THE COST TALLY OF THE FINISH AT TALLADEGA

The finish of this past weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Talladega was mayhem. The 25-car pileup, which resulted from Tony Stewart’s careless maneuvers to try to block his way to a win, was a spectacle to the fans on the front stretch but could have been deadly for all of the drivers involved.
The Richmond Times Dispatch quotes Dale Earnhardt, Jr. as saying, “If this is what we did every week, I wouldn’t be doing it, I’ll just put it to you that way. If this was how we raced every week, I’d find another job… It’s really not racing. It’s a little disappointing. It cost a lot of money right there. If this is how we are going to continue to race and nothing is going to change, how about NASCAR build the cars? It’ll save us a lot of money.”
While watching the final turns into the front stretch and the pileup occur, I could only imagine how frustrated and outraged many teams would be that their cars would have to be dragged off the track as a twisted heap of metal.
I am curious to know, in a dollar amount, how much the teams could salvage from their car given the severity of the damage. I know that the price in salvaged parts would be nowhere close to the total cost of running the race, but each team must be concerned with getting the maximum amount of money out of its investment. Talk about a risky investment.
With increasing costs in racing, saving money has to be at the top of every team’s “To-Do List”. The point that Jr. made about having NASCAR build all the cars brings up a great point that may be heavily considered in the near future.
One may be surprised how much money could be saved by individual teams if NASCAR had a factory that churned out a pre-built models and then distributed them to each team to finish off. I am not sure if this is a concept that has been considered before but it would appear to be fair and cost effective. If NASCAR could save each team $100,000 a week then that would add up to a hefty chunk of change at the end of the 36-week race season.
At this point in time the money invested in each car may not be a big deal to the larger teams such as Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing, but to many of the smaller teams it could be a huge step in helping reduce costs. If teams were able to reduce costs each week, possibly new opportunities would be opened up for sponsors. NASCAR may not like the idea of having to build the cars for each team. Many teams may be completely against the concept, but something will have to change in the future. Something must be done when a major figure head of the sport openly says that if something does not change, he plans to find another job. SP

The “Business of NASCAR” Is Back!

Although our class, “The Business of NASCAR” was not offered in the fall of 2011, the class is back on track for this year. Unfortunately, my colleague Mike Pitts is unable to be with us because of his teaching schedule. Assisting with the class is the Director of Public Relations at Richmond International Raceway, Ms. Aimee Turner. Ms. Turner will bring an entirely different perspective to our class discussions that will be even more beneficial to our students as they explore the “business of NASCAR”.

We’re now two races into the “Chase” and several different issues have arisen — forget about the fiasco with NFL replacement refs! Rule change for race cars, recent off-track issues with drug use, and another close end to the season come together for the end of the season. Our students have had the opportunity to attend the races at RIR, courtesy of the track, and have witnessed firsthand (for some) the excitement of what we call the “greatest sport in the U.S.”

Please feel comfortable to comment on the students’ blog entries throughout the next couple of months. I’m certain they will bring new perspectives to our sport. And that’s the view from here. Jon

More People, More Money

Elaborating on a discussion of the concession stands at NASCAR, it’s no surprise in this financially driven society that the number of merchandise options, both physical and virtual, are available to the multitude of NASCAR enthusiasts that represent likely the most diverse fan base in all of professional sports.
Possibly my favorite aspect of the NASCAR.com store was the custom shop page, a truly genius idea in my eyes. In this part of the website a fan, regardless of affiliation or level of NASCAR intensity, can select from many different types of clothing and outerwear as well as use numerous combinations of designs specific to NASCAR or its drivers. A wrinkle in the options that really benefits NASCAR is an extensive version of something I have seen in other similar sites, be they Greek school organizations or sports teams or anything similar. Each piece of merchandise, especially basic clothing, has not only the two basic sides (front and back) available for screen printing, but five possible positions: front, back, both sleeves, and an extra area at the top of the back for an optional driver’s signature or nameplate to make the shirt or sweat shirt that much more authentic. This personalizing comes with an extra $5 charge, a perfectly reasonable cost for “genuineness”. While most major sports’ websites do have the side sleeve option, the personal aspect of NASCAR’s edition – autographs, actual driver pictures – enables NASCAR to cater to that many more fans. Speaking specifically fiscally, the occurrence of more numerous merchandise options translates directly to a higher profit margin. The age old equation applies: More people, more money; more money, more fun.

It all comes back to business appeal and profitability, and while the NASCAR.com site cannot provide the atmosphere of a real NASCAR race, it does a great job of providing as extensive a selection of any particular brand of merchandise I’ve seen. The ability to cater to all types, shapes, and sizes really gives NASCAR a great deal of flexibility in the sales department. What other store offers grill covers, binoculars, cooler cushions, and satellite dish covers all with your favorite drivers’ name and number on it, and even some with the ability to be personalized further? The every-man nature of NASCAR’s business plan is really one to latch on to, and something I believe will continue to remain successful – as long as the gas doesn’t run out. DO

Lap of Luxury!

