News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Breaking News

Auto Racing

July 18, 2012

The King of Speed

Curtis' short-track pedigree transformed into something big

TERRE HAUTE — Born in Terre Haute, Roger Curtis grew up on Franklin Street, moved to Riley with his family when he was in sixth grade and attended Thornton Elementary School and Honey Creek Junior High before graduating from Terre Haute South High School in 1985.

“I came from a very hard-working, blue-collar background,” recalled Curtis, who took classes at Purdue University for two years before transferring to Indiana State, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1990.

“I learned a great work ethic and financial acumen from my mom and dad.”

Now 45, Curtis is president of Michigan International Speedway (MIS) at Brooklyn, Mich. The 2-mile oval facility, which can hold about 99,000 spectators, serves as host for two NASCAR Sprint Cup races each year as well as NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA events.

Despite his busy schedule, Curtis recently took time to reflect on his fond memories of Terre Haute and his rise to prominence in the motorsports world to the Tribune-Star.

Catching the racing bug

As a seventh-grader, Curtis checked out his first Terre Haute Action Track race. It was the Hut Hundred for U.S. Auto Club midget cars.

It didn’t take him long to realize he was hooked on watching fast cars and their drivers battle to stay ahead of each other.

“I played tennis one year [at South],” Curtis mentioned. “But I spent most of my time at race tracks. I went to the Action Track. I went to the State Fairgrounds [in Indianapolis] … wherever there was a race within driving distance, I usually went.”

“He was pretty much a race fan,” confirmed his father, Charles Curtis. “He’d run off every once in a while [as a teenager] to watch a race, sometimes without telling me until he got back.”

During Roger Curtis’ teenage years, his favorite drivers were Sammy Swindell in sprint cars, Mark Martin and Bill Elliott in NASCAR and Tom Sneva and Rick Mears in open-wheel racing.

As an ISU student, a maturing Curtis occasionally visited the Ballyhoo Tavern with buddies. But partying ranked much lower on his list of favorite activities than music and racing.

“Usually, I was either at a concert or a race track,” insisted Curtis, whose Terre Haute jobs included being a night-shift bus boy at the south Denny’s and working at the ISU library.

“I didn’t mind the hard jobs … whatever I had to do to make it work.”

Choosing between two passions

Curtis’ goal as a young adult was to save enough money for a trip to Los Angeles so he could start a career in the music industry — not as a singer or guitarist — but working behind the scenes for a record label.

Upon his arrival in L.A., he worked for Capitol Records for about three months before deciding big-city life wasn’t for him.

Curtis then moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., where he worked for a small record label and waited tables at a Mexican restaurant. That’s where he met his future wife Marla, who was from Michigan and preparing to attend the University of North Carolina.

“I distracted her in a big way,” he said with a chuckle. “We decided this [relationship] was going to work and we’d probably end up being together.”

Once in the early 1990s, Curtis took Marla to a NASCAR Winston Cup race in Charlotte for her birthday. That turned out to be a memorable day in their lives.

“I looked at her and said, ‘I’m going to get a job in racing.’ “ he remembered. “She said, ‘OK, whatever it takes.’ ”

Having determined his future would not be in the music industry after all, Curtis got busy making as many phone contacts as possible to motorsports executives.

“We were in a dumpy apartment,” he mentioned. “She quit school. And we were eating macaroni and cheese every night. But I had decided this [finding a job in motorsports] was what I was going to do.”

Curtis eventually secured a connection at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which he used to work for free for then-NASCAR driver Dave Marcis.

His first real motorsports employment was with Bobby Allison Motorsports in May 1992. His primary responsibility was finding sponsors for Allison’s team.

Curtis continued climbing the racing ladder through the 1990s, marrying Marla in December 1993 in Charlotte along the way. In early 2000, he was promoted to the position of senior director of marketing and sales at Richmond International Raceway in Virginia.

Meanwhile, he had developed a fondness for Michigan International Speedway.

“I kept going to every single race there,” Curtis pointed out. “We had just adopted it. My wife was from Michigan and her family had been going there for years.”

