The United States Military "presence" in NASCAR

The United States has a Military "Presence" in NASCAR, via increasing sponsorship commitments. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 22, 2002) - The Marines have landed. So have the Army, Navy, Air Force and Civil Air Patrol. The sudden influx of U.S.

The United States has a Military "Presence" in NASCAR, via increasing sponsorship commitments.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 22, 2002) - The Marines have landed.

So have the Army, Navy, Air Force and Civil Air Patrol.

The sudden influx of U.S. armed services sponsoring NASCAR teams is relatively new and a welcomed trend. The armed services have been involved with NASCAR teams in the past, such as the 1998 Coca-Cola 600 when all five branches, including the Coast Guard, adorned the hoods of NASCAR Winston Cup Series cars. But now the phenomenon has reached all levels of NASCAR's three national series.

In fact, all four of the nation's most recognized armed services plus the Civil Air Patrol - an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force - can be seen racing at tracks across the country.

In the NASCAR Busch Series, four different teams are enjoying the partnership. The U.S. Marine Corps dons the hood of Bobby Hamilton Jr.'s No. 25 Ford as a full-time sponsor in the series. The Civil Air Patrol is the primary sponsor of Ashton Lewis Jr.'s No. 46 Chevrolet and Stuart Kirby's No. 34 Chevrolet running a partial schedule with a sponsorship from the U.S. Air Force. Also running a limited schedule in partnership with the U.S. Army is Brian Vickers driving the No. 40 Dodge.

In the other national series', the Air Force also is an associate sponsor on Elliott Sadler's No. 21 Motorcraft Ford in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. The U.S. Navy has joined Roush Racing's No. 50 Ford driven by Jon Wood in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

The cars sponsored by the armed services will be in full force over the Memorial Day weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., beginning with Saturday's Carquest Auto Parts 300 NASCAR Busch Series race (1p.m. ET; FOX) and Sunday's Coca-Cola Racing Family 600 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race (5:30 p.m. ET; FOX).

"What the U.S. Air Force has meant to the No. 21 team this year is unbelievable," said Sadler."It has given us more pride than anything just to be able to carry those wings on the hood of this race car."

Like a traditional sponsor, the armed services are looking for exposure. But that's where the similarities end as the U.S. looks to bolster its troops.

"Recruitment and exposure are our primary goals," said Mary Nell Crowe, director of marketing for the Civil Air Patrol."We looked at NASCAR very hard because of the number of people it reaches and because it's the fastest growing sport in America."

Despite being just four months into the partnership with Lewis Motorsports, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) already is seeing an increase in membership.

"We had a 3.9% increase for the month of April which is significant," Crowe said."That was against a 2% decrease during that same time period last year."

Incidentally, the CAP - a non-profit, civilian-based group founded in 1941 and best known for their search-and-rescue mission - was responsible for finding the wreckage of a downed helicopter during Speedweeks in Daytona Beach, Fla., in February.

Randy Fuller, superintendent of the Air Force Motorsports, said that partnering with a NASCAR team is a great and necessary way to get their message out to the public.

"It can also be a sensitive subject, but to keep the Air Force running for the taxpayer, you need, in the case of this year, over 30,000 people coming in," Fuller said."People just don't walk in the door, we have to advertise and recruit and this is a great way to reach people. It's a minimum investment for us. It's less than five percent of our annual advertising budget."

The U.S. Marine Corp's partnership with NASCAR has been the longest running to date. In 1999 Rick Rathmann, a former Marine, was able to display his appreciation for the Marines by partnering with Hank Parker Sr. on the No. 53 Team Marines entry in the NASCAR Busch Series. Four years later, the Marines claimed their first win with Bobby Hamilton Jr. behind the wheel of the No. 25 Ford in the NASCAR Busch Series. Hamilton Jr. led a race-high 83 laps at the Busch 200 (New Hampshire International Speedway) and displayed the Marines' never-say-die attitude by coming from the back to the front on two separate occasions before taking the checkered flag.

"We use the on-track performance to build up the reputation of the Team Marines car and it's building a big following," said Major Rob Winchester, Public Affairs Officer for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command."The name Bobby Hamilton Jr. and the team is getting out there and when we go to schools with our show car, it opens the door even wider.

"Just based on the dollars alone and getting the best bang for the buck, we can't go out and buy advertising time, run our commercials and get a better return for our money than we do with our NASCAR program," said Winchester.

"We have three missions," added Winchester."We make Marines, we win battles and return quality citizens to the community. We're in NASCAR to make Marines."

The decision for many of the armed services to get involved with NASCAR is fitting also in terms of the connection with drivers, teams, tracks and fans.

"The NASCAR population we're reaching is very patriotic," said Fuller."A lot of them are interested in mechanics and we're always hiring mechanics. We have crew chiefs that strategize just like in NASCAR."

-nascar-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Jon Wood , Stuart Kirby , Brian Vickers , Ashton Lewis , Elliott Sadler