NASCAR hits jackpot in new markets LAS VEGAS (Feb. 26, 1999) As the NASCAR Winston Cup Series prepares to make its second visit to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the March 7 Las Vegas 400, drivers and car owners alike reflected on the new markets...
NASCAR hits jackpot in new markets
LAS VEGAS (Feb. 26, 1999) As the NASCAR Winston Cup Series prepares to make its second visit to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the March 7 Las Vegas 400, drivers and car owners alike reflected on the new markets that the sport has added to its schedule, Las Vegas in particular. To a man, they say that NASCAR has hit the jackpot by adding Vegas to its itinerary.
"From a driver's standpoint I like new race tracks," said Jeremy Mayfield, who steers the Mobil 1 Ford. "It's fun going somewhere new and trying out a brand new place. It's fun trying to figure it out, how to set the car up, how to handle the turns, how to find the line. It's kind of neat to go somewhere where your beard doesn't have to be gray and you don't have to have a notebook with a couple hundred pages and notes back to the Curtis Turner days to figure a place out. Everybody is on a pretty even level, at least from an experience standpoint. And, hey, it was pretty cool seeing Wayne Newton walking through the garage a year ago.
"Las Vegas gets us a lot closer physically to a lot of people we weren't all that close to before. Plus, people just like visiting Las Vegas, and if some guy from Timbuktu who has never been to a race before and has only watched it on television has the chance to see us race in person and spend a few days in Las Vegas too, he is probably going to grab it."
Mayfield's principal car owner Michael Kranefuss served 25 years as head of Ford Motorsports Worldwide before beginning a career as a car owner in 1994. He says that of the new markets NASCAR Winston Cup has added in recent years, Las Vegas is special.
"Las Vegas is a very unique opportunity," said Kranefuss. "People who go to Vegas don't necessarily go there because of the races. What little I know of how the community handled things a year ago came from conversations I had with various hotel management people. I think the Las Vegas community did not expect any great rush with last year's race but, all of the sudden, realized there were about 100,000 people coming to their community just because of the races. Obviously, those people used the same time to see shows and gamble.
"Of the 100,000 people that go there to see the race and maybe spend a couple of days extra, they are coming from all over the country. It's not just people who live in Las Vegas. I think you're reaching a cross section of population through that race alone."
"This year should ideally be the first year when you see the whole industry of the city of Las Vegas getting much more behind this event than they were last year when it was the first. They had sort of drawn conclusions from the IRL races, which were not well visited by spectators."
John Andretti has competed in virtually every form of motorsports as well, not only as a driver but also as an owner, chief mechanic and consultant. The driver of the STP Pontiac says that with growth comes growing pains, but NASCAR has done a good job of keeping them in check, and that in turn has increased the size of his checks.
"Adding new speedways and new markets is an important part of racing," said Andretti. "If we are going to continue to grow, we have to grow every way we can. A positive, controlled growth in markets is important. Adding Las Vegas last year, Homestead this year, California and Texas a couple of years ago, Indianapolis before that ... all of that has really given the series a kick-start. In a lot of businesses, you see some flat-lining on the growth charts but I'd say it's been a pretty good while since you've seen that in NASCAR Winston Cup racing. It doesn't have a chance to flat-line.
"The controlled aspect is probably the most important. No doubt (NASCAR President) Bill France, (NASCAR COO) Mike Helton, (NASCAR Senior Vice President) Brian France and everybody else at NASCAR knows exactly how they're planning on growing this series. It's a tough deal. You want to grow quickly because it's exciting to grow fast. But you want to grow with some control because it's easy for any business to outgrow itself. These guys walk a pretty fine line but they seem to walk it pretty well. It's paying off for all of us."
Stanton Barrett is a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series who drives the Heritage Consumer Products Ford. He is no rookie when it comes to the non-driving side of racing. While preparing for his driving career, Barrett worked virtually every facet of professional motorsports: Marketing, public relations and licensing. Few are more aware of the importance of key markets in developing sponsorships and developing a sport.
"I think these last six speedways have been really important to the sport's growth," said Barrett. "Look at the markets NASCAR was able to add. These are brand new markets, most of them a long way from markets we were already in. With just those last six tracks, we've reached a point where we take our sport into Boston, Indianapolis, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and we add Miami this year.
"Las Vegas was a key peg in this whole deal. The series came to a virtually untapped area and didn't just hit a home run, it hit a Mark McGwire out-of-the-stadium home run. The television numbers were fantastic. The seats were sold out in just a few days. And the entire city embraced us and made us part of the family. You have to feel a lot of other cities had seen the reception and saw what people thought, and they had to start wondering themselves if it wasn't time to start big-league auto racing."
According to Andretti, it's not only important for each new city to become a part of NASCAR, but for NASCAR to become a part of each new city. "You can't just be there," he said. "You can't just jump into a new track in a new market, pat yourself on the back and say, 'Here I am!' You have to become part of it, become part of the whole culture of the area. That's what NASCAR is known for doing and that's what we did at Las Vegas last year."
Source: NASCAR Online