2022june16 Lori Collier
Photo courtesy of Richmond Raceway

New Richmond Raceway president Lori Collier Waran: ‘I want Richmond to win’

Lori Collier Waran has memories deeply rooted at Richmond Raceway.

In less than one month, those ties will only grow stronger.

Starting July 11, Waran will become the first female president of Richmond Raceway in the track’s storied 76-year history, the venue announced Friday. A longtime fan herself, Waran’s elation was evident in a Zoom teleconference from the 0.75-mile track’s Dixie Vodka Victory Club.

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“Anytime that you have the distinction to be the first anything, you take that and you have great humility and you have gratitude for that because you know that it took a lot of people to get you into that position, right?” Waran said Thursday. “You didn’t get there alone. So I’m very much looking forward to that honor.”

While she is the first woman to run the ship at Richmond Raceway, Waran becomes the third active woman to be named president or general manager of a NASCAR track, joining Sonoma Raceway’s Jill Gregory and Phoenix Raceway’s Julie Giese.

“I think that’s the bigger conversation, quite frankly, that I’m not the first,” Waran said. “I’m only the first here, but I’m not the first (in the sport). I think that is so incredible, impactful and that NASCAR is not just doing this right now. They’ve been doing this. This is just something that they’re gaining momentum in.”

Waran, who grew up visiting Richmond Raceway as a child, has a decorated career through media publications, particularly surrounding the Richmond, Virginia, area. A mother of two, Waran turns to NASCAR after a stint at Virginia Business Magazine + Media, where she served as the company’s chief revenue officer and associate publisher. Before that, she spent a decade-plus as general manager and publisher for Tribune Publishing and Landmark Media Enterprises’ Style Weekly. Her experiences at both companies centered around growing audiences and maximizing customer experiences. In previous roles, those were digital users, readers or consumers. Her focus transitions more directly to in-person experiences, which is nothing new for Waran, who specialized in event strategies for all major area events while at Style Weekly.

“We need to retain our loyal fans,” Waran said. “In media, we had to retain our loyal subscribers, our loyal users. But we also have to grow, right? We have to go out and engage new print readers, we have to engage new viewers. And in sports, we have to engage new fans. So it’s two different industries. But it’s really all the same thing. We’re just trying to grow our audience and develop our audience.”

Twice yearly, NASCAR’s premier series circles the historic short track, which will now be overseen by only its fourth track president. Waran will be just more than a month into her role when NASCAR returns to the commonwealth’s capital Aug. 13-14 with the Camping World Truck Series on Saturday and the Cup Series on Sunday.

“The iconic fan experience is so rich in Richmond, right?” Waran said. “And so we just need to continue to build upon that here. I have a background in event management and growing the event experience, so I think that’s something I can certainly bring and build upon here.

“But I also haven’t started here yet … so I kind of don’t know what I don’t know. And I’m excited to jump in and start learning.”

Waran’s first memories of Richmond Raceway stem from helping her grandfather, who lives just blocks away from the track, as he guided cars into the track’s parking lots just because he “would want to see the race so badly.”

“I’m sure this is definitely illegal now, but I would help him park those cars way back then – probably even barefoot at times during the summer,” Waran said. “I’m sure they don’t allow that now, but those memories have stayed with me such a long time, and having those memories, those are very special.”

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Waran met with the track’s staff Thursday, introducing herself and becoming more familiar with the men and women she will be working with in just a few weeks. The meeting, she said, was incredible.

“There’s a lot of tenure on the staff,” Waran said. “That’s an awesome thing to be able to walk into. And there’s a lot of passion on the team. You know, you can teach skills and you can teach someone how to do the job. But you can’t teach passion, right? So I’m excited that there’s so much already established here. That’s going to make my role and my job a lot easier.”

Richmond is Waran’s home, which is part of the reason why she has had a “permanent grin” on her face since landing this opportunity. Her oldest son is a senior at Virginia Tech, and her youngest is a junior at Hanover High School. She and her husband will celebrate their 24th anniversary Sunday. The traditions she saw firsthand first as a fan and then as an involved community member are further motivation for her to succeed as Richmond Raceway’s new president.

“I might be new to this sport, but I’m not new to success,” she said. “I have a background of success and I want Richmond to win. I’ve always wanted Richmond to win, whether it’s been with Style Weekly, Virginia Business Magazine or even before that in media. I was working with Autotrader magazine, so I can’t get away from cars, apparently.

“But I want Richmond to win. And I want to see it on a national stage in front of millions and millions of viewers a number of times a year. There’s nothing better than that.”

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Richmond Raceway on Aug. 14 for the Federated Auto Parts 400 (USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).