Tony Morgan doesn’t mind if people don’t know his name. It means he wasn’t in the spotlight—and that means nothing went wrong. As he kicks off his fourth year as fire and safety manager at Kentucky Speedway, and prepares for the Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 on June 29, Morgan makes sure his team of 200-plus workers is as efficient as possible.
This is a mental job, not as much backbreaking or toiling work. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I’ve learned the job. Now, I’m making the job mine.
When we had the Cup Race come in two years ago, I kept telling folks “It’s just another race.” Instead of a 250-mile race, it’s a 400-mile race. Instead of 10,000 people, it’s 110,000 people. The bottom line is that it’s just another race.
When the fireworks are going and people are oohing and aahing, I’m out putting tents away and looking over my shoulder.
Everything we do on the track is so orchestrated that you don’t think. You do your job, and that’s that. You get an accident and four or five pieces of equipment roll up, you do your job, and then, in five minutes, you’re back in the truck and head out.
Obviously, racing is like any other sport, you have your little league and you have your professionals. We’ve had some people here that we worked. We flew people out before. Last year, on Cup day alone, we treated 600 people in the care center—in one day.
It’s Tuesday or Wednesday before I can tell you who won the race. Seriously. Leading up to the green flag, my world’s just chaos. Once the flag drops, I get a little mental time during the race.
When the green flag drops, it’s race mode.
The Price of Speed
There are 36 NASCAR Sprint Cup races, hosted by only 23 cities. To win the race, Kentucky Speedway has spent approximately $250 million on the track, while the state has kicked in more than $93 million, according to an article in the April issue of The Lane Report.
Brad Keselowski won the 400 last year, but he’s going to have a tough road to glory this time. After an illegal rear suspension was discovered on his vehicle in April, NASCAR saddled the driver and his team with severe penalties.
Sparta is ordinarily a hamlet with a population of under 300. But on Sprint Cup race day, it becomes the third largest city in Kentucky, with big- city services: sewage, restaurants, fire department, 24-hour EMS, and dispatch center. Within three days, it all goes away.
Originally published in the June 2013 issue.
Photograph by Annette Navarro
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