the trade of one of the most recognized short tracks in the world.

When McCoy was announced as the winner of the National Auto Racing Promoter of the Year at the Workshops, he spoke of an old Western that starred John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) he quoted a scene from the end of the movie and it wasn't until talking to McCoy that it all made sense.

McCoy, who is from Knoxville started racing Sprint Cars in 1978 before he dreamt of working on the business side of the sport, but as McCoy put it, "I never did have the greatest equipment or the help I needed to do it at the level I wanted to do it."

Before working at Knoxville, McCoy spread his wings working with the ill-fated United Sprint Association, which if there is one thing about McCoy's motorsports career, he has seen a lot of different things happen during his time.

"In 1999 Ralph asked me what I was doing," McCoy related. "And that began my journey at Knoxville. We were going to up the ante on inspection. About that time the ASCS was getting started with their program. Earl Wagner was the pit steward at the time."

McCoy approached things then like he does now, something he observed from "Cappy" (Ralph Capitani).

"Cappy never made a rash decision, he took his time and thought things through. He always tried to make the right decision and never the popular decision, which is something I have always tried to do and that started back then."

McCoy's "Midwest - Knoxville demeanor" has helped him earn the respect of fans, competitors and industry peers as he has worked his way through Sprint Car racing throughout his years in the sport.

"Cappy had this gift where he could talk to anyone. I'd see him off talking to fans wondering what they were talking about, but the sport has grown so much, that we don't have those opportunities to interact much anymore. They are important when we do, but it's definitely more difficult now and something I really looked up to Cappy for," McCoy related about his former teacher.

In 1999 McCoy became the Competition Director at Knoxville after the name of "Pit Steward" changed to Competition Director. From there he continued to study under Capitani until Capitani's retirement in 2011, where at Capitani's request McCoy was named Race Director at the Marion County Fairgrounds, which is home to Knoxville Raceway.

"Cappy wasn't a technical guy," McCoy explained. "He never argued with us or really claimed to understand. He knew we were trying to do what was in the best interest of the sport and the race track."

During his tenure as the Race Director, McCoy has seen many things change, come and go, both internally and externally at what is one of the most recognized race tracks in the world.

"We've seen a lot of things over time, from tracks trying to put us out of business to different management teams with Series that didn't have the same attitude that they do today. It's never been the same, it's always been challenging. Things are always changing and there is always another dimension, something that we just may have not thought about," McCoy continued to explain.

He's seen many things change at Knoxville including working this a variety of personnel.

"This is long overdue for John (McCoy)" stated Kendra Jacobs, a former Knoxville employee. "The passion, dedication and hard work that John puts into this sport is incredible. He is always thinking about and pursuing the improvement of the sport, in all aspects," Jacobs continued. "He executes the greatest dirt racing event every year and makes it look easy, all while earning the respect of the drivers, the teams, his co-workers and the fans."

Knoxville has had several General Managers and other people working during his time there and they all echo Jacobs thoughts.

McCoy, however, knows that it's never easy.

"You never have a year where you can think 'Boy, I've got her licked this year'," McCoy, chuckled. "Every year is a challenge, but somehow we've worked around them, whatever has been dealt, outside challenges, COVID, we've somehow managed to work through things and keep the ball rolling."

The challenges always keep coming in this business. We all face them on a daily business and McCoy recognizes that. He is a believer in everyone working together and "pulling the rope in the same direction".

"The challenges seem bigger now. We have to understand change, I do. Sometimes you have to find the brake pedal, but it takes time, sometimes you have to let things play out as well and learn. There have been many changes here that have worked all around me and we just continue to adjust and keep moving forward and constantly trying to improve."

McCoy's steady approach and willingness to work with others has produced more than sound results. The World of Outlaws visit Knoxville on four different occasions and are now part of the "Knoxville Nationals".

"John McCoy is a good man and a deserving recipient of the ARPY award," explained Carlton Reimers, World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series director and son-in-law of the late Ted Johnson. "John has certainly helped with our business relationship and he's made Knoxville feel like home for us. His knowledge of the sport is unparalleled and he's always working to make things better and run smoother."

Perhaps it's McCoy's demeanor or his Midwestern roots that help him. He recognizes the value of the relationships and the bonds along with having a great understanding of the direction of the sport.

"I understand we can't keep doing business as usual and I understand we have to change. We can't go crazy. It's a struggle of life at times, everyone has their own ideas. We have to funnel them together and present a product that people will continue to enjoy and we've been fortunate enough to do that."

The proof is in the pudding in that regard. The Nationals have been a sellout for a number of years including selling out in 2023 on Wednesday of the event week.

The success of the 360 Nationals continues to grow and proudly McCoy continues to carry on the tradition of the Capitani Classic which will run for the 13th time in 2024.

"Getting the Capitani Classic a stand alone 410 race has been a big deal for me and carry on that tradition of that event," McCoy related.

In 2022 McCoy received the Ted Johnson Award presented by World Racing Group.

"I worked under Cappy the whole time, but I liked Ted and wasn't afraid to talk to him even though he had a gruff exterior," explained McCoy. "We had some really good conversations and many things came out of them. It was really enjoyable to spend time with him in Las Vegas when they did the last race and banquet out there. Winning his award was very humbling, something I'm very proud of."

It's how McCoy really is and what he says, he does. Knoxville through the guidance of McCoy and another regional Auto Racing Promoter of the Year recipient, Doug Johnson from Huset's Speedway in Brandon, S.D., are continuously working together.

In fact, the two were only separated by four votes in the final Auto Racing Promoter of the Year tally.

When related to Johnson in Florida, the margin and a congratulatory handshake, Johnson related the following, "I'm very happy and proud of John, I voted for him."

That speaks volumes in regard to the 48th Auto Racing Promoter of the Year.

"Sometimes, I think my wife likes racing more than I do. She works with us in the pit area, but I really do love it," McCoy continued. "It's Cappy's walkway at the track. I understand that. I am very proud and happy to be associated with and keep running Knoxville with the standards that Cappy set for us. It's the only way for us to keep doing it."

Back to the closing scene of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" or perhaps "The Man Who Continues to Run Knoxville Raceway", when "Mr. Scott" - a reporter - chooses not use a media story that was meant to tell to the truth of who indeed shot Liberty Valance, but chose to crumble up the story and dispose of it.

He uttered the following.

"No Sir on using the story, this is Knoxville (the movie script was 'the West') and when the legend becomes fact, print the legend..."

The fact is that John McCoy has evolved while be trained by Ralph Capitani, but he is his own man. He can proudly walk down Cappy's walkway in his own shoes, whether he wants to believe it or not is up to him. He has become a legend in the sport. He's the recipient of the 2022 Ted Johnson Award and we are now proud to have him as the 48th Annual Auto Racing Promoter of the Year.