Life in the Fast Lane

Race cars line up for the “Formation Lap Salute” prior to the start of the Auto Club 400. Photo by Foster Snell

By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)

Dave Allen (B.A., ’97), president of the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, has racing in his blood. His father competed in variety of race cars and introduced Allen to his first race when he was two-months old. By the age of eight, he was racing Go-Karts and hooked on going fast!

Helmet on and ready to race, Dave Allen is pictured with his father and sister.

While at CSU, Allen worked at Anheuser-Busch giving tours. Shortly after graduation, he met the corporation’s director of sports marketing. When Allen shared his dream of working in racing, the fellow called the track president in Laguna Seca, California, and put Allen on the line. The track president told him they did not have an internship program but invited him to visit the track when he returned to California. Allen immediately went to his apartment, packed up all his belongings, drove through the night, and was at the track office before the president arrived for work the following morning. The fellow was so impressed that he created a paid internship position for him.

One day, Allen spotted one of his racing heroes, Roger Penske, walking ahead of him at the track. This former speech communication major introduced himself to Penske and asked, “What do you look for in your employees?” The next day, the track president informed him Penske had called; “You made an impression!” he told Allen.

Dave Allen (left) with racing legend Roger Penske (center) and his son, Greg, at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 400 race at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California.

After the internship, Allen took a year off to join a family friend’s Sprint Car race team. In 1999, he interviewed for a job at Penske’s California Speedway in Fontana and was hired in sales and marketing. In 2002, he was named senior director; in 2006, he became vice president, overseeing sponsorships and hospitality as well as suite and consumer sales. In 2008, he was instrumental in securing naming rights for the track, which became the Auto Club Speedway; he has been president since 2014.

Auto Club Speedway sits on 550 acres. It has a five-lane two-mile D-shaped oval, one of the fastest tracks on the NASCAR circuit, as well as a race-kart track, a drag strip, and an RC track. The Speedway hosts 320 days of activities annually. Racing events range from its signature NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 to motorcycle races to the BUG-IN, which features wildly painted Volkswagen vehicles drag racing. The Speedway also is home to movie, television, and commercial productions; new-car testing; car shows; and many other events. This past Fathers’ Day, dads could drive an Indy-style car around the track or ride shotgun as a driver raced around the track at 120 mph.

The company that owns the Speedway also owns 11 other tracks across the country, so Dave “does a fair amount of travel,” and he supervises the track in Phoenix. He also serves on a number of boards and finds time for wife Leddy and daughters Abbie, Maddison, and Mikayla. His fast-lane life is “challenging and stressful, but it is fun!” He considers himself “very lucky to have had this run.” He also is “proud to be a CSU alumnus.” He says, “looking back, college was one of the best parts of my life; the biggest thing CSU taught me is never give up.” His career demonstrates he learned that lesson well.