Sunday, April 4, 2010

Is the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington the start of more things to come in NASCAR with sponsored titles for historical races?

Ladies and gentlemen, for especially the last decade or two, sponsors have become a huge part of NASCAR and they pay for just about everything. Corporations (sponsors) have a hand in paying for teams, drivers, crew chiefs, over the wall crew, people back at the shop to the equipment that is on the cars and that includes the cars themselves.

Sponsors also pay for most of the races and the racetracks as well and that now includes putting their names in the actually titles of racetracks like the former Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte and races like The Winston years ago.

I remember The Winston; that was cleaver considering calling it The Winston would insure that the sponsor Winston was in all of the articles and would be mentioned for years to come.

Going even further in this discussion, I will go on record by saying that I believe that while NASCAR and its teams can survive without manufacturers as they only really support teams in the Cup Series now and the COT is present anyway, NASCAR can’t survive without sponsor’s period. And I mean can’t survive without sponsors.

But I also believe that as much as NASCAR needs sponsors, sponsors need NASCAR too. It’s a two way street and that’s because even with all of the talk of NASCAR being over, NASCAR at the end of the day still puts on a good product (show) and attracts millions of racing fans and for sponsors that’s gold. The key for companies is to get your product out in front of consumers and NASCAR fans are consumers.

And just think of this as well, the sponsors (companies) in NASCAR are all over everything from the drivers and crew members uniforms and the transporters and the pit box, but even more they are on NASCAR fans themselves. I just bought a Dale Earnhardt Jr. uniform jacket and that have National Guard, AMP Energy, Mountain Dew and more all over it.

Which brings me to the reason for this article, and the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway will be now known as the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington.

(From Press Release) “Showtime Networks Inc. announced a deal with Darlington Raceway to be named the official title sponsor of the Southern 500, becoming one of the only television networks ever to title sponsor a NASCAR event.”

“The NASCAR fan is a deeply loyal and passionate one,” said Ken Hershman, Executive Vice President and General Manager of SHOWTIME Sports. “With the launch of the ‘Inside NASCAR’ series, we were looking to connect with the fans in a meaningful and emotional way, and to affirm our commitment to the NASCAR family. Sponsoring a race at an historic track like Darlington Raceway, one that has hosted all the legends in the sport, was the perfect fit.”

“We are very excited to partner with a company as well known as Showtime,” said Darlington Raceway President, Chris Browning. “The timing of this announcement could not be better with the recent launch of their new program “Inside NASCAR”. From the start, Showtime recognized the value in the Darlington Raceway brand and the significant role the track has played in the history of NASCAR, which we believe makes Darlington the perfect partnership for Showtime.”

Think about this for a moment, Darlington Raceway in 2009 had originally brought back the name, the Southern 500, but now has changed or modified it to the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington. The Southern 500 that originally was held on Labor Day and is one of the most legendary races in NASCAR history and now it’s changed or modified, what do NASCAR fans think about that?

But I have to say that this isn’t the only name change of a historical race in NASCAR, the All-Star race in May has been changed several times. And so has the Brickyard 400 that is now known as the AllState 400 at the Brickyard.

Can imagine though this trend continuing on even further, I have to wonder what’s next and how far is too far?

Let me throw an example out there: The Daytona 500, NASCAR’s superbowl, the biggest race of season by far, could be imagine that name changing to either the Verizon Wireless 500 at Daytona or The Daytona 500 presented by Verizon Wireless. For Verizon Wireless, they sponsored a few things at Daytona, so that were I came up with that. And I believe NASCAR needs to allow AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless back in the Cup Series to be able to sponsor racecars. But I mean that could be the future…

Now the idea of changing the names of some of the most historical races in NASCAR to keep up with the times or money for the race isn’t really going to sit well with some NASCAR fans and in some cases it really doesn’t sit well with me neither. I understand and relies that times are changing and sponsors are huge in this sport as I already said above, but there is a limit to changing a historical name just to accommodate a sponsor into the mix as I pointed out above with the Verizon Wireless 500 at Daytona.

But I don’t know why I’m about to say this, but I’m actually ok with The Daytona 500 presented by Verizon Wireless, but NOT with the Verizon Wireless 500 at Daytona just as I wasn’t ok with the AllState 400 at the Brickyard. Some things in NASCAR just shouldn’t be changed and NASCAR finally realized that with the rear spoiler. NASCAR racecars having spoilers is what NASCAR fans want and connect with and that’s it.

So what does everybody think, do you agree with the Showtime Southern 500 name change or think they should have come up with something else? Are you ok with changing some of the historical race names to keep up with the times?

But before I go, I want to point out something, currently in the United States, there are two sports venues that are well known or people can identify just by hearing the name, The Boston Garden and the Madison Square Garden. Of course now the Boston Garden has already changed to the TD Bank Garden, but the Madison Square Garden hasn’t, what if it did? Now putting “Garden” after TD Bank doesn’t sit well with some, it is a sign of the times, but I believe that those two examples go hand in hand with the NASCAR races. Boy am I going to catch some for that statement, but it’s what I believe.

Photo Credit: NASCAR media