Fernandez: NASCAR gaining more Hispanic viewer
Has the Busch Series race in Mexico City lost its luster after three seasons? Has it succeeded in NASCAR's goal of growing Hispanic interest in the sport?
Those questions are difficult to answer, but Mexico City native Adrian Fernandez is a good person to ask. He's almost certainly the most popular driver in Mexico and has driven stock cars in the United States.
Fernandez broached those subjects during a conference call earlier this week and said that, while the NASCAR-in-Mexico experiment is still in its early stages, progress has been made.
"I see more fans looking into NASCAR, watching NASCAR," Fernandez said. "We also have a national championship that is with NASCAR cars [the NASCAR Mexico Series]. It's organized here, it's televised. You do have more following. People are starting to understand more."
Racing in Mexico long has been dominated by open-wheel series, as both Formula One and Champ Car have held races there. Replacing those series with NASCAR in the minds of Mexican fans simply takes time, Fernandez said.
"When I was a kid, I used to watch NASCAR and stock cars on TV, but it was nothing that you will follow," said Fernandez, who added that he would usually watch the Daytona 500 but not much else. "I think now that there is more Mexicans that have been on and off there racing.
"Now that we have the race here, I see that the fan base has grown, and I believe if NASCAR keeps doing what they're doing, everybody here in Mexico does a good job, eventually you will have a good fan base. It's just continuity. It just takes time. Success will not come overnight."
Having Hispanic drivers in NASCAR helps, too, but developing younger Mexican drivers takes time, too. Of course, NASCAR was aided by the sudden addition of Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, an F1 star who has made the transition to stock cars.
"Even though NASCAR is still very new to our fans, I think they've been embracing NASCAR pretty well," Fernandez said. "Obviously, there's a lot to learn in NASCAR. You can compare it to open-wheel racing, which they're more used to that. There are a lot of drivers, a lot of teams, rules are different. I think they're getting more used to it."
Fernandez isn't sure of the impact made by NASCAR in the Hispanic market in the United States but believes "in general it has worked."
"I always say that continuity is the best thing they can have for the sport," Fernandez said. "If there is continuity in the Mexican race, it will be successful and get to be known. Obviously, it is important to have a Latin driver that can be consistent there. That can remind our fans and the Latin community that there is a presence, a Hispanic presence or Mexican driver in that respect."
Fans in Mexico simply like racing, Fernandez said, adding, "We're all about the party."
"I think Mexican fans ... they welcome everybody with open arms," Fernandez said. "I haven't heard anything but good things about people that have had good experiences here in Mexico. Everybody I talk to in NASCAR, they like to come here because everybody has treated them so well." More at Scene Daily.