Collectors Corner: NASCAR Gets Looney
January 21, 2003 | 11:40 P.M. EST
Who would of thought that for two years now, one of the most successful marketing programs in the history of racing collectibles would involve the crazy antics of the Looney Tunes.
The 2001 Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond International Raceway was the debut of the new multi-car promotion phenomenon, which featured the Tunes. Fans that attended any one of the races on September 6-8, not only were able to see their favorite superstar (some paired-up with a Looney Tune character), but also were granted access to The Looney Tunes FanFest. The FanFest helped promote the three major companies-Chevrolet, Action Performance, and Warner Brothers Consumer Products, through an area that included games, show cars and Looney Tunes costume characters. In addition, fans were also invited to watch a live collectible show starring Kevin Harvick.
In the inaugural season we saw seven Monte Carlo's drivers which included: Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, Steve Park (Kenny Wallace), Kevin Harvick, Jeff Green, Mike Skinner and Bobby Hamilton team up with a Warner Bros. superstar.
Unfortunately that night, Ricky Rudd spoiled a victory lane celebration for one of the Looney Tune drivers, but they didn't go down without a fight. Of course they couldn't use the traditional ACME fireworks and dynamite to blast their way to a win, but the Tunes did have Kevin Harvick.
With his pal the Tasmanian Devil along for the ride, Harvick tore through the field like a tornado to where they nudged Rudd on Lap 383 to take the lead. But in the end, Rudd would pay back the nudge from Harvick with six laps to go to win the Chevy Monte Carlo 400, and deny Taz and Chevrolet the win.
Due the overwhelming popularity of the promotion, some Looney Tune collectibles are becoming even harder to get, especially the 2001 items. The RacingOne FanShop has come across a few limited edition sets that feature two of the drivers that were in the spotlight in the inaugural event.
First is a Kevin Harvick 2001 Looney Tunes 1:64 4-car Die-cast set, which includes gold, platinum; chrome and brushed metal. Only 2,000 sets were produced, and each one comes with a certificate of authenticity.
The next item is a repeat of the Harvick 1:64 set (Exception: Chromalusion instead of chrome), but features Jeff Gordon, who won the pole with his Bugs Bunny Chevrolet. This set is limited to only 3,000 sets, and for a driver that is known for his special paint schemes, this item is sure to go fast.
Both also come with a leather display case (pictured).
Last season marked the second-straight year that the Looney Tunes characters entered the world of NASCAR, but this time they included the NASCAR Busch Series race, the FUNAI 250. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Gossamer and other assorted Looney Tunes characters) and his brother, Kerry Earnhardt (Yosemite Sam), took the track in Looney Tunes Monte Carlos the night before the second annual Monte Carlo 400 featuring the Looney Tunes.
New to the event in 2002 included drivers-Joe Nemechek, Jimmie Johnson, and Robby Gordon.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ended-up winning the Funai 250 giving the Looney Tunes their first victory, while Jeff Green was the highest finishing Warner Bros. car in the Cup race, coming home 3rd.
The Looney Tune promotion also opened the door for another family-oreinted promotion involving the 25th anniversary of The Muppet Show. Last season's Tropicana 400 held in Chicago featured cars with Muppet paint schemes. The likes of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Pepe, and several others graced different Winston Cup cars. Some of the drivers involved in the promotion included Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd, Bobby Labonte, Jimmy Spencer and Johnny Benson.
Sounds like a great way to celebrate a 25th anniversary? Well...
Unlike the Looney Tunes who were allowed to enter Richmond International Raceway to take part in the festivities, the Muppets were forced to wait at the gate.
Back in July, Chicagoland Speedway sent The Jim Henson Co. notification that the Muppets would not be allowed on speedway property because neither the track nor race sponsor Tropicana had been included in the planning of the promotion. Action Performance executives said they didn't expect access to be an issue because it had not been one at other tracks when they staged similar events.
Executives from Action Performance, Chicagoland Speedway and Tropicana said they are in discussions about a similar promotion that could run at the track this year.
Looks like we will just have to wait and see, but somehow I don't see a 26th anniversary celebration in the future.
The Muppets also made an appearance in the NHRA, and World of Outlaws last season.
NASCAR wasn't the only sport the Tunes have been apart of. Back in 1996, the Tunes also took Michael Jordan and the NBA to the big screen in Space Jam. Just like the NASCAR promotion, both included print, television, and broadcast campaigns, along with point-of-purchase displays all over the country.
There is no word yet if the Looney Tunes will be returning this season, but RacingOne will notify the fans if an announcement is made, but for now...
"That's All Folks!"
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