‘Best job in

the world’


In May 2006, Brett Shelton resigned as MIS president. Curtis, who was working as vice president of marketing and sales at California Speedway at the time, received a call offering him the position.

He accepted and hopped on a Michigan-bound plane three days later.

“It’s the best job in the world,” Curtis emphasized six years later. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love the area. We have some great fans here. We’re close to my family and we’re close to my wife’s family.”

Although signing paperwork is one of Curtis’ duties, he’s not the stuffed-shirt type of executive. On the contrary, he enjoys mingling with paying customers.

For example, for every 1,000 Twitter followers he receives, he randomly picks one to hang out with him during the next MIS race.

Earlier this year, a young lady asked Curtis on Twitter if she could marry her sweetheart at MIS because that was where they had met.

Curtis not only said yes, he went online and got himself ordained as a minister so he could conduct the ceremony in Victory Lane after a Nationwide Series race. The happy newlyweds also received a lap in the pace car as part of the deal.

“We’re in the entertainment business,” Curtis explained. “There is a level of professionalism that has to exist… But I have always felt we need to do all that we can do for our fans.

“Our purpose is to create lasting memories every time fans come to our track.”

Curtis certainly accomplished that goal when he dressed like Elvis and played cornhole with fans in the infield after an ARCA race on a Friday night.

“Fans are shocked to see a track president walk through the infield with a drink or grabbing a burger,” he noted.

This year, attendance figures are increasing at MIS.

“Finally, word of mouth is working,” Curtis proclaimed. “MIS is a great place to watch a race.”

Next races at Michigan International Speedway will be the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series VFW 200 on Aug. 18 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 on Aug. 19. For ticket information, call 1-800-354-1010.

Curtis, who returns to Terre Haute to visit family about twice a year, said his father Charles and his sister Michelle Naugle live in the Terre Haute area and his mother Peg Curtis lives in an assisted-living facility in Greencastle. He and Marla have a 12-year-old son and two daughters, who are 9 and 7.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Auto Racing
  • Metro roundup: Post 346 rallies past Rockville

    Wayne Newton Post 346 scored a run in the sixth and two in the seventh to get past Rockville 6-3 in an American Legion baseball regional at Terre Haute North on Wednesday.

    July 23, 2014

  • Todd Golden: Bigelow part of Action Track’s lifeblood

    Many things have changed since the Terre Haute Action Track opened in 1952, but the one constant is dirt.

    July 18, 2014

  • Metro: ISU graduate Johnson sixth in shot at Monaco

    Indiana State graduate Felisha Johnson competed in her first International Association of Athletics Federations Diamond League track and field meeting Friday, placing sixth in a shot put competition that featured six of the top seven throwers in the world for 2014.

    July 18, 2014

  • SPT071614sprints clauson.jpg Clauson breaks Action Track drought in Don Smith Classic

    Bryan Clauson wins the Don Smith Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track.

    July 17, 2014 4 Photos

  • schrader.jpg Joe Buckles: New alliance features powerful figures trying to lower costs

    Possibly no off track developments involving NASCAR racing  over the past 20 to 30 years has generated as much interest and speculation as last week’s announcement regarding the formation of the new Race Team Alliance organization.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Riley 10s go 4-1, place second in state tourney

    Riley’s 10-and-under all-star team finished as runner-up over the weekend at the Cal Ripken baseball Central Indiana tournament.

    July 14, 2014

  • Trackside: Valley race fans should be happy

    Whether your preference is non-wing sprint cars or late-model stock cars, this is the week that Wabash Valley race fans look forward to all summer.
    The best of the best is the only way to describe what will unfold this week at Valley ovals. First comes the continuation of the popular UMP Summer National “Hell Week” tour for late models and its annual stop at Terre Haute Action Track tonight. USAC’s Indiana Sprint Week opens later this weekend with stops at Gas City on Friday night, Kokomo on Saturday and Lawrenceburg on Sunday evening.

    July 8, 2014

  • Metro sports: Pounds among winners at Crossroads Dragway

    Ron Pound was one of the winners in Crossroads Dragway racing on Saturday.

