Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage is big on promoting everything the track has to offer.
The races are better. The video screen is better. The fan experience is better. Everything is better at TMS.
While Gossage may be prone to hyperbole, there is one aspect of the track that may be hard to argue. There may be no better seat in the house than the one occupied by Interstate Batteries at the track’s Lone Star Tower.
“Seat” is an understatement. So is “suite,” but it’s definitely sweet. The massive 3,000-square-foot condominium, which is owned by the Dallas-based battery company, has been there since the condos were built shortly after the track opened in 1997.
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Located in the Lone Star Tower, Interstate Batteries’ 3,000-square-foot suite is a recruiting, meeting, partying and race-watching tool like none other at the track.
The condominium is actually two condos in one. When they were being built, Interstate owners Norm and Tommy Miller opted to buy two condos and have the wall knocked down between them.
That move created an opulent residence — a recruiting, meeting, partying and race-watching tool like none other at the track. It also doubles as a sort of museum for the success stories of the storied NASCAR race team sponsored by Interstate Batteries.
“The way the folks at Interstate Batteries have done it makes it like a museum full of true racing memorabilia,” Gossage says. “From Dale Jarrett to Bobby Labonte to Kyle Busch, it is full of actual, race-used helmets, uniforms and trophies from victory lne at some of the biggest races in the world. Norm Miller and the folks at Interstate know how to use their unit to its fullest.”
And use it, they do.
While no one lives full time in the four-bedroom suite, the company makes sure to get as much use out of it as possible.
It’s a busy place during the two Sprint Cup race weekends at the track, the IndyCar Series weekend in the summer as well at Red Bull air races in September. The condo is also used for off-site meetings for the company, company parties and whatever else Interstate Batteries needs it for.
For race weekends, such as the November AAA Texas 500, there can be up to 90 people looking down on Turn 2 or the backstretch from the condominium.
Just don’t expect it to be up for rent to the public anytime soon.
“We always say thank you for the compliments, but it’s just for use for Norm Miller, his family and the Interstate execs,” says Charlie Brim, who is the manager of advertising and sponsorships for Interstate Batteries. “There was one time when the Final Four came to Dallas and when the Super Bowl was coming to town; Norm had the idea of renting it out to high-end fans, but it never came to fruition. For the most part, it’s just for our folks.”
For race weekends, such as the November AAA Texas 500, the normal crowd includes Norm Miller, who is now the chairman and owner of Interstate Batteries, as well as race-team owner Joe Gibbs. Gibbs is the owner of the Sprint Cup powerhouse team led by driver Kyle Busch. Interstate Batteries is one of his main sponsors, and the company does what it can to take care of Gibbs.
While those two are normally at the condo, that doesn’t mean they have the place to themselves.
On a race day, there can be up to 90 people looking down on Turn 2 or the backstretch from the condominium.
Why is the place so popular? It could be the four bedrooms, of which two are master suites. It could be because of the five bathrooms. It could be the pair of spiral staircases that flank either side of the condo. It could be the massive dining room or the two kitchens.
It could be the roof access, which was a main selling point when the Miller brothers opted to buy a penthouse spot on the 10th floor. It could be the viewing areas of the track, as people can watch races from inside the condo, from the balcony or from the roof.
“By entertaining people at a race, you have the best of an event,” Brim says. “It’s like a country club or a nice restaurant, but you have the race going on so there’s always entertainment. They can walk away from the entertainment and you can have bonding going on, which is really important when you’re entertaining top customers.”
There have been no major renovations since the place was built. Brim says the only things that have changed are the carpet, some paint and other routine maintenance.
Brim declined to say how much the condominium cost the Millers, but rest assured, it wasn’t cheap.
There are 76 residential units in Lone Star Tower, and the track currently owns five, which it can do with as it wants, or sell.
The track will occasionally rent an available unit for race weekends. A 1,600-square-foot condo during a Sprint Cup weekend can run from $12,000 to $14,000, and that doesn’t include tickets to the race or food in the furnished condominium.
Still, they have takers just because of the experience.
“You can see and hear everything that’s going on,” says Jon Eschberger, the director of real estate at Lone Star Tower. “The back walls on some of them are glass. The view is panoramic. As you can tell, it’s unquestionably more than just your typical race environment.”
The Millers have some high-rent neighbors, as well. Bruton Smith, who owns the track, has a place there, too. But Smith’s condo is just a single unit.
While the Miller condo is used to entertaining high-end clientele, it also can be used as a recruiting tool. If potential race sponsors are guests and walk into the place, they are immediately taken aback by what they see.
“As long as there’s a racetrack and as long as there are races at the race track, then we have access to all of those events in a premium location,” Brim says. “It’s an ongoing expense there, but you have to look at it as a long-term play. It makes perfect sense to leverage that investment by having a way to entertain our customers. We see this as a minor expense for a major impact for a person who may go to the track without any interest in the race. You can see it every time a person comes to the track.”
AAA Texas 500
- Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 7-8
- Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth
- Races: O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge (2:30 p.m. Saturday); AAA Texas 500 (1 p.m. Sunday)
- Pre-race concert: Sammy Hagar & The Circle (Sunday)
- For more information and tickets, visit www.texasmotorspeedway.com.