Destination USA: NASCAR

Destination USA NASCAR

Since our work involves constant travel, we have had the unique opportunity to spend extended periods of time in different parts of the United States. Since that same work involves marketing, we regularly become intimately familiar with different demographics and subcultures we might not otherwise get to know so well. This is the case with NASCAR and its fans all over the country. For two years, we transported a NASCAR show car for a client who wanted it displayed it at their local distributors and for their best customers. Unlike many of our typical mobile marketing tours, this one was focused more on customer appreciation than building brand recognition. As part of that mobile marketing tour for USG (United States Gypsum), we were often in town just before the main races in our region, the West, so we were able to attend a number of races over the two years we worked on that project.

A Brief History of NASCAR

NASCAR stands for National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.  It started in 1948 by Bill France Sr. and is now run by his grandson, Brian France.  There are 3 different series in the top competitive classes, Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.  The names are all paid sponsorships which change from time to time.

They say the origins of NASCAR go back to the bootlegging days during prohibition in the United States.  Enterprising men in the south would have the need to modify their cars in order to hold maximum product while still being about to outrun the law.  This bred great knowledge about cars and engineering for speed and handling.  The first NASCAR race was held in Daytona, Florida the current headquarter city, half on the beach and half on highway A1A.  The modern day venues for these races are enormous in size and attendance (and revenue).  The largest track is Talladega, at 2.66 miles around.  As for attendance, the Brickyard in Indianapolis, the same track as the Indy 500, regularly sees 400,000 fans pack its stands.  By comparison the largest football (which many think of as the most popular sport in the US) stadium in the country is Michigan Stadium, University of Michigan, with 109,901 seats!

Destination USA NASCAR

Attending a NASCAR Race

Attending a NASCAR Cup race is a fun experience. NASCAR fans are die-hard and passionate. Their enthusiasm is contagious. When you arrive at the track, you’re sure to be astounded at the vast number of souvenir stands selling everything NASCAR-related. Fans all have their favorite driver, and they are truly loyal. Race-day outfits most often include a T-shirt, jacket and/or hat with the driver’s number or photo on it.  There are also often lots of booths promoting different products and brands. Then there’s the food and beer. Eating food (typical fare of any big sporting event) and drinking lots of beer seem to be high on the agenda for attendees. At most races there is an area set up for RVs. Some camp for the whole weekend and put on their won spreads at mini-parties on the grounds. Just before the race begins, the national anthem is sung, and a prayer is said. Yes, a prayer. Religion plays a noticeable role in NASCAR, and some of its most prominent figures regularly talk about or demonstrate their faith. This can come as a surprise to newcomers to the track, as it did to me the first time. During the race, some people wear ear protection. It’s REALLY loud. There’s a lot of strategy involved, but in simplest terms, the first guy over the finish line wins. Check out this article by Bleacher Report for a nice round-up of Things You Must Do When Attending A NASCAR Race.

Destination USA NASCAR

Our NASCAR Experiences

Our first race of the season in June, 2006 was at Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, CA. This track is one of the two road courses each season. The remaining 34 races are on oval tracks. This track is a 2-mile course with 12 turns, both left and right. It’s demanding on drivers because there is more braking and shifting involved than usual. The race is 350 miles, and took just under 4 hours. At this race, Cheech Marin was the Grand Marshall!
Before the race began, Donny and I represented USG in presenting a $5000 check to Casey Mears, who gained the most positions during the previous week’s race in Michigan. We looked great up on the big-screen Jumbotron, by the way. At Infineon, it was both fun and educational to have access to the garage and pits before and during the race. (We had what’s called a Hot Pass.) This is where the real action happens. We saw the cars being inspected prior to the race. During the race, the pit crews never stop monitoring, analyzing and adjusting. When drivers pull in, it’s a race to get them back out on the track as soon as possible. It’s pretty amazing how tires can be changed and a car can be filled with fuel from empty in a matter of seconds. Ultimately, Jeff Gordon, in the Dupont #24 car, won the race. A word of advice to anyone who might attend a race at Infineon though: Remember where you parked. We ended up taking two shuttles then walking for more than an hour through the rolling fields in search of our truck.

The following year, in April of 2007, we attended a race at the Texas Motor Speedway. Donny was able to invite an old friend (from as far back as kindergarten) and his wife to share the day, and we had a blast, especially during the last few laps when Matt Kenseth was in the lead. (He was the driver of the show car we were hauling around at the time).

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a NASCAR race, do it!  At least you’ll have a fascinating day of people watching. At best you’ll gain an appreciation for this often misunderstood sport, and maybe even become a new fan.

About the author

Traveling like turtles, slowly and deliberately, Tamara and Donny wander together with no cure for their insatiable wanderlust.