Coca-Cola Racing Family Brings Excitement

Coca-Cola Racing Family brings excitement By Dave Rodman NASCAR Online DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 12, 1998) The first members of the "Coca-Cola Racing Family" were introduced Thursday night to hundreds of enthusiastic fans at Coke's ...

Coca-Cola Racing Family brings excitement By Dave Rodman NASCAR Online

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 12, 1998)

The first members of the "Coca-Cola Racing Family" were introduced Thursday night to hundreds of enthusiastic fans at Coke's sprawling "NASCAR-themed attraction" on Daytona Beach International Airport property outside Turn 3 at Daytona International Speedway.

NASCAR Winston Cup drivers Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Bill Elliott and Ricky Rudd; Jarrett's wife, Kelley, and son, Zachary; and two-time former NASCAR Winston Cup champion Ned Jarrett were the "Coca-Cola Racing Family" members present.

Among the "family" members who are scheduled to be introduced Friday night between 7 and 9 p.m. are seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, Kyle Petty, Todd Bodine and Jeff Burton. A live musical concert will follow the driver appearances at 9 p.m. at the site, which is located off Coral Sea Ave.

Coca-Cola's concept of the NASCAR Family was well-received by the athletes, their families, and their fans. "To be included in this group is a pretty neat deal, and the whole family concept is pretty cool," said Labonte, the Bud Pole Award winner for the Daytona 500. "It's special that they made this an activity for a group of drivers, not just one or two, and their race teams, as well as including their families." The event is considered a "test program" for similar events that may take place later in the NASCAR Winston Cup season, according to Coca-Cola Company spokesman Scott Williamson. He said Coca-Cola's concept is to get entire families involved and to "experience NASCAR in such a way that they can reach out and touch it."

Williamson said Coca-Cola, which became the "Official Soft Drink of NASCAR" in January 1998, "would be doing a lot of things in NASCAR cities during all 33 events across the country this season. Coca-Cola will be out with our refreshment crews, our racing simulators and a lot of fun times. Wherever we are, we're going to have t-shirts and hats - and plenty of Coca-Cola.

"Daytona is the Super Bowl of NASCAR and we're excited to be here. Given the kind of reception we've gotten since we've been here I think we can look forward to a lot of exciting things in the future."

The athletes and their families who are affiliated with the "Coca-Cola Racing Family" will participate in a variety of promotional activities and appearances throughout the season. They all cited the family aspect and how important it was in considering their participation in the "family."

"You wouldn't believe the families of fans that I come into contact with - sometimes a third generation of people who have rooted for me, from mothers and fathers to their children and now their grandchildren," said Rudd, marveling at the hubbub going on around the compound, which included six tents, a 150-foot-wide stage, eight show cars and a racing simulator.

"With the growth that NASCAR is experiencing at this point in time, we have to explore everything we can promotion-wise," said Elliott, who added that he is thrilled to be a Georgia native finally affiliated with Coca-Cola, which is based in Atlanta. "It means a lot to finally get involved with Coca-Cola, which is a great corporation. I've kind of been an associate of theirs through my involvement with McDonald's the last few years.

"But to be involved with all these other drivers they have, I think it's great and it's head and shoulders above everybody else. It goes to show that the company is in this sport and they're willing to support several different teams and drivers. It helps expand everyone's fan base."

As the evening unfolded, fans - including several entourages of three generations - were entertained by music and dancing and by t-shirts that were "cannoned" into the crowd. As the drivers arrived, they were brought to the stage for brief question-and-answer sessions with fans. They ran the full gamut, from the ridiculous to, well, strange. "Are you going to take your brother out?" asked an unidentified West Virginia fan of Labonte.

"Man, I don't think so..." Bobby Labonte answered, cheerfully shaking his head. "I don't think we're going to play mind games," he said in reply to another query. "The only mind I'm going to have is 'I hope you don't mind if I get in front.'"

Labonte finally ended the speculation on the level of acceptance NASCAR Winston Cup racing has received when a fan asked, "If you win the Daytona 500, will Joe Gibbs get you tickets to the Super Bowl?"

"Well, he got fired from NBC," said Labonte dryly. "Maybe if I win I can get him tickets to the Super Bowl."

"Coca-Cola Racing Family" will make its final installment Saturday night from 7 - 9, when Dale Earnhardt Jr., Adam Petty, Jason Jarrett, two-time defending NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champion Randy LaJoie, Mike McLaughlin, and "Flying Aces" pit crew member Danny "Chocolate" Myers will be introduced.

Courtesy of NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Adam Petty , Todd Bodine , Kyle Petty , Mike McLaughlin , Ned Jarrett , Jason Jarrett
Teams Williams