    June 30, 2014

  • Trackside: Rising costs make Valley racing more difficult than ever

    The life and times of your weekly short-track racer has long lived up to the colorful and exciting ways coveted by those in the stands who gather each weekend to watch their favorite team or driver compete.
    While the weekly trek to the race track has always presented its challenges, the task in recent times has made those trips to the many dirt ovals across the country a little more difficult to make.

    June 24, 2014

  • Metro roundup: Lady Rex take Ohio softball tournament

    The Lady Rex 18u softball team had a 5-1 record over the weekend to win the Ohio Premier tournament.

    June 23, 2014

  • Trackside: Likable Dave Darland still chalking up victories at 48

    One of short-track racing’s all-time open-wheel greats continues to add to his growing legacy.
    When veteran racer Dave Darland rolled into victory lane at Lincoln Park Speedway last week, he notched his 94th USAC career win. Add the countless number of open-competition wins over the years and it’s easy to surmise the popular driver is approaching the lofty 200-win plateau.
    His latest checkered flag came in the USAC Indiana Midget Week show at the same 5⁄16-mile dirt oval where he cut his teeth in an open-cockpit car more than 30 years ago.

    June 18, 2014

  • Groomer among Lincoln Park winners; Bell, Abreu take Indiana Midget Week races

    Ralph Groomer was a feature winner in racing on Saturday at Lincoln Park Speedway.

    June 15, 2014

  • Trackside: Thumbs up given for upcoming Indiana Midget Week

    In his many years of serving in the public relation department for the U.S. Auto Club, Dick Jordan has developed a keen sense for rating the overall health and future of dirt-track open-wheel racing.
    So when the veteran publicist voices a note of guarded optimism for the running of an upcoming series, one knows something special looms on the horizon.

    June 10, 2014

  • Metro sports: Cassell wins Lawrence County title

    Chris Cassell put together two rounds of 4-under-par 68 for a two-shot victory for his first Albright Motors Lawrence County Open championship on Sunday.

    June 9, 2014

  • Metro: White wins mile, Sebastian 5K at TH Memorial Day events

    Nolan White won the mile run and Matthew Sebastian won the 5-kilometer walk during Terre Haute Parks Memorial Day events Monday at Deming Park.

    May 28, 2014

  • IndyCar Indy 500 Heli_Tayl.jpg Six former winners chasing Indy 500 championship

    Angst, frustration and heartbreak are all part of the lore of the Indianapolis 500, but when a driver finally takes the checkered flag, all of those words are quickly relegated to the back of their mind and replaced with pure joy. That emotion keeps bringing them back, and for the 98th running of the Indy 500, six former winners will chase that passion again.

    May 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Darland wins Hulman Classic for 50th trip to USAC victory lane

    For once, the Terre Haute Action Track and the U.S. Auto Club got a weather break Wednesday night, a window amidst threatening conditions to allow the 44th Tony Hulman Classic to go off without a serious hitch.
    Some might say Dave Darland got a break too, but most would agree instead that the veteran sprint car driver has learned to make his own breaks by this time. He won the Classic for the second time in his career — the first coming in 1993 — and is a three-time USAC winner this season while no one else has won more than once.

    May 21, 2014

  • Trackside: Tony Hulman Classic set for tonight at T.H. Action Track

    Looking for a potential dark horse winner in tonight’s scheduled running of the U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned running of the Tony Hulman Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track?
    The task is indeed a challenging one. The USAC sprint circuit offers some of the most competitive forms of racing anywhere in the country and picking a potential winner out of a field that has at least eight to 10 drivers capable of making it to victory lane is very much a guessing game.

    May 21, 2014

  • Unlikely duo on Indy GP pole

    Verizon IndyCar drivers in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis showcased rooster tails Friday as the rains came down for the Firestone Fast Six qualifying. Red flag conditions briefly halted the final session as officials stopped action for safety reasons.

