- Advertisement -
|Falcon Graphics, Miatacage.com|
|Vice President of Operations, Miller Motorsports Park|
Favorite TV show:
|997 Cup Car, mid-1980s Trans Am car|
To look at Dan McKeever’s schedule, you might think he’s a workaholic. During slow weeks, he puts in 50 hours as vice president of operations at Miller Motorsports Park. He shows up at 7:30 in the morning and has to make a concerted effort to leave by 6.
His work weeks can be as long as 60 hours, and as events draw near, like NASA’s National Championships held at Miller last month, they’re even longer. Then, of course, there is also the Lucas Oil Truck series, NASCAR West, American LeMans, Grand Am and the regular motocross and karting events. It keeps him hopping.
“It’s almost continuous through the year, working on those events,” McKeever said. “Although those events are over, we’re working on the sanction agreements and putting together the schedule for 2014.”
However, that’s just the racing events. He’s also responsible for maintaining and running the facility, which includes everything from seeing to it that gravel traps get raked and infields get mowed, to ensuring buildings are maintained, that 24 hours of security is in place and that the guest experience is top shelf.
One program he is working on right now is for Ford Motor Company. He’s scheduling 90 days of one-day schools for new owners of Ford Focus ST and Fiesta ST models. They’re currently fabricating 10 of each with roll cages for use in those schools.
Interim director for the NASA Utah region, McKeever seems to have lived his whole life in preparation for this moment. His father has owned the Fast Lane Racing School at Willow Springs International Raceway for more than 20 years. Backed by Toyota, Fast Lane has been responsible for training Hollywood stars for the celebrity race that precedes the Long Beach Grand Prix.
“I grew up racing and teaching,” he said. “I started teaching when I was 19.”
His uncle, Elliott Forbes Robinson, started the U.S. Legend car series with Humpy Wheeler in Harrisburg, N.C., and brought McKeever in to work for him. While working for the series, he ran on ovals and road courses with the NASA Mid-Atlantic region, which was his first exposure to NASA.
Three years into that gig, McKeever moved south one state, to Greenville, S.C., to go to work for the BMW Performance Center Driving School. A few years later, while he was with the BMW school, he got a call from Desiree Wilson, whose husband Alan had designed the track at Miller Motorsports Park.
“They were thinking about opening up a driving school, and asked if I’d be willing to come help out with that,” McKeever recalled. “I said, ‘Well, I’d ask my wife if she wanted to move to Utah. I didn’t think she would, but I’d ask her.’ The timing was just kind of right and so we moved out here in 2006 to just run the driving schools. I ran the schools for four years before I moved into track operations, and now I oversee operations for both the schools and the track.”
McKeever had been working with Roger Miller to help grow the NASA Utah region, until Miller’s untimely passing in August.
“We try to take to heart the NASA concept where we funnel folks through the HPDE1 program and then trying to foster their track experience through the different levels, and it has really taken,” he said. “We’re really encouraged with the car counts we’re getting, in a region that’s pretty small. We only have about a million people to pull from. It’s mainly the Salt Lake Valley. We don’t really pull from Nevada or any other cities, so we’re really encouraged on how things are going.”
It certainly doesn’t hurt that the region’s races are run at one of the premier motorsports facilities in the country. McKeever also maintains a solid and happy home life, which is clear when he talks about his family. His wife teaches third grade, so she has summers off, which is helpful because that is when he is busiest. He has a 12-year-old daughter, a son who is 11 and another 22-year-old son who lives nearby with his wife and McKeever’s 3-year-old granddaughter.
“There’s nothing better than having a little kid who’s fun, that you can feed sugar to and then give her back. It’s good,” he said. “I’ve got an amazing family.”
McKeever’s challenge, he said, is trying to balance it all. He’s committed to his career and his family, and since he lives just a few miles away from the track in Grantsville, it’s easy for him to be at the track or at home in minutes. He doesn’t always strike the balance he’s looking for, but it’s clear he’s comfortable trying.
“When I was growing up, all I ever wanted to do was race,” he said. “I never really had the idea of being a professional driver. I just wanted to drive against the best guys. And I didn’t care where that was, I didn’t care what that was in for the most part. I just loved being in the car, and I’m still that way. I’ve got my Spec Miata and I’d take that over a whole lot of other horsepower cars because of the racing.
“I always wanted to do more pro racing to race against other guys, but I think I’d trade having a short pro career — which is what most people end up getting — to be in the position I’m in now, where I get to be at the track every day, providing that experience for other folks, being in the industry and working with other race tracks.
“I’m living the dream,” he added. “I still get to do some driving, but I get to be in the middle of motorsports. I got to work with Italians during World Superbike. That was fun, doing an international race. I’ve worked with NASCAR, ALMS, Grand Am, World Challenge, and with NASA, seeing some of the best racing during the National Championships. Driving, I’ll probably never quit, same as my dad. He turned 73 the other day and he’s still fast. I’ll probably continue to drive and want to race as long as I’m capable.”