PR Personality Profile: Kristi King Drives NASCAR PR Victory Lap

Kristi King doesn't surprise very easily, but her nonplussed attitude was temporarily put on hold when she discovered she was the winner of NASCAR's 2006 Track PR Representative of the Year Award. "I was very shocked when I heard my name called," says King, who is director of public relations at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, AL. King received her award last month at the annual NASCAR PR Summit, which pays tribute to the auto racing industry's PR professionals. And while King may have been caught off- guard by the tribute, her skills in crisis communications earned the attention and admiration of her peers. In the past year alone, King successfully faced issues ranging from torrential storms disrupting the racing schedule, a highly publicized protest rally held outside of her track by the National Association of Minority Racing Fans, and the disruptions caused by a Hollywood movie company shooting a Will Farrell comedy called "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." King's devotion to NASCAR spans her life. "I grew up 15 minutes from the North Carolina Speedway," she recalls, adding she and her friends occasionally skipped school to watch the races. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1994, she tried her hand at traditional office-based consulting at a company in Charlotte, but after one month on the job she realized it was a poor fit. Ironically, an offer arose at the same time for her to take over the PR position at North Carolina Speedway. "I am the poster child of being in the right place at the right time," she says, with a laugh. King served as director of public relations at North Carolina for 10 years, and during that period she gained an industry-wide profile for offering PR assistance at other tracks. A temporary assignment at Talladega to fill in for the track's ailing PR director became a full-time job when the director passed away from cancer in June 2004. But King has no time to rest on her laurels, let alone show off her new award. "This is going to be one of the biggest years we ever had," she says of the 2006 season, which includes a repaving of the track surface (for the first time since 1979), the local debut of NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series, and the return of Will Farrell and his Hollywood brigade for a premiere party in August. Contact: Kristi King, 256.761.4705.

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