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 Speed.com. 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 companyâ€™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 Elliottâ€™s rise to fame in the 1980s. Thoughts of Chevrolet brings memories of Junior Johnsonâ€™s cars winning championships with Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip behind the wheel.
Iâ€™m sorry and it may be unfair, but when I think of Volkswagen in racing it conjures up the image of â€˜Herbie the Love Bugâ€™ 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 whatâ€™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 â€˜core baseâ€™ 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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