    May 9, 2014

  • carpenter.jpg Owner-driver Ed Carpenter getting ready for Indy run

    Before too many pages get torn off the May calendar, IndyCar team owner and driver Ed Carpenter is trying to enjoy his free time away from race tracks.
    Wednesday afternoon was an example of that.
    The Wabash Valley native — born in Paris, Ill., and lived in Marshall, Ill., until he was 8 — signed autographs and granted media interviews while the car he drove in the 2008 Indianapolis 500 sat in the parking lot of the 500 Automotive Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership in Vermillion County.

    May 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drivers give thumbs up to Indy’s new road course

    IndyCar drivers were unified Wednesday: The new road course at Indianapolis is a whole lot better than the old one.

    April 30, 2014

  • Trackside: Track promoters realize rainy weather is part of territory

    The life and times of a race-track operator or promoter is sure to test the patience and character of any individual adventurous enough to journey into such a risky profession.
    Especially if your name is Bob Sargent or Reece O’Connor and your race dates are at the Terre Haute Action Track.

    April 29, 2014

  • SPT 051712 TYLER WAMPLER.jpg Metro roundup: ISU’s Wampler makes national watch list

    Indiana State’s Tyler Wampler has been named to the watch list for the 2014 Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year award.

    April 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 2014 KISS Series opener today at Terre Haute Action Track

    When the 2014 King of Indiana Sprint Series gets underway today, it will be at one of the most challenging ovals on the schedule. The Terre Haute Action Track earned its name years ago.
    The Action Track is a big half mile, with sweeping turns and high-speed straightaways that demand the best from drivers, cars and crew. This may be illustrated by mentioning previous KISS winners at the Terre Haute oval — Jon Stanbrough (three times), Levi Jones, Tony Elliott, Shane Cottle and most recently Robert Ballou.

    April 26, 2014

  • bb8991b19af8b067e44478c_.jpg VIDEO: Windom seeking strong start to USAC Silver Crown Series at Action Track

    Chris Windom has big plans.
    Sure, the 23-year-old would like to make the ascent from success in the U.S. Auto Club to the fame and fortune of the larger racing series of NASCAR.
    The Canton, Ohio, native who makes his home in West Lafayette has his sights on a big USAC season in 2014. Windom was second in Silver Crown points in 2013 and ninth in the sprint series.

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo 1 Video

  • Trackside: If weather cooperates, racers are set to start their engines

    With any assistance from the weather, the Wabash Valley motorsports season is expected to shift into high gear this weekend on several fronts.

    April 2, 2014

  • Jim Nabors at Indy 500.jpg Nabors to sing ‘Indiana’ one last time at IMS

    INDIANAPOLIS — Beloved actor-entertainer and legendary Indianapolis 500 icon Jim Nabors will sing “(Back Home Again in) Indiana” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the final time prior to the start of the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25. Watch YouTube Video

    March 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • gary bettenhausen.jpg Action Track great Gary Bettenhausen dies

    Gary Bettenhausen, a legend of the Terre Haute Action Track, has died at age 72.

    March 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kurt Busch to try Indy 500, Coca-Cola 600 on same day

    It’s been 10 years since a driver last attempted running both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, a feat so grueling that only Tony Stewart has successfully completed all 1,100 miles.
    Now Kurt Busch wants to give “the double” a try and he will have cars capable of winning both races.

    March 4, 2014

  • Kurt Busch 70 percent sure he’ll run in Indy 500

    Kurt Busch put his chances at “70 percent” at running the Indianapolis 500 this year because of recent developments that have pushed a potential program along.

    January 27, 2014

Latest News
AP Auto Racing News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-lift Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Raw: Gunmen Attack Iraqi Prison Convoy Gen. Odierno Discusses Ukraine, NATO at Forum Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' Plane Leaves Ukraine With More Crash Victims Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Raw: Deadly Storm Hits Virginia Campground Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Raw: UN School Used As Shelter Hit by Tank Shell Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors
NDN Video
Bill Murray Continues To Be Just Bill Murray By Eating Some Free Bill Murray Ice Cream Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect Hillary Clinton Blamed Bill's Affair With Monica Lewinsky On Abuse He Suffered As A Child 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity