By admin | June 16, 2009
By Richard Allen
What does it say about a sport when one of the oldest participants is tied with one of the youngest participants for most wins? That is exactly the case in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to this point in 2009.
Mark Martin turned 50 years old just prior to the start of this season. His win in Michigan this past Sunday was his third of the season, which pulled him into a tie with Kyle Busch for most wins. Just last month Busch turned 24 years of age.
Two drivers are tied for the most wins. One of those drivers is twice the age of the other.
This occurrence actually says one very important thing about the sport. It says that the corporate mold sponsors and owners are using to find drivers is all wrong.
A race car does not know who is pushing the pedals and turning the steering wheel. Martin proves that the older guys can still get it done. This should serve as a message to owners and sponsors that winning races is the important thing, not maintaining a certain young, pretty boy look. And it takes talent to win races.
Sponsors seem to be enthralled with good looking, young drivers. And, they seem to have little concern for the ability to drive a race car. Since sponsors want fresh faces, owners go out and find them. So, the sport is now filled with a bunch of drivers who are out of their league.
To answer the question as to which is more important fitting a certain mold or being able to drive a race car, who do you think has gotten more positive publicity from sponsoring a race car this year, Kelloggâ€™s or Jack Danielâ€™s? Kelloggâ€™s or UPS? Kelloggâ€™s or Crown Royal? Kelloggâ€™s or Home Depot?
At age 50, Mark Martin is not a young, pretty boy. He may not be the person some Fortune 500 companies want filming their commercials. But, he does win races. And having a picture taken of the car a company sponsors in victory lane makes for a pretty nice advertisement.
On the other side of this issue, Kyle Busch also breaks the corporate image mold. Granted, at 24 he is young. He is not just young, but talented.
Young and talented doesnâ€™t sound so bad to the image spinners until Busch starts talking. He loves to stir controversy. He purposely picks at other drivers and their fans. He seems to relish getting booed in pre-race introductions. He is far from the robotic, politically correct corporate mold.
He has been criticized, here and other places, for his actions but at least those words and actions arenâ€™t always the same old scripted chatter of a New York publicist.
While some corporate types may not wish to be associated with controversy, Busch offers a good return on investment because he is often in the headlines whether he is winning or losing. But the key is, he is often winning.
Darrell Waltrip was never very well liked when he was winning races and championships in the 1980s. Still, his cars were always well sponsored because he was getting photographed and interviewed from victory lane on a regular basis.
Back in Waltripâ€™s day almost every driver in NASCAR would have broken todayâ€™s corporate mold. Thankfully, those guys were around then. But unfortunately, Mark Martin and Kyle Busch are among the very few racing today who are not among the corporate clones.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
Topics: Articles |