While working in sales in the early nineties at Madison Square Garden, Craig Rust was flipping through the channels with a couple of co-workers when he stopped on a NASCAR race. Having not quite yet grabbed the attention of the casual New York sports fan, his co-workers were not pleased and shot an "are you kidding me?" in his direction. Rust, who had been to a couple races growing up 45 minutes from Pocono Raceway, was drawn in by the occasional big racing event, but saw the huge potential of the sport from every angle.
"I’m not going to say that I saw it being as successful as it ended up, but there was a lot of potential," says Rust. "You look at all of the people in the grandstands and the sponsorships everywhere, and from a sales guy’s viewpoint, it’s all there."
A few years later, Rust found himself working for legendary racing figure Roger Penske, a racer his father had taken him to see growing up. He worked and learned at Penske’s California Speedway, then moved onto other tracks in Chicago and New York before recently taking a job as the president of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington earlier this year.
"I wanted to get back into road courses. I like the diversity there. In my opinion, on an oval course, a race can only be so compelling," says Rust. "It was a great chance to get on the ground floor of something really special with the new owners."
In March, Rust was entrusted with the health of Mid-Ohio. Even though it’s very early in his tenure, he wants to make improvements every year that will bring the casual race fan through the gates to see the best of the best in Indy car racing and motorcycle racing by making the tracks as fan-friendly and family oriented as possible.
Rust insists that the staff is great and professional and the facility changes needed are minimal, but the key is to make it a little better every year to let the fans know they are considered. His track record in managing courses in the past suggests he knows what fans want, and plans to bring it to Mid-Ohio.
"This race track is as busy as any track in the country, there’s something going on every other weekend for the next couple months," says Rust. "We just have to do the little extra things to make the fan experience as positive as we can."
For more information on Craig Rust and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course go to www.midohio.com