Part 2 of a 2-part series
And so it was that in 1997, that Brett, at the ripe old age of 32, became the Director of Operations at the world famous Talladega Superspeedway. Before long he would be promoted to Vice President and General Manager of the Talladega Super Speedway, where, for the next three years and five months, he oversaw all aspects of the business unit that was part of NASDAQ publically-traded company (ISC). He worked closely with president of the Talladega complex to ensure compliance with corporate goals for all areas of the business, up to and including Administrative, Financial, Sales/Marketing and Operations.
Before long Brett took the lead on starting the first ever racecar driving school at Talladega. He was also appointed by Governor Siegleman to the Tourism Advisory Board. As part of his outreach, Brett worked annually with the Alabama Institute of Deaf and Blind to raise awareness and funds for the organization.
He was busy, but he loved every minute of it. And then life changed again. He and Elisabeth welcomed their first child, Blake, into the world in October of 1997.
When he first went into the Talladega Superspeedway, Brett’s well–trained eye just automatically caught things that could stand some improvement, like long lines at concessions and restrooms, more attention to parking, and other things that would make for a better experience for fans. “If you are at a golf tournament, a race or church, you can still find room for improvement,” he advised. He was good at his job and it had gotten him this far, with help from above, and he would again walk with the great names of this sport like Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon and others who made NASCAR such a household word in the mid nineties.
“It was the same as with the PGA Tour and NASCAR, in one of their peak growth times. And again, it was all the Lord’s work as far as my involvement was concerned,” he said humbly.
Brett would occasionally get behind the wheel himself, just to have the experience. The fastest he ever clocked was 190, around the Talladega course. “It doesn’t really seem like you are going that fast because Talladega is so big,” he said. “In a smaller place like Bristol, it would be very noticeable,” he laughed.
As VP of the Speedway, Brett had an incredible array of resources. On any given race weekend he had over 600 Alabama State Troopers at his command, and access to any of the drivers. “All I had to do was ask – the sport was growing so fast, and we had all the sports channels there,” he said.
But there was another side of his contribution to the Talladega Speedway that most people like you and I never heard about on the news. Brett brought Raceway Ministries church to the track. He hadn’t forgotten what and who had gotten him where he was. “It was the Lord’s work,” he says now. “Later, Joe Gibbs would bring a Christian ministry to the drivers and their families.”
In December of 2000, Brett was promoted to the top job in the racing world when he was named President of the Michigan International Speedway. This time he stayed longer than the minimum one year that his dad had recommended. For the next five years and ten months, the family lived in Brooklyn, Michigan. Brett oversaw all aspects of the business unit that was part of NASDAQ publically-traded company (ISC). He worked with the corporate office to ensure compliance with corporate goals for all areas of the racing business to include Administrative, Financial, Sales/Marketing and Operations. He was Ambassador to Super Bowl XL in 2006, and was appointed by Governor Granholm and approved by Senate of Michigan to their Tourism Board. Again, he gave back in due course to the Lord who had paved the way for him when he created the largest Red Cross Blood Drive in US history after September 11, as honoring events of 2001. For his efforts in this area, he was recognized by President George W. Bush.
At one point Brett and Elisabeth were introduced to President George W. Bush, and his wife, Laura at a NASCAR event in Daytona Beach, Florida. At their parting Elisabeth mentioned to the President that she and Brett prayed for them all the time. “What a kind gift,” replied President Bush respectfully.
It was a fun time for the Shelton’s. There was a big budget, and looking back, Brett can honestly say that it was one of the highlights of his career. That and learning to pilot his own plane.
The little boy who followed the sound of a crop duster’s engine was still alive and well in the man, and it didn’t take much to bring him out.
After being sent to the Michigan Speedway, time was always the one thing Brett needed more of and had little way of getting. “One day we were talking about the drive back to Alabama from Michigan, and Elisabeth suggested that I get my license and fly us, and that was all the encouragement I needed,” he laughed.
He bought several planes over the years, flew his parents around from one place to another, and used his aviation skills to have more time to enjoy his family, which now included an adopted daughter, Samantha. “Dad always had a sense of thrill and excitement about him, he loved anything fast,” laughed Brett.
They used the planes to bless others when the need arose, as well, but is reluctant to share his good deeds.
Again, some people would have lived the rest of their working life in such grand surroundings, after all, what could ever compete with the excitement of being the head of one of the largest racing concerns in the world? Well, that’s Brett for you; he is always ready for a new challenge. So, after six years in Michigan, he and Elisabeth began praying for a way back to North Alabama. “After all those years in racing, I began having to make tougher and tougher decisions about the racing business,” he said candidly. “In an effort to be a Godly man, husband and father I thought it was time for a change.”
