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Is it really worthwhile for the manufacturers to be in NASCAR?

By admin | June 14, 2009

By Richard Allen

With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series having just raced in Michigan, there has been a great deal of talk about the future of the automobile industry’s future involvement in the sport.

Word came out last week that General Motors, parent company of the Chevrolet brand, is about make big cuts in its racing budget. Those cuts will not only impact Nationwide and Camping World truck teams, as was originally thought, but will indeed be “NASCAR-wide” in scope.

Considering the situation in the auto industry, it is likely that there will be more announcements of pull backs in the very near future from other auto companies.

The question is, does it really make any difference if the manufacturers pull completely out of the sport? Or perhaps a better question is, what reason would the manufacturers have for staying in the sport?

The old saying of, ‘Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday’ can’t be very much true today. In what way is the car Jeff Gordon drives really a Chevrolet? Can a prospective new car buyer go to a showroom at his local Ford dealership and buy a car that looks like Matt Kenseth’s Daytona 500 winning ride? Is there a Toyota like the one Kyle Busch drives on Sunday or a Dodge like his brother Kurt’s on the lots of the sellers of those respective brands?

NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow is not an altogether terrible idea. It is far safer than the previous car used on the Sprint Cup Series. However, in designing the car NASCAR made a critical blunder when they removed all evidence of true brand identity.

The only thing that makes Gordon’s Chevy differ from Kenseth’s Ford are the headlight and grill stickers placed on the nose of the car. A CoT can be raced one week as a Dodge, get a new engine and have the stickers changed, then race the next week as a Ford, Chevy or Toyota.

In what way does it benefit the manufacturers to be a part of that sort of thing?

Of course, the cars are identified by their makes in the souvenir program. The different manufacturers pour, or once poured, significant amounts of money into the teams they support. And, there are differences in the engines used by each brand. But, no one can actually see the engine as the car goes around the track.

In the 1970s and 1980s the cars raced in NASCAR actually resembled cars on the street. A person could be proud to announce that he was driving the same type of car Richard Petty, Bobby Allison or David Pearson drove to win the last race. Now, the only thing that makes one car different from another is for the track announcer to say it is a particular brand.

I am not advocating that teams should be literally rolling cars off the dealership lot and modifying it race. But, there is no reason, other than NASCAR officials having to work a little harder in pre-race inspection, that the cars cannot be fabricated to have some real brand identity.

Well, of course, there is the fear that if one brand started to dominate because they did more homework than the others it might cause the others to not kick in as much sponsorship money to the sanctioning body.

One manufacturer might not be willing to spend a few million dollars to have their pick-up truck recognized as the ‘Official Kitty Litter Spreader of NASCAR’ if they weren’t winning once in a while. NASCAR can’t take a chance on that happening so they have decided that the best thing to do is make every car the same. That way no one will feel cheated, except the fans. And they’ll always keep coming back, won’t they?

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

4 Responses to “Is it really worthwhile for the manufacturers to be in NASCAR?”

  1. CHRIS Says:
    June 15th, 2009 at 9:26 am

    NASCAR sells a product, it’s called Stock Car Racing. one of the key components is a race car ( COKE ). NASCAR decided to completely change that key componant ( COKE ) to something totally different, a COT ( NEW COKE ).

    The results seem to be the same.

  2. midasmicah Says:
    June 15th, 2009 at 9:52 am

    I couldn’t have stated it any better. There is no brand idenity anymore. The gerenic cars go along with the generic racing and the generic drivers (other then Kyle Busch, for better or for worse).

  3. Charles Says:
    June 15th, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    You are correct when you said Nascar made a blunder when they toke out brand indentiy with the COT!

    Nascar has been trying to “demote the car guy fans” for years, this is what made Nascar, is the “brand of car competition” No matter how they want you to think!

    Even back in the day, almost no one say, bought at Plymouth Road Runner or Ford Torino, Mercury Cyclone just because it was winning on the racetracks, but it made them buy mabe a Chrysler, Ford or GM product of somekind! Pickup, Station Wagon, Pony Car of that make!

    I still think the same business model exists today, I dont think Toyota a recent convert to Nascar would be spending so much if they didnt have evidence to the degree of Nascar loyality! But if they see this “spec car” demishes there car then they could take a second look!

    But the big mistake Nascar did is trying to make the sport to “polically correct”! Fans would love the competition between the brand of cars again, being able to bragg or have argument as to which brand had a advantage, having and old fashion fued between ‘car owners’ and they being able to protest in public, not behind close doors, there is no ‘check and balances’ or transparency in Nascar today! This just promotes and justifies “comperisery theorist”! This sport was built by grassroot car guys and gals!

    Just watch Speed Channel, Barrett Jackson, go to SEMA Show, or the Food Lion Auto Fair at Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, this is a old car event,held twice a year, Carlisle Pa, and more and more people are turning to these events and alot are former Nascar Fans who have left because of the Spec Car Series and turned to other hobbys!

    Having competition between the brand of cars gives fans another reason to go to a event, not all fans including myself are driver fans, if my brand of car quits Nascar or it is a one brand “spec series” sport this will finish my waning interest in Nascar and I bet alot more will leave as well! A lot already have!

  4. CHRIS Says:
    June 16th, 2009 at 9:22 am

    “Having competition between the brand of cars gives fans another reason to go to a event, not all fans including myself are driver fans, if my brand of car quits Nascar or it is a one brand “spec series” sport this will finish my waning interest in Nascar and I bet alot more will leave as well! A lot already have!”

    I agree completely.