Life in the fast lane
A lifelong racing fan, Annette Randall ’05 has managed to shape a career around her favorite pastime.
By Roselee Papandrea
For most of her life, Annette Randall ’05 has spent the majority of her weekends at the racetrack.
As a child, she and her father spent Saturday evenings at a short track 30 minutes from their home in Stafford, Va., socializing and watching races. When she arrived at Elon, the communications major spent weekends between March and October at one racetrack or another in North Carolina. “I enjoyed the competition and watching people race,” she says. “It’s a very family-friendly atmosphere, and you become very close with folks.”
It’s not surprising that Randall, the former director of communications for The Elevation Group, whose clients include several NASCAR sponsors, still spends most weekends—more than 30 a year—at the track. Her jaunts have taken her all over the country. In early December, she found herself at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas living out a dream and celebrating with driver Kevin Harvick, winner of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship. “At times, it’s very surreal,” she says.
It was Harvick’s first championship and for Randall, who then managed public relations for Budweiser’s racing program, it was also her first time at the helm of media relations for a champion driver. “Winning the championship is the ultimate goal for anyone in this sport so it was pretty incredible to be a part of that,” Randall says.
She started the 2014 season at Daytona International Speedway with Harvick, but it wasn’t until they neared the end of the season that her workload started changing. “Once he locked himself into the potential to go for it, it ramped things up leading to the final races,” she says. Media requests increased and managing Harvick’s schedule quickly became more involved. When he secured the championship at the final race of season, the Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 16, Randall handled the whirlwind tour of appearances on the East Coast that included “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Live with Kelly and Michael,” as well as an ESPN “Car Wash” tour with its rounds of TV and radio shows and other digital media opportunities.
In early December, there was a West Coast media tour that included “Jimmy Kimmel Live” before spending a week in Las Vegas doing guest appearances as a lead up to the championship banquet on Dec. 5. “This is an ideal scenario, something you dream about and hope that you’ll be in this position,” Randall says of her experience working with a NASCAR driver. “I don’t think it’s anything you just assume is going to happen.”
It certainly was not something she had in mind when she first received admissions materials from Elon during her college search more than 15 years ago—though the Business of NASCAR course offered in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business definitely drew her attention.
“I thought, ‘How cool is that.’ It was interesting and unique,” she says. A visit to campus convinced Randall that Elon was the place for her, and as it turned out, the university provided the foundation she needed to combine her love of racing with a career in communications.
Internship opportunities and plenty of hard work while at Elon enabled the lifelong racing fan to begin shaping a career around her favorite pastime. Following her junior year, she interned at Charlotte Motor Speedway. She spent that summer writing press releases for car shows and other events. She made a lasting impression and the head of the communications department asked her to come back during the school year to work a few Sprint Cup weekends. “It was good exposure,” she says, reflecting back on the trajectory that put her in the winner’s circle at the end of the 2014 NASCAR season. “I helped with press kits, wrote stories, proofread race advances and helped facilitate interviews.”
The experience allowed her to network and helped her land an internship at Hendrick Motorsports in Charlotte and eventually one in the publications department at NASCAR, a position she held until she started her first job at a public relations agency in the Queen City. She ended up back at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2008 and joined The Elevation Group in 2010 as an account manager. She became the company’s director of communications in 2012.
Randall says working with NASCAR is very satisfying. Whether it is seeing a pitch to the media turn into a finished product or standing in victory lane after a race, she still finds her work thrilling. Weekends can be intense during the season. She is usually flying out somewhere on a Thursday and returning to Charlotte on Monday morning. During the week, she sets up media events and appearances. Every season doesn’t end in a championship, but she still savors all the moments. After all, she’s still spending every weekend at the races. “It’s kind of fun to live out your dream from your childhood and getting to meet people that I once looked up to,” she says. “These are some of my heroes as a child.”
As the 2015 season gets underway, Randall is starting a new job with the True Speed Communication agency where she will work with NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Team. “Getting to this point has been great,” she says. “I think now it’s just a matter of potentially broadening my horizons a bit.”