Business Sense

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Many of NASCAR’s Busch Series teams are in the midst of an unusual handoff now…bringing back their road course equipment, swapping cars and haulers on the grounds of Texas Motor Speedway, and taking their intermediate-track cars to Las Vegas for their 4th race of the new season. It’s a huge test for the BGN teams, most of which don’t have anywhere near the resources in funding or personnel of their Cup brethren.

There are some who’ve taken the sanctioning body to task for breaking new ground in scheduling this past weekend’s race in Mexico. And since racing is run by humans, it’s no stretch to think there were aspects of the Mexico City event that could be done better. But I’d like to offer a different take from that advanced by my friend and Charlotte-based colleague, David Poole of the Charlotte Observer. To paraphrase, David writes in Tuesday’s Observer that NASCAR, the Busch Series, and its teams would have been much better served had the sanctioning body invested similar resources in promoting and saving North Carolina Speedway. One could even extend the theory to include some help for Darlington.

Now, there’s no one who’s a bigger fan of both those tracks than me. I cut my NASCAR broadcasting teeth at both those places on MRN back in the 80’s. And my final NASCAR event broadcast on TNN (before TNN became something no one can recognize) was at the Rock. I’ll be among the first in line to buy a ticket if Humpy Wheeler can reopen the place to host, say, the Craftsman Trucks and Hooters Pro Cup sometime soon.

But sadly, the Rock just isn’t a Cup-level facility any more, and no NASCAR or ISC cash transfusion is likely to change that. The track is, to say the least, out of the way, located in North Carolina’s Sand Hills. It’s a pretty place to play golf or fish, but the seating capacity is too small and the infrastructure is too limited to keep NCS alive as a major racetrack.

I plan on being at Darlington, too, in a few weeks, hoping that it won’t be the final visit by NASCAR’s major series to a place that was known as “The Lady in Black” back when I started doing this. But if that’s how things turn out, it won’t be a Mexico City trip that’s at fault.

You see, Hispanics are the fastest-growing demographic segment in the land. And working to attract Hispanic and Mexican-American fans to racing is both smart business and good for the sport as a whole. Yes, one could reasonably conclude that perhaps the rewards for the BGN teams that hauled south of the border might have been greater. But I’ll bet you that there were more than 40 car owners, more than 40 drivers, and more than 40 corporate and sponsor executives thrilled at the Sunday afternoon crowd at the Autodromo, and that most if not all of those folks now have a collection of business cards from prospective “commercial partners” based in Mexico City.

With NAFTA the law of the land, trade barriers are coming down at an unprecedented rate. And the number of companies doing business, and thus marketing, across borders both South and North grows daily. NASCAR is just doing the very thing that has made it the success story in pro sports in the last 15 years: moving quickly, ahead of the curve. And that, friends, will keep this sport alive, growing, and able to entertain us for many years to come.

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