And what do you think happened? Once again, the Lord paved the way. There was an opportunity for the three brothers, Stuart, Brett and Ben, to work together to form a trucking company. It didn’t happen at the most convenient time, with Brett trying to run a racetrack from Alabama to Michigan, Samantha’s adoption and their trip to Lithuania to finalize the papers that would make them officially her parents, they were run ragged and then some.
Brett’s mother, Ben Ann, picked out their new house in Muscle Shoals. They couldn’t have been more pleased. Elisabeth and Blake moved down in May of 2006. It was September before Brett could follow.
In this new phase of his fast-paced track to the top, Brett became Co-Owner and President of Shelton Freight Systems in September, 2006 and would remain with the company until it was sold in April of 2008.
“We started the trucking company at the airbase in Courtland,” said Brett. “I managed the acquisition of land, offices and equipment, presented financial requirements to bank and oversaw all administrative functions.”
He also oversaw all of the daily functions of the business, which included schedules, Federal DOT compliance, equipment needs and maintenance, in addition to handling all sales and marketing.
Brett started a freight brokerage company, where he oversaw all aspects of brokerage. The company grew in two years to over $1,000,000 in revenue with over ten employees. Again, he stepped out in faith when the brothers sold the trucking company and all assets in 2008.
From April of 2008 until August of 2017, Brett worked in Muscle Shoals at United Treating & Distribution, LLC.
In yet another field that was new to him, he was quickly promoted to VP Operations, where he oversaw all aspects of operations including manufacturing, hiring, training, budget functions, administrative, safety, capital projects, as well as day-to-day and long-term planning of business, inventory and quality control. He also worked with Microsoft Office products and initiated several projects to improve control costs, inventory management and stability of staffing.
And yet again, Brett was given a golden opportunity to return to the world of sports, although in an entirely different aspect than before.
He was contacted by Robbie Robertson, who was in the process of bringing the Houston Rockets to play against the Memphis Grizzlies. The two had been friends since the early nineties, when Robbie was key supplier of tents and structures in the world of golf. Now he wanted Brett to come full circle back to Birmingham, to run the NBA event for him. That event opened the door to more events, and was the largest NCAA Final Four each year. In order to accommodate the arena and the crowd they turn football fields into basketball courts. Sound impossible? Not for these guys!
Brett even traveled to Melbourne, Australia to produce an event for the NBA. He even brought back some innovative ideas!
He became Event Development and Operations manager for the Colonnade Group in March, 2018 and is still with the company.
He continues to travel a lot, although the virus has slowed him down, which isn’t a bad thing. He thinks that travel will be back to its usual place in this world but that it will be changed, and not even then until there is a vaccine. “The virus has changed us, but until there is a vaccine, we must have a general respect for others, we must be more aware of the needs of elders,” he said.
In looking back over his life, one full of the excitement of always being a kid, even if you are old and gray, because the toys just got bigger, more expensive, and dangerous, Brett recalls more and more often the words of his father.
“There was a benefit of having him for my pastor and my father,” said Brett. “I reaped the benefit of both and of his success in business before he became a minister.”
Brett once asked Bro. Jackie to tell him the secret of business. “He said, “Surround yourself with good people and do what you love,” recalled Brett.
Once in his early 30s, Brett was going through a personal crisis. His dad just said, “Brett, you’ve just got to make Jesus your best friend.”
Like everyone else who was privileged to sit and listen to Bro. Jackie Shelton offer the word of God, Brett loved the simple practicality and honesty of his father’s sermons. “That’s why when he said that I should make Jesus my best friend, I wondered at the simplicity of it. A best friend is someone you tell everything to. People talk about walking down the aisle to be saved, but that sanctification happens over years and a lifetime. That’s when I realized that if I wanted to know Jesus better I just had to spend more time with Him.”
Most people who knew his father have heard him talk about his private time with the Lord, early in the morning, most days starting with Bible study at 4:30 in the morning. “That took tremendous discipline on his part,” said Brett. “And it was also the time when he wouldn’t be interrupted.”
Brett recalls his parents having a sweet marriage, and others in the community where they served for over 20 years will tell you the same thing. “They say you should train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it,” recited Brett. “I believe that all the good attributes I have are due to having Godly parents, I’m so glad that I had parents who would take me to church.”
“They taught us the power of prayer,” he said.
“I was always impressed at how my mother seemed content to stand in the shadows and be there to support him,” said Brett.
It would seem, in looking over Brett’s life experiences, that prayer definitely played a major role in his success. At every turn he stopped to pray and God always came through, although many times it was a surprise to Brett what He had in store.
And God’s probably not finished with Brett Shelton yet!