Mark Faber puts growth plan pedal to the metal
Mark Faber is a little over one year into his job as executive vice president and general manager at Texas Motor Speedway, and he’s pretty clear on one thing: He wants the racing venue to be more integrated into the community.
When he arrived in August of 2022, one of the first calls Faber made was to Sean Gleason, the CEO of Professional Bull Riders, which has a big presence in Fort Worth.
“I told him your fans are our fans. Let’s work together,” Faber said.
Now the two organizations are selling a ticket package together. But that’s only one of the most obvious signs that Faber wants to do things differently.
“I want to make sure people know that we’re for working together,” he said. “We want to do things in the Fort Worth community. We want to collaborate with the Fort Worth community.”
That is a different mindset than in the past when the Speedway was an isolated concrete complex 25 miles north of downtown Fort Worth and next to Interstate 35, , Faber said. Now the area has grown with hotels, retail and the ever-popular Buc-ee’s bringing visitors on a daily basis.
“Even if they weren’t here, we want people to know we’re a part of Fort Worth,” said Faber.
In the past, visitors to the Speedway could be forgiven for not knowing if they were in Fort Worth. Eddie Gossage, the former general manager and longtime racing promoter, put up signs around the track similar to speed limit signs that read, “No Limits, Texas” instead of “Fort Worth, Texas.”
That rankled a few feathers, particularly as the city had helped fund the $250 million track owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. that opened in 1996. But it was also indicative of the swagger of Gossage and NASCAR in general as they rode a growing wave of fan support.
That popularity has leveled off since then and one of the first things Faber did was remove those “No Limits, Texas” signs, which he saw as a source of friction with the city. However, the marketing component will remain in place, but the signs are gone, he said.
That inclusive attitude has made an impression on city leaders.
“Texas Motor Speedway is an icon of sports and entertainment in our region, and I have been truly impressed by Mark’s willingness to partner with the city and Visit Fort Worth to build collaboration and excitement over all that is in the works at TMS for the fans,” said Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker in a statement.
The Speedway is also continuing its commitment to Speedway Children’s Charities. Since 1997, Speedway Children’s Charities has distributed more than $11.1 million in funding to nonprofit organizations in Tarrant, Denton, Collin and Dallas counties.
Faber is a big believer in collaboration.
Growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, Faber lived not far from what was then the NCAA’s headquarters. After he graduated with a double major in history and political science and received an MBA from the University of Kansas, he sought employment at the NCAA. When that didn’t happen, he went into banking. But he knew he wasn’t really cut out for that career.
“All the commercial loan officers would be reading the ‘Wall Street Journal’ or the business section, and there I’d be, reading the sports section,” he said.
In 1988, the Final Four was in Kansas City and Faber connected with the head of the Orange Bowl at the time. Committed to following his dream to work in the sports industry, Faber then headed to Miami and interned at the Orange Bowl. Six weeks later he was ticket manager.
Those Orange Bowl connections eventually led him to the Dallas Cowboys as he and others from Miami followed Jimmy Johnson when he became coach. Faber’s job was to sell Dallas Cowboys content to stations in the five-state area.
“You have to remember the Cowboys were not what they are now,” he said. “This was before the Super Bowl run, and Jerry Jones had just fired Coach Landry,” said Faber.
Faber stayed with the Cowboys until 2002. He learned a lot from Jones.
“When Jerry Jones bought the team, things were not really going well, and Jones knew he wanted to maximize the team and its brand,” he said.
Jones asked questions about the way things were done. When he was told that was just the way they were done, Jones would ask why.
“That stuck with me because it led to where he has built the team and its value to this day,” said Faber.
Faber was also impressed with how Jones treated employees.
“If someone’s family member was ill or in the hospital, he always reached out,” he said.
Faber began as the sales and syndication coordinator for Dallas Cowboys Television Productions and was promoted to vice president of Dallas Cowboys Training Camp sales and marketing.
His most recent sports business post was with Anschutz Entertainment Group as the senior vice president of global partnerships. There he worked to help develop Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. In 2019, T-Mobile Arena was the highest-grossing concert venue in the U.S. (with capacities of more than 15,000), reporting $164.4 million in sales.
It’s that sort of success he wants to bring to Texas Motor Speedway.
Part of that success will mean improving corporate sales, ticketing and creating an environment where companies and events want to come to Texas Motor Speedway.
Faber knows when it works and when it doesn’t. He attended the Rolling Stones concert held at the Speedway in 1997 when many fans got little satisfaction listening to the concert as they sat stranded on I-35. That has changed.
Faber and other leaders are looking forward to October when the Hwy 30 Music Fest will host a four-day concert series in October headlined by Zach Bryan, Dierks Bentley and Koe Wetzel.
“As soon as we arrived in Fort Worth to scout for a second location, it immediately felt like home,” said Gordy Schroeder, the founder of the festival in a statement. It started as a school fundraiser in a tiny Idaho town in 2009 and has grown to be one of the largest festivals in that state and a destination for fans of “red dirt” and Americana music.
“We’re really excited to be doing this and it won’t be the last,” said Faber. “There will be more to come.”
Faber believes people are ready to get out following a pandemic that had them getting comfortable viewing events from their couches.
“We’ve got to give them a reason to get out, offer an experience they can’t get at home,” he said. “That may mean enhancements to our concert lineup, trackside fan activations, and other extras.”
There may also be changes to the track as well.
“Motorsports is always at our core,” he said. “But we have to keep evolving.”
For now, Faber is getting ready for a big weekend, the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race.
According to the Fort Worth Sports Commission, this race and the other 300 or so events hosted at the Speedway generate an annual estimated economic impact of $300 million.
Faber will have something new to show off for the race. The Speedway has updated its large “Big Hoss” digital screen.
“Bigger Hoss is up and running,” said Chris Curtis, founder and chairman of Argyle-based GoVision, the digital screen company that set up the original screen. “It was done in a very tight timeframe, and we overcame lots of challenges to get it done in time.”
The new Bigger Hoss is 10% larger at 22,692 square feet and has a higher resolution.
“We’re still doing things big here,” said Faber.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com.
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