As I sat in a corporate suite at Richmond International Raceway during a memorable weekend, I was thankful for another opportunity to experience “The Suite Life.” My mother’s employer has been a sponsor of NASCAR for years, as a way to network with their employees and clients.

The suite is located on the third floor of a glass building that sits just behind the start/finish line at RIR. It features TV’s with live race coverage, a bar area with plenty of food and beverages and comfortable seating for about 65 guests. A satellite radio allowed me to tune into a specific driver of my choice throughout the race. The front wall of the suite is smoked glass, affording a great view of the track. Pit passes are also available. The pits are less than a hundred feet away. Many of the pits are within easy viewing. Directly in front of the suite is victory lane. Although my favorite driver didn’t participate in that Friday’s race, Carl Edwards, #33 won the race. Once you experience NASCAR life in a suite, you won’t want to experience it no other way! AS

Is the thrill of NASCAR gone?

After attending my first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway, I made an observation about the empty seats at the track. Other sports organizations such as NFL and MLB have been seeing an increase in viewership and attendance. So, why is there a decline in attendance at the race tracks and viewership on TV? I speculate that the recent economical crisis has had a significant impact. In this financial environment, people have been lucky to keep their roof over their heads since money is tight. One thing is for certain: it becomes clear that what one wants and what one can do financially may not be the same. I also speculate that the interest of NASCAR is declining due to the lack of rivalries among the NASCAR drivers and the lack of rear car bumping leading to spinouts and accidents, which really draws attention and gets the adrenaline flowing. How many times this season have you notice feuding among drivers? I’m pretty sure you can count them on one hand.

Another thing that is rarely seen in recent competition is the bickering among drivers and the pushing and shoving while on the track. Maybe having good sportsmanship or not wanting to cause conflict has taken all the action away. Another speculation of why the interest of NASCAR has declined is the fact that Jimmie Johnson has won the “Race for the Chase Sprint Cup Series” for the last four consecutive years. The fact that Jimmie Johnson has won the Chase have some wondering if the Chase is rigged, if he has an advantage over everyone else, or if he’s just that good. People are tired of the same old same old results occurring; they want change, but not too much change. Finally, the alternative ways of tuning into NASCAR is another speculation as to why popularity is declining. NASCAR no longer has to be watched on TV; it can be watched online through computers or other electronic devices, listened to on the satellite radio, recorded on DVR or TIVO, or watched by catching the recap of ESPN Sport Center when it airs. It can be speculated that all of these factors are impacting the declining interest of NASCAR. So, what can be done to get the adrenaline running again in NASCAR? CB

Will NASCAR go Green?

The rising concern for our environment along with the fear of gas prices has lead more drivers to purchase hybrid cars. Overall, the latest move towards purchasing “green” products has increased sales for a variety of markets, the car industry in particular. Leading car manufacturers such as Toyota, Honda, Ford, Lexus, Nissan, Chevrolet, and many more understand the importance of developing a hybrid line for consumers and the environment.
Many corporate firms have joined the movement by supporting hybrid driving. Today, companies are investing in the popular Smart Cars, as part of their promotional strategy to represent support for the environment. Companies that are following this trend include Mobile 1, Verizon, Little Debbie, Lindt Chocolate, Target, McDonalds and many more. The SMART Car owned by Mobil 1 is an exact replica of the race car Sam Hornish Jr. drives during NASCAR races. From an article on businesswire.com, it is explained that Mobil 1’s motives are to express ExxonMobil’s support for the Alliance to Save Energy and its Drive Smarter Challenge.
How does this all relate to NASCAR? This multi-billion dollar industry is notorious for its speed, but with speed comes gasoline. The average race car gets 2-6 miles per gallon, whereas a hybrid car’s gas mileage ranges from 30-50 miles per gallon. Hopefully, you have noticed the discrepancy in mileage. Many environmentalists have criticized NASCAR as being a gas guzzling industry, and I am sure oil companies across the globe are proud to have race teams around for their own economic benefit. Considering the benefits of hybrid technology, will the leading racing industry be next to join this movement? HK

Is the thrill of NASCAR gone?

After attending my first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway, I made an observation about the empty seats at the track. Other sports organizations such as NFL and MLB have been seeing an increase in viewership and attendance. So, why is there a decline in attendance at the race tracks and viewership on TV? I speculate that the recent economical crisis has had a significant impact. In this financial environment, people have been lucky to keep their roof over their heads since money is tight. One thing is for certain: it becomes clear that what one wants and what one can do financially may not be the same. I also speculate that the interest of NASCAR is declining due to the lack of rivalries among the NASCAR drivers and the lack of rear car bumping leading to spinouts and accidents, which really draws attention and gets the adrenaline flowing. How many times this season have you notice feuding among drivers? I’m pretty sure you can count them on one hand.

