Long before the highly-anticipated Daytona 500 began, JHE Production and Daytona International Speedway worked extensively to plan fan entertainment leading up to one of the world’s premier motorsports events.
With months of planning required, JHE had a tremendous amount of work to do before and during Speedweeks 2016 at DAYTONA.
Starting Saturday, Feb. 13, three opening ceremonies topped the list of responsibilities including live shows for the ARCA and Sprint Unlimited races as well as DAYTONA 500 Qualifying presented by Kroger.
The second week was full of activities from experiential activation to Freightliner hospitality to a live concert by Florida Georgia Line to four opening ceremonies.
For JHE’s experiential activation teams, two tours were the focus. The first, NASCAR Acceleration Nation, was a youth-oriented display designed to teach 8-12 year olds the fundamentals of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in a fun and relevant way.
JHE also was enlisted to build a 65 feet wide by 20 feet deep experiential activation for Florida Lottery. The Florida Lottery secured driver autograph and question-and-answer sessions including Chris Buescher, David Gilliland, Ty Dillon, Landon Cassill, Austin Dillon, John Wes Townley and Ben Kennedy.
The client services team participated in the race weekend fun by organizing a hospitality program for Freightliner with an estimated 280 guests over the course of four days. The guests were entertained by special visitors including the DAYTONA 500 pole sitter Chase Elliott and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson.
It was, however, the live shows department that had to juggle multiple high-profile events. Opening ceremonies for the Can-Am Duel, the NextEra Energy Resources 250 Camping World Truck Series race and the PowerShares QQQ 300 XFINITY race were tackled first.
In addition, JHE enhanced each drivers meeting including the Can-Am Duel, Camping World Truck Series, XFINITY and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with an 8-by-36 light box with artwork and adorned the meeting space outside with 10 DAYTONA Rising flags.
Throughout the week, JHE assisted long-time partner FOX Sports with a broadcast stage for its RaceDay shows featuring commentators Jeff Gordon, Michael Waltrip, Chris Myers and Darrell Waltrip.
For the DAYTONA 500, JHE had assets spanning 824 feet of pit road including, a VIP introduction stage that highlighted the DAYTONA Rising project and its founding partners, a driver introduction set that paid homage to past champions, a live 25-minute concert with a nationally-televised song, the 2015 DAYTONA 500 Champion’s car display, 35 large flags honoring every DAYTONA 500 champion and a custom-built national anthem stage that is created new each year to highlight the DAYTONA 500 logo.
The event services team ran point on the pre-race concert featuring award-winning, country music duo Florida Georgia Line. Entertaining fans for approximately 25 minutes prior to the start of the 58th annual event, JHE designed a multi-tier set. The center stage was home to Florida Georgia Line and enhanced with 600 additional square feet to allow the performers more space. The back of the stage was ornamented with three 12-by-15 screens featuring band-driven content. Flanking the center stage were two stages featuring 16-by-9 IMAG screens with live video feed. The 3,712-square-foot concert stage was comprised of four total stages and five hand-pushed risers, 15 percent more square feet than 2015.
Ten full-time JHE staff, 50 hired personnel and five Freightliner tractors were dedicated to the concert production. The team had 10 minutes to strike and depart the frontstretch at the conclusion of the concert. While tear down was underway, other members of the JHE team were in full swing with driver introductions.
Dating back to July 2015, Daytona International Speedway challenged JHE to develop new concepts for drivers’ introduction. Matt Davis, vice president of operations, created two internal teams and challenged each team to develop fresh concepts. With a blank slate, both teams went to work. Soon after, two completely different ideas surfaced and were presented to the client in early September. After numerous revisions and great feedback, the final design reflected components of multiple schematics featuring specific stage angles, video screens and more.
Finally, after months of creative ideation and planning, the big moment was here. The driver introduction set was 53 feet wide by 8 feet deep with a 172-foot catwalk. The driver corral backstage was 30 feet long by 10 feet wide. In total, drivers would cover more than 200 feet on JHE-constructed assets which is approximately the length of two NBA basketball courts.
The set backdrop featured past DAYTONA 500 Champions in the center with fabric façade overlays for the remainder of the set. Video boards appeared on the right and left side of the stage equipped with video playback capabilities. For the nationally-televised live production, two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers were introduced at a time, meeting for a quick photo next to the Harley J. Earl DAYTONA 500 Trophy proudly displayed in the center of the stage. Pyrotechnics also were incorporated for each introduction. Once the drivers made it to the end of the 172-foot catwalk, they boarded a Toyota Tundra for a parade lap around the speedway, a logistical challenge that JHE also manages. After driver introductions concluded, the team had 10 minutes to remove all evidence of the set.
Ready in the wings was the JHE national anthem and flyover staff. They were in place and ready to call in the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, averaging 450 to 500 miles per hour, to arrive overhead exactly as the last note of the national anthem was being sung by the 82nd Airborne Division All-American Chorus. In order to make that happen, it takes coordination between JHE, FOX Sports, NASCAR, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force.
After a stirring rendition of the national anthem and a breathtaking flyover, it was only seconds before the next part of the program was underway. Four JHE team members were standing by at a custom-designed and built 20 feet by 8 feet presentation set to allow track president Joie Chitwood to return the 2015 DAYTONA 500 Champion race car to car owner Roger Penske. Storyboards with interesting facts about the 2015 race and moments as a DAYTONA 500 Champion adorned the sides of the set. The car and set were on display all day for fans to enjoy.
Following the race command, JHE executed a ribbon cutting with a special Toyota Camry pace car. The Camry drove through an extra-large red ribbon in commemoration of the opening of DAYTONA Rising. While the task may seem simple, it required extensive coordination with the track, NASCAR and FOX Sports and impeccable timing.
Two weeks, seven driver introductions, 50 full-time JHE staff and 50 part-time staff pulled off one of the most difficult and multi-faceted opening ceremonies of the year.