Exclusive INDYCAR Nation News

AMONGST THE FANS – The Power of Fan Loyalty

Doug Patterson, Open Paddock
| Jun 25, 2011

The phrase “Build it and they will come!” might seem like Hollywood cliché until you see what Rusty Wallace has done with the Iowa Speedway.  Literally built in the middle of an Iowa cornfield, the Iowa Speedway packs in the race fans from miles around, and is a source of enormous pride for those who live in Central Iowa.  The proof of that can be found by looking at the crowds that swarmed the INDYCAR Fan Village on Friday night after qualifications.  I've been to a lot of IZOD IndyCar Series autograph sessions, but I've never seen a crowd like this one. It was massive!! 

One Iowa fan and INDYCAR Nation Champion member, Kristi Welch, who didn't get in line soon enough for Friday's Autograph Session, wasn't as disappointed as you might think.  Much of that might have been because she had an incredible week of interaction with her favorite driver, Tony Kanaan.

“In 2007, I watched the Indianapolis 500 because Peter Dempsey was the Grand Marshall.  Turned out that Tony Kanaan was in the front row and he looked like one of my favorite actors, Vin Desiel,” said Kristi regarding her first IndyCar experience. “He was not only a good driver but he was fun to relate to.”

As she saw more and more of the IndyCar Series, she became a bigger and bigger fan, and made the decision to join Indy Downforce, now INDYCAR Nation, in 2009. Speaking on what drove her to the fan club and what has kept her there Kristi said, “I really liked all the benefits, the insider information, and the opportunities you can get from it.”  Autograph sessions are only one of those opportunities, pre-race parties, pre-race access, and driver meet-n-greets are also one of the benefits members enjoy. 

Earlier this week, Kristi's fan loyalty to TK payed off in spades as Kanaan began following her on Twitter, and on Thursday night, she got to meet TK at the Newton Club Horsepower Hour where Tony, Mike Conway, Ana Beatriz, and Bryan Clausen were present to mix and mingle with fans. “I kept tweeting all day that I was going to come out just to see him, so when I showed up, he was very fan-friendly, signed every autograph. He took a picture with our family and picked my daughter up and held her for the picture,” said Kristi describing her meeting with her favorite driver, and thanked INDYCAR Nation for setting up an environment where fans could learn more about their drivers and provide opportunities such as Friday night's autograph session, for fans and drivers to interact.

OpenPaddock.net provides motorsports commentary for fans, by fans including coverage of the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Mazda Road to Indy. Follow us on twitter @OpenPaddock and friend us on Facebook.


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  16. 16 Dan Frederickson 27 Jun

    Seen a list of the upcoming Fan Villages and didn't see one listed for Edmonton?


  17. 17 Mark 26 Jun
    I NEVER get to these autograph things!  I've been to two races this year (Milwaukee and Iowa), and I missed out on both sessions!  I need to get to the WHOLE weekend and not just race day.  :(
  18. 18 Jenn Page 26 Jun

    TK was very nice and fan friendly Thursday night.  I was at the HPH show when he picked up Kristi's daughter and the group around just gave an aww.  I also want to Thank Indy Nation for the WONDERFUL experience I had yesterday.  It ended perfect with my favorite driver winning.  Andretti fan from early and till the end.

  19. 19 John 25 Jun

     Great story.  Sounds like Kristi and her family had a great time.


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