Another thing that is rarely seen in recent competition is the bickering among drivers and the pushing and shoving while on the track. Maybe having good sportsmanship or not wanting to cause conflict has taken all the action away. Another speculation of why the interest of NASCAR has declined is the fact that Jimmie Johnson has won the “Race for the Chase Sprint Cup Series” for the last four consecutive years. The fact that Jimmie Johnson has won the Chase have some wondering if the Chase is rigged, if he has an advantage over everyone else, or if he’s just that good. People are tired of the same old same old results occurring; they want change, but not too much change. Finally, the alternative ways of tuning into NASCAR is another speculation as to why popularity is declining. NASCAR no longer has to be watched on TV; it can be watched online through computers or other electronic devices, listened to on the satellite radio, recorded on DVR or TIVO, or watched by catching the recap of ESPN SportsCenter when it airs. It can be speculated that all of these factors are impacting the declining interest of NASCAR. So, what can be done to get the adrenaline running again in NASCAR? CB

MARTIN’S NEW CONTRACT AND DANICA-CONNECTION?

Just before race weekend in Richmond, Nate Ryan (USA Today) and Dustin Long (Virginian-Pilot) spoke to our Business of NASCAR class. One of the topics was whether Danica might make a switch to NASCAR from Indy Racing. Both Nate and Dustin indicated that all signs point to such a switch–but at a much slower pace than other open-wheel drivers. One scenario has Danica driving a few races (Camping World and/or Nationwide) before the Indy season begins and a few after the season ends. One of the problems with that scenario is finding a sponsor willing to put up bucks for such an approach.

Now it’s announced that Mark Martin has extended his contract with Hendrick Motorsport through 2011, with GoDaddy.com as a sponsor for 20 races each season. Is it a coincidence that GoDaddy.com is also Danica’s sponsor? Is this a prelude to Danica dabbling in NASCAR for a few races each of the next two seasons before moving over full-time (with Hendrick after Martin’s departure)? Let’s wait to see how this plays out at this season’s end but I have even money that this scenario is not out of the question.

And that’s the view from here.

Jon

NASCAR’S Economic Impact Felt Widely

Richmond International Raceway is located in Henrico County, Virginia. Henrico has a population of about 300,000 people and has been ranked one of the best places to work, live, and play. And on race weekend, it becomes an even better place to play.

A few times a year, fans from all over the country flock to Henrico County to watch the NASCAR races. This year, more than ever, Richmond and Henrico welcomed fans with arms wide open.

Over the past few years, Richmond has joined the rest of the country in feeling the effects of the slumping economy. Sales have decreased in a variety of different retail stores and many businesses have been struggling to survive. In the weeks around race weekend, people start coming to Richmond and this migration has a great impact on our economy. Restaurants, gas, campgrounds, and hotel sales skyrocket during this time, and we couldn’t be more thankful. The business Richmond receives from NASCAR is astonishing, and thus another reason why Richmonders love the race! And that’s the view from here. RR

JUST WHAT IS NASCAR’S CHALLENGE?

Writing in his NASCAR.com column last week, David Caraviello shared his views on “NASCAR’s real challenge” — not TV ratings or ticket sales. Rather, “fan base” is the real problem: the disparity between “traditional fans” (spell that “old timers”) and the “new fans” (see “chardonnay” in your dictionary).

Caraviello suggests that the traditional fans need to understand the need for NASCAR to change in order to continue to grow while new fans need to realize that those who came before see NASCAR not simply as a sport but as a “prized heirloom passed from one generation to the next”. Thus, traditional fans need to accept the “car of today” and that NASCAR will continue to evolve and new fans must understand that a Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon is more than just entertaining clients.

I would like to inject my opinion on what else constitutes the “NASCAR challenge”: NASCAR’s inability to reconcile its desire to “keep racin’” with placating its financial supporters. What do I mean, you ask? A couple of days ago Juan Pablo Montoya was fined $10,000 and placed on Busch Series probation until December 31 for making an obscene gesture during Busch Series practice. NASCAR stated that he was in violation of Section 12-4-A of the Busch Series rules book: “actions detrimental to stock car racing”.

Let’s get real here children! Anyone reading this blog is probably guilty of “actions detrimental” to their offspring riding in the family car when someone cut them off in traffic!

I doubt most followers of NASCAR were even aware of JPB’s adolescent behavior — or care! The problem is NASCAR’s inability to understand that driving 160 mph oftentimes leads to tempers flaring. NASCAR’s desire to be non-controversial in order to keep sponsors happy has led to “too much grease on the squeaky wheels” and way-to-many trips to the wood shed. If NASCAR wants to fill the grandstands and increase TV viewership, it needs to be less concerned with “regulatin’” and more concerned with “good ol’ racin’”. What do you think?

(By the way, I prefer cabernet.)

Jon