Mexico is quickly becoming NASCAR country

 by Jose Arrambide
September 5, 2006

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Corona has now switched from Champ Car to NASCAR

[Editor's Note: AutoRacing1.com predicted a couple of years ago that when NASCAR opened up an office in Mexico it was the beginning of the end of Mexico as a viable market for Champ Car.  Outmaneuvered and out-marketed, Champ Car appears to be done in Mexico.]

This past weekend the stock cars came to Monterrey, and I decided to attend the race to get a firsthand look at NASCAR’s Mexican invasion.

The first thing I noticed after arriving at “Autodromo Monterrey” was all the sponsorship the series has, some of the biggest companies in Mexico were present at the track.  Take for example Corona, while many in Champ Car are missing the livery of the Corona car, Corona is too busy with the stock cars in Mexico by sponsoring the whole series, the official name of the series is “Desafio Corona”, which translates to “The Corona Challenge."

But Corona was not the only old acquaintance of Champ Car I found in “Autodromo Monterrey.”  FedEx was there, the stands and the track were full of FedEx banners, and the PA system was also full of FedEx ads.   NEXTEL Mexico was also there.  Remember the time they used to sponsor a PKV in Champ Car? They are now sponsoring two stock cars and the track was also full of NEXTEL ads and banners.

The series has many more Mexican companies spending sponsorship “pesos.” Every one of the 30 cars is fully sponsored, but their biggest catch was getting Telmex for the ride.  Telmex is the holy grail of the motor sports sponsors in Mexico.  No one in Mexico spends more money in national and international series (Telmex is sponsoring Salvador Duran and Sergio Perez in Europe for example) than Telmex.

Telmex is not only sponsoring 4 cars in the series (2 with Telmex livery and 2 with Telcel livery, Telcel is the cellular company in Mexico) and flooding the tracks with Telmex and Telcel banners, they are also very busy promoting the series with TV and newspaper ads, like the ads they displayed in the majority of the newspapers in Mexico this past Sunday, a whole page ad in color wishing luck to their drivers participating in the “Desafio Corona” race and in Europe, and also reminding everyone of the different channels in which they could watch live the stock car race.

And talking about a TV deal, every race is shown live on 3 different channels, Speed Mexico and FX Mexico (both found on many of the basic cable packages) and 4TV one of the channels of Televisa group, and although 4TV is not the highest rating channel of the group it is an open air channel, which means anyone in Mexico without cable has live access to their races.

Another aspect that caught my attention was how hard they were trying to sell the NASCAR brand.  The track announcer told the fans more than a couple of times that “Desafio Corona” was the Mexican NASCAR, the souvenir shops were full of Nextel Cup and Busch Series caps, shirts and t-shirts, no F1, no Champ Car, no IRL souvenirs, it was all NASCAR.  Take into consideration that Adrian Fernandez was in only 6 races in 2005 and has been in only 2 races in 2006 in the Busch Series and you could buy his Busch Series shirt in the souvenir shops.

What about the race? It’s no secret that I’m not a stock car fan, it’s just not my cup of tea, but watching 30 road course drivers (oval racing in Mexico is almost non existent) in a natural road course track (Fundidora Park is a much better track, but “Autodromo Monterrey” is not a bad track) was exciting.  Fans were able to watch many on track passes, 6 of them for the lead.   What I’m trying to say is that they usually put on a good show.

“Desafio Corona” has achieved in just a few years what looked like something impossible.  Mexico has always had at least 3 or 4 popular domestic series, but the most popular series was always an open wheel series - Formula K, Formula 3000, Corona Cup, but those days are over now. The most popular domestic series is a stock car series.

The average Mexican racing fan still prefers open wheel racing.   F1 races get many more viewers than any other race broadcast in the country, but with the great work “Desafio Corona” is doing in the country and if NASCAR keeps investing in Mexico it will be only a matter of time before stock car viewers start challenging open wheel viewers.

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