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NASCAR Racing Live

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On: Tue, Oct 18, 2011 at 12:49PM | By: Peter C Sessler

NASCAR Racing Live

This past month I had to privilege to attend a series of NASCAR races. It's actually research for a book I'm working on. So I called a friend whose company is a sponsor of one of the teams. Anyone can go to a race; not everyone can go inside the garage and pit area, but with his help, I was able to get "Credentials"—a fancy word for a pass that lets you go anywhere you want.

I'd never attended a NASCAR race and it was truly an experience. We drove in his motorhome and you get a somewhat different perspective of our economy when you see a vast sea of motorhomes parked together. These things are not cheap to run and maintain. I was impressed with our motorhome, but he told me I should see the one the driver for his team has. It cost over $750,000!

Anyway, what one is struck by is how well NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Racing) has marketed the whole concept of stock car racing and the NASCAR name over the past fifteen years. Before one of the races, you had to sit through literally a half an hour of hearing about all of the "official" NASCAR products. Everywhere you're bombarded with NASCAR this or that. You're even breathing NASCAR fumes while you're there. Go to any store these days and you're bound to see some product that has been endorsed by NASCAR. For example, I always wondered why all those stock car drivers wear sunglasses all the time. Do they think they look "cool" or something? It's not that at all—if you had a sunglass maker offering you wads of money to wear their shades, you'd be wearing them too.

I asked my friend how effective the sponsorship of the car has been on their sales and have they been able to measure the results? He told me it's hard to quantify, but they're afraid to stop to find out. It's like all advertising, only half of it works—you just don't know which half. NASCAR has become a big money making machine.

But they do provide a great show. I thought of all these things while strolling in the pit area. Just take a look at the trucks they use to transport the team and the cars. They are truly incredible. They are all two-level affairs with the cars stored at the top. You enter the downstairs through two glass doors into a pantry/kitchen area. Looking further on, you see a brightly lit carpeted corridor with closed cabinets on either side. You don't have any idea what's behind the closed doors until you see small labels on the doors such as "Spare Wheels" or "Transmissions". At the very front of the trailer is a communications center and a lounge with all the usual amenities. My friend told me if a driver can't be found, he's usually hiding in the lounge!

A lot of people feel that NASCAR racing is dull—after all, all they are doing is going round and round. If the racing was dull people wouldn't pay so much to see it. Like any spectator sport, something is lost when it's translated from one medium to another. It doesn't become real until you're there in person. The noise, the intensity, and the smells—it's all so incredible. There are so many cars driving so fast so closely packed together there is no doubt in my mind you have to be insane to drive one. How else can you describe forty-three cars driving around a 3/4-mile oval track averaging 125 mph? (if they average 125 mph, that means they are going over 150 down the short 800-foot straight). They say these cars are going so fast that they are at the edge of adhesion—all it would take is a slight push to send them spinning, and these drivers bump each other all the time. Even so, NASCAR racing is extremely safe because the cars are built like tanks.

If you've never been to a stock car race, go see one. You know, fun for the whole family and all that—but do bring ear plugs.


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