Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Stock car racing, specifically NASCAR, is something I admittedly know very little about. This has nothing to do with the stereotypes that many still point to in bashing the sport or its Southern roots or its predominantly white crowds. After all, if you can’t tell from previous posts, I’m a black slightly-above-casual hockey fan. It’s mostly because my brain locks whenever I get behind the wheel of a car, something being born and bred in New York City can do to you. Though many in my circle have an intense passion and knowledge of automotives, I know nothing about them other than how to move them or be a passenger in them.

So in advance, my discussion on the sport’s most popular organization is not based on knowing the dynamics of a race or the inner workings of the cars, drivers and teams themselves. In fact, I invite you to bless me with some intelligence on this arena so that when you (if you have not done so) watch the re-airings of this CNBC special, you’ll be able to share some insights that are not considered in-depth here.

As mentioned over the weekend, there’s nothing worse than an untimely malfunction. So this post, which was supposed to be published when the show originally aired, has been edited in its aftermath.

Almost two weeks ago, a question about NASCAR’s next six months was posed in the second part of Halftime:

For now, if (a HUGE if) Danica Patrick joins NASCAR after the season ends, how much of an impact would she make on a sport once considered America’s fastest growing sport just a few years ago?
This question came about because NASCAR was once considered the fastest growing sporting league in the United States, a mantle that Ultimate Fighting Championship has grabbed, taken down and jujitsued in the last three years. Despite a strong presence on television and successful expansion into western and northeastern markets over the past decade, NASCAR has taken some major blows during this recession.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the calamities in the automotive industry have a direct impact on team sponsorships and organizational support. Yet, the advertising dollars hurt just as much, if not more. This isn’t just about the decal above the exhaust pipe just to have real estate on the body of the car, but it’s also about branding segments of race coverage from broadcasters and online promotions to drive up interest in the sport and products teams use. Even what would be considered add-ons to advertising deals such as personal service agreements are being jettisoned (though in this case, it’s more about the malaise at General Motors).

So, in bringing back the Patrick question – whether this is genuine fan curiosity or another internal conversation within the media that happens to be passed as a story – the more important issue at hand wasn’t about the IndyCar star. I just wonder if Patrick and NASCAR would have been in the same sentence before the economy tanked.

Many a IRL driver have made the leap between circuits with mixed success, however, it’s widely assumed that Patrick will be the one that sticks with NASCAR because of her testosterone-fueled following. The obvious attention paid to this scenario centers around being an attractive female who has finally started to have the consistent success she has clamored for since she arrived on the scene a few years ago. For a select bunch, it’s just about Patrick being an attractive female.

If this scenario presented itself two or so years ago when NASCAR was the hottest American sporting entity, adding the Patrick brand to Dale Earnhardt  Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon would have been akin to adding a small-market star player to a big-market franchise laden with stars of its own. That could still be the case if it ever happens, but in 2009/10, it could feel more like getting a one-and-done star in college basketball.

Of course, I could be completely off.

If you missed the CNBC special, Inside Track: Refueling the Business of NASCAR from Scribe favorite, Darren Rovell, check out the replays:

Sunday, July 19th Midnight ET
Friday, July 24th 10p ET
Tuesday, July 28th 10p ET
Sunday, August 2nd 9p ET
Friday, August 7th 10p ET

The show certainly provided more business insight on the circuit than this post shows, but I am curious to read your thoughts, regardless of interest level in the sport. I am extremely curious to know your thoughts on the importance of Patrick to the Indy circuit, a potential future in NASCAR and sports in general.

Say What?!?!: To quote the late Heath Ledger's Joker, "And heeeere... weeeee........ go!"

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