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Would a Volkswagen entry into NASCAR be the last straw for some long time fans?

By admin | October 5, 2010

By Richard Allen

It was rumored last week that German auto maker Volkswagen was considering an entry into NASCAR racing. The rumor, reported by Motor Trend, even went so far as to say that Penske Racing South would be the team to bring the new manufacturer into the sport.

The move would make sense on several levels. In particular, VW is about to start producing a new mid-size sedan in the United States(Chattanooga, Tennessee) and NASCAR could serve as a marketing vehicle for the new automobile.

Some of that rumor was denied later in a report on There will be no Penske Racing South Volkswagen in NASCAR next season. However, the part about Volkswagen considering a move to NASCAR at some point in time still appears to at least be a possibility.

NASCAR has asked new manufacturers in the past to work their way up to the Sprint Cup division by first competing in the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series. Whether that would be the case here, if VW ever really comes to NASCAR, remains to be seen.

At a time when fan interest in the sport seems to be at a low ebb, would the arrival of another foreign car serve to drive already disenchanted traditional fans away? And, with NASCAR seemingly in a downward spiral, would it offer the best exposure for a company’s new product?

Granted, Toyota is already heavily involved in NASCAR, much to the dismay of more than a few long time followers of the sport. Some might argue that one more foreign manufacturer should not make much difference. And, of course, with the CoT there really is no distinguishing any brand difference anyway. But in a time where it appears as though more and more fans are looking for a reason to give up on NASCAR, this could be the thing to cause just that.

This is not meant to be anything against either Volkswagen or Toyota. On a recent trip I rented a Volkswagen Jetta and it was a fine car. My family owns a Toyota Sienna and we have been very pleased with it.

Nor is this meant to be a discouragement to VW. This blog is just meant to serve a sounding board for a little thinking out loud.

One thing I am considering is that when many people who have followed this sport for years think of NASCAR they think of Ford vs. Dodge vs. Chevrolet battles between such drivers as Petty, Pearson, Allison, Yarborough, Waltrip and Elliott.

When I think of Dodge in NASCAR I think of Richard Petty in that Charger taking one Daytona victory after another. When I think of Ford(or Mercury) I think of David Pearson driving for the Wood Brothers or of Bill Elliott’s rise to fame in the 1980s. Thoughts of Chevrolet brings memories of Junior Johnson’s cars winning championships with Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip behind the wheel.

I’m sorry and it may be unfair, but when I think of Volkswagen in racing it conjures up the image of ‘Herbie the Love Bug’ instead of some classic NASCAR vision. Am I the only one who thinks such thoughts? I bet not.

So, would that image drive away some or all of what’s left of those fans who do remember Petty as more than a token car owner or those who have actually seen Pearson smoking(literally) around the track? That remains to be seen, but my guess is that it would indeed drive even more of that ‘core base’ away and at the same time add nothing new to speak of.

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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

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10 Responses to “Would a Volkswagen entry into NASCAR be the last straw for some long time fans?”

  1. Charles Says:
    October 6th, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Nascar has already chased the ‘Car Guy” out of the sport already!

    No matter how many manufacturers get in Nascar, you can bank on it and the records book shows, Nascar is a Chevy or General Motors playground!

    Volkswagen if they enter will find out like Toyotal and the rest that Nascar will only allow you to dominate with a bowtie on the hood!

  2. Fingers McGee Says:
    October 6th, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    One more reason to stop watching NASCAR.
    Get away from cooky cutter cars and run what you brung.

  3. Aaron Says:
    October 6th, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Yes!, NASCAR started downhill when they converted the 4 door taurus, then the toyota, followed by the chase and COT car. Fans are leaving the sport as if it had the plague. Now!, they are considering tampering with the chase again. The Chase should be scraped. Stop the additional points. Let the drivers get the most points for each race the best they can for that day. It should and will always be awarded on a consistant basis.

  4. Brian Says:
    October 6th, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Since the only thing VW would be providing is a motor and a few decals to be placed on the car I don’t see how it could be bad for the sport. The damage to NASCAR was done with the common templates and the CoT. People may gripe about Toyota being in the sport, but the reality is that the sport has only been able to hang on because of the manufacturer support. But, with the loss of more and more sponsors it will be essential that NASCAR not only strengthen it’s bonds with the current manufacturers but also to bring more into the fold. Unless a major turnaround occurs in the next 2 years, I see a return of factory teams. When that happens I would not be surprised to see VW, Saturn, Honda and others in the sport.

  5. gwsp3 Says:
    October 6th, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I think racing “Herbie The Love Bug” would be cute and the fans would once again fill the stands to capacity. Maybe they would even let Brian Baby drive it.

    Been a fan since 1957. Am I being too subtle? hee,hee,hee

  6. jld1948 Says:
    October 6th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    I agree with Charles, that “car guys” have been eliminated as fans. Most of us have wrenched on a few Fords, GM’s and Mopars, but few know what a Toyota even looks like under the hood! Before the COT, car brands made for some good racing, pitting one make against another. If VW decides to enter, it’s just one more nail in the coffin of good old southern style stock car racing! Sad, very sad! No offense to VW…they are making a very good product, not unlike Toyota (although I would never admit it)!

  7. Rubber Duck Says:
    October 6th, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    The “last straw” was already put on the camel’s back a few years ago which is why attendance and viewership is down.

    High ticket prices, Commercial infested races, contrived races (Lucky dogs, wave arounds, etc), generally terrible TV coverage (besides the dreaded Digger), smug, disconnected and arrogant Nascar leadership, inconsistant rule application, cookie cutter races that sacrificed better tracks…..

    I could go on and on. Whether VW enters Nascar at this point really does not matter to the remaining fan base. The car has been reduced to a generic box with decals.

    This is not the Nascar the folks used to love anyway and that is really the “last straw” that everyone you are eluding to.

  8. yankeegranny Says:
    October 6th, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    The worst piece of crap of a car that I ever owned was a VW BUS that we put 5 engines in before it had 25,000 miles on it. It finally expired for the last time on the PA turnpike with 25,089 miles on it(89 miles over the warrenty.) First, last and only VW we ever had. I could care less if they come into NASCAR. I wonder how much they will have to pay to get the same treatment as Toyota?

  9. TommyRotten Says:
    October 6th, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    First off, Rubber Duck, your post may have been the most cogent one I’ve ever seen posted regarding NASCAR. Well said. ESPN, et al, sign the dude up. Just a suggestion.

    Secondly, having been a race fan since ‘67, I’d love to see the Big Detroit Heavy Metal 3 mix it up exclusively forever and always to the tune of however much time I have left. However, on this day, this isn’t the world, much less the America, of my youth. And that just ain’t going to happen anymore. (Sorry for you if you weren’t there back in the day. The US had it’s problems back then, but it was sweet in it’s own way.)

    I’d say, bring them all in. If it’s made in America and feeding American families regardless of the nameplate, run what you can put on the track. I’d pull for a frickin’ Hyundai if Jim and Barbara from Natchez, MS could send their kids off to college because Mom and/or Dad got a good job working at the plant.

    If VW, or anyone else, wants to come trade some paint, be prepared for a stupifying learning curve and a tepid return on your investment, a la, Toyota.

    Ya’ll be cool.

  10. TommyRotten Says:
    October 6th, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Oh, yeah. And by the way…. Humanely euthanize Digger.

    Sorry, forgot that.