I do follow NASCAR, believe it or not. No, it's not by
watching those five-hour Bore-A-Thons on TV, or reading Darrell Waltrip
(DW) or Larry McReynolds' insipid propaganda pieces or listening to Jeff
Hammond mangle the King's English. I simply read Ben Blake's astute and
acerbic writings on SpeedTV.com (assuming you can find informed
"commentary" on SPEED, that is consistently being overrun by meaningless
space fillers penned by the three aforementioned NASCAR shills).
it is with particular interest that prior to the commencement of the
2006 38 race for the Chase, or whatever its called, I noted Brian
France's comments regarding expansion into the global motorsports
market. Now Brian France is certainly a smart guy. I'll let others
debate how smart. After all, he spends a lot of time in my hometown, Los
Angeles. So he definitely knows where to hang out. LA is a Global City,
that unfortunately does not extend to the eastbound San Bernardino
Freeway's Cherry Avenue exit.
The theory is that Toyota's entrance into Nextel Cup will be a natural
for NASCAR's global ambitions, and that Toyota would push for more
Really? Toyota's interest in NASCAR is solely related to its interest in
the world's largest Automobile Market....The USA. That certainly is
understandable. Toyota was in CART, until it was instrumental in its
destruction. Then to IRL, where it aided and abetted in its destruction,
and now has turned its eyes to NASCAR. Many in NASCAR, believe that its
involvement will be just as harmful, as well. Certainly there is
resistance from its stalwart redneck fan base. Who knows? But Toyota,
ever resourceful, has hired ol "DW". Lets face it DW is one smart guy,
who could sell ice to the Eskimos, snake oil to the Indians or Toyotas
to the Rednecks.
Toyota, in my view, will not use NASCAR for its international marketing
strategy. For that it has Bernie Ecclestone and F1. Formula One is
THE UNDISPUTED Global Racing Series. Toyota pumps untold millions of
Dollars and Euros and Billions of yen into F1's Global marketing
For that reason it doesn't need NASCAR to go into the global auto
market. Besides, NASCAR uses a 50 year old antediluvian 385 Cubic Inch
V8 engine with carburetors running on poisonous leaded fuel. The only
places those types of engines are still used are Cuba, Kazakhstan,
Eastern Siberia, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas.
It is extremely unlikely that Toyota marketing believes that either the
Europeans or the Japanese would be interested in such a low tech racing
series. Both European and Japanese racing fans are interested in "High
Tech" racing as demonstrated by their love of F1 and German DTM.
In the case of Japan, NASCAR's "been there and done that" and failed.
NASCAR raced at Suzuka's challenging road circuit in 1996 and 1997 and
then raced at the Twin Ring Motegi oval in 1998 with their "Big Guns"
Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon before paltry crowds. And then "CUT AND
RAN". In other words the Japanese weren't buying.
It would be equally so for Europe. In Germany, the DTM Series features
High Tech Mercedes Benz CLKs and Audis, Opels and MGs that run on some
of Europe's finest circuits in thrilling door banging battles with top
drivers drawing huge crowds. After seeing a DTM race it is extremely
doubtful that NASCAR's 3,500 pound behemoths would have any appeal
whatsoever. Ditto, for Italy, where cars are a way of life for
everyone. This is the country that makes Ferraris, Maseratis and
Lamborghinis. I don't think the Italians would even be interested.
France? Well, they loved Jerry Lewis and invented French Fries. While
it' true that Jeff Gordon (who loves France, by the way, and Belgium as
well), Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears were in Paris for the (REAL) Race
Of Champions at the Stade de France, I don't see NASCAR as a mainstay of
conversation on the Champs E'lysee or the fashionable boulevards of St.
Germain. And the French do love their racing. They won F1's 2005
Manufacturing Championship with Renault, as well as annually holding
their own at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The French, while being a
bit peculiar, do prefer their racing to be High Tech, just as they
prefer their food to be Haute Cuisine. Americans have raced in France.
Dan Gurney and Ford won the 24 Hours of Le Mans over Ferrari in 1967
with A.J. Foyt as his sidekick. Dan drove most of the race while Foyt
was looking for a "Big Mac". (Didn't AJ say that all he could find was
"fish covered with almonds"?)
That leaves us with the UK. Perhaps they could draw a crowd at
Rockingham if they had Dan Wheldon doing well for Chip Ganassi. But the
Brits are also used to slam bang BTCC racing on "proper circuits" such
as Donington Park, Snetterton, Brands Hatch and Silverstone. They would
be more open than the European continent to seeing the Bullying Kid with
the Big Ears, the backflipping guy who looks like Howdy Doody, and the
limp-wristed fellow who could take the lead in "Brokeback Speedway."
Jeff Gordon would be accepted ANYWHERE. But to go to The UK for one race
on an OVAL, very risky with that bloody British weather. It doesn't make
sense for NASCAR , especially with a schedule already loaded to the
"Carburetors" (can't forget those new fangled thangs). Perhaps they
could have a big "Vintage" weekend at Rockingham with the British
version of NASCAR, ASCAR, or is that ASS-SCAR"?
And how would the international press receive NASCAR? If any one
of them wrote a positive article about NASCAR they would lose their F1
media hard card. While the France family control the motorsports
press in the USA, they hold no power whatsoever in the international
motorsports media, save for their coverage in Autosport. NASCAR
owns America, but Bernie owns the world.
International expansion for NASCAR? It looks very doubtful from where I
sit. Last week was their second assault in Mexico for the Busch
Series. Guess what?? Even with 8 Mexican drivers, and the Big Mexican
hero, Senor Adrian Fernandez, attendance was down significantly from the
previous year. Now, Mexico is right on our border. Mexicans love their
Chevys and Fords. They get 100,000 fans at Aztec Stadium for NFL
Pre-Season games. A real "SELLOUT". Gee the Mexicans aren't buying.
Perhaps they will try Canada, now that they've bought Paul Tracy.
Perhaps Canada will be more accepting, and NASCAR can finally lay claim
to being an "International Series"!
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