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Michigan International Speedway plans to ply millennials with music in attracting new fans

Firefly Music Festival - Day 2

Firefly Music Festival - Day 2

Theo Wargo

In an incessant quest to capture the youth market and build a new generation of NASCAR fans, Michigan International Speedway is embracing its inner Lollapalooza.

The track announced Tuesday the debut of Keloorah, a mini-music festival that will run in conjunction with its June 12-14 and Aug. 14-16 weekends for NASCAR. About a dozen bands will play Friday and Saturday from 4-11 p.m. in an area outside turn 3. Admission will be buying a ticket (of any value) to Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.

Track president Roger Curtis, a music nut who has attended festivals such as Firefly, Lollapalooza and the Electric Daisy Carnival, said the idea grew out of Faster Horses, a country music festival at MIS that will hold its third edition in July.

Keloorah logos_Green_5

“There’s a huge connection with millennials that a band playing at prerace, even if it’s a big name, isn’t capturing the essence of what the festivals are,” Curtis told NASCAR Talk. “If we want to go after millennials, we need to do more.

“The festival is a live experience with which NASCAR shares some of the same qualities. It’s a source of escapism, a great sense of community, camaraderie and belonging. NASCAR has that, too. No one has put two and two together because a lot of millennials don’t know what NASCAR is. We can be promoting Jeff Gordon’s final races and being the fastest track in NASCAR. Those are fantastic elements, but a lot of kids we’re trying to reach, that’s not even registering with them. It’s not part of their vocabulary. We have to find a way to introduce them.”

There’s been synergy for racetracks and music festivals, whose patrons rely heavily on the same campground infrastructure needed for hosting a NASCAR weekend.

Dover International Speedway’s campgrounds will play host in June to the fourth annual edition of the Firefly festival, which will draw about 90,000 (and roughly 60,000 campers) for its June 25-28 weekend.

Curtis said Faster Horses drew 45,000 its first year and 72,000 last year. Sales will be capped at 100,000, and camping is expected to be sold out. Curtis said Michigan wants to add a rock music festival next year.

The Keloorah festival also will feature a go-kart experience, video games and an outdoor bar. Curtis is hoping to have younger NASCAR drivers such as Erik Jones, Ben Kennedy and Kyle Larson introduce the bands.

Curtis said the track will market Keloorah to millennials independent of the race weekend.

“We wanted something to stand alone and attract people who don’t normally come to a NASCAR race,” Curtis said. “People who come to party for three or four days, see bands and have a great experience and atmosphere. Then they might ask, ‘What’s that noise going on over here with the race cars?’ ”

Curtis said Michigan hopes to announce the full lineup within a month and already has signed several bands.