From a Colby dairy farm, to president of Phoenix Raceway: Julie Giese shines

Phoenix Raceway president Julie Giese at the racetrack in March 2020.
Phoenix Raceway president Julie Giese at the racetrack in March 2020.(WSAW)
Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 9:46 PM CST
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AVONDALE, Az (WSAW) -The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series will hit the track at Phoenix Raceway this weekend. The woman overseeing it all, just one of two current female track presidents in the sport, hails from Central Wisconsin.

Julie Giese grew up on a dairy farm in Colby, and originally went to college for animal studies. But after figuring out that as she put it, sitting behind a microscope wasn’t for her, she chased a career in racing.

Through some unexpected twists and turns, she’s in a position she could have only dreamed of growing up.

Giese’s first job in racing came at Watkins Glen International, although not before a lot of rejection letters from other tracks, ones that she held on to.

“The race fan in me thinks I probably saved them because they were letters from racetracks,” Giese says with a laugh.

She went from a communications job at Watkins Glen to one at stock car racing’s Mecca: Daytona. But a different role fell into her lap on accident.

“During that time, I really fell into this project management role with the design and construction team,” Giese explains.

She learned the ins and outs of construction on the fly to help with a $400 million project at Daytona. When Phoenix Raceway was approved for a renovation a few years later, track ownership tapped her to lead it.

“Daytona was re-imagining an icon, this beautiful facility,” Giese says. “But at Phoenix, we really wanted to take the fan experience to a whole new level.”

When the track president job at Phoenix opened up in 2018, someone recommended Giese apply.

“I remember it like it was yesterday, and I think my answer was “Oh, okay,” Giese says with a hint of sarcasm, she didn’t think she was a real contender for the job.

Sure enough, she was hired, and less than a year into her tenure, NASCAR called to say they were moving championship race weekend to Phoenix in 2020.

“I think a lot of things contributed to that (bringing championship weekend to Phoenix),” says Giese. “First and foremost, the facility that we’ve built here is first class. It is what you want to represent our sport and its championship.”

Giese’s favorite moment in her current job actually wasn’t pulling off a championship weekend in the middle of a pandemic, but the year before, when Stratford’s Derek Kraus, who Giese has known his entire life, clinched the NASCAR K&N West title at Phoenix.

Giese says: “Just to see these two people from Central Wisconsin in victory lane at Phoenix Raceway, one as the track president, one had just won his first NASCAR championship. That was to me the full circle moment like ‘wow, this is pretty cool.’”

Giese’s brother and his family still run what is now a third-generation farm in between Colby and Edgar. She says it’s been too long since she was able to visit but her heart is and always will be in Central Wisconsin.

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