SBD/Issue 31/Sports Industrialists
NASCAR CMO Steve Phelps Featured On CBS' "Undercover Boss"
Published October 25, 2010
|Phelps Takes Part In
CBS' "Undercover Boss"
CBS' "Undercover Boss" last night featured NASCAR CMO & Senior VP STEVE PHELPS going undercover as Kevin, a "lucky competition-winning race fan with an all-access pass." Phelps said he was asked by NASCAR Chair & CEO BRIAN FRANCE and President MIKE HELTON to go undercover because they are "clearly too visible to be able to do that." Helton told Phelps, "I think it'd also be good experience for you as our CMO to get an inside look with some of the race teams' behind-the-scenes elements." Phelps said, "I'm hoping that working undercover with the people that make this sport run will give me new insights on how to help this sport grow and get back to record levels." Phelps' first stop while undercover was Hendrick Motorsports' shop in Concord, N.C., where he worked out with NASCAR driver MARK MARTIN's pit crew and then served as a tire carrier during the team's practice ahead of a race at Daytona. After struggling in a few attempts to get a tire on the race car, Phelps said, "It was an incredible experience to do what these guys do. But this is hard." Rear tire changer DION WILLIAMS trained Phelps and said "Kevin" would be "the waterboy" for his performance. Phelps next traveled to Daytona Int'l Speedway, where he vowed to stay in an RV in the infield the "way the average NASCAR fan would" in order to "gain the full fan experience." Phelps worked in facility operations at the track, seeking to get a sense of "what happens to prep for a race." He painted over the finish line and painted over signs around the track. Phelps then worked a concession stand wearing a NASCAR hat and Coca-Cola apron, selling food and soda. After the concession stand, Phelps worked on NASCAR driver DAVID REUTIMANN's No. 00 Sprint Cup team with tire specialist Scott Swift. Swift told Phelps, "The sport's more commercial and corporate-driven now than it is family-oriented, and it's kind of hard to get family into the racetrack." Phelps told the camera, "Hearing Scott talking about the commercialization of the sport, it really dawned on me that that's exactly what I do. ... It's a two-edged sword. The commercialism pays for all the jobs that you see here and there are tens of thousands of jobs that are part of NASCAR. So it's a tough one."
|Phelps Says Williams Will Be Charter
Member Of An Industry Council
THE AFTERMATH: The employees with whom Phelps worked all traveled to NASCAR HQs, where he met with each of them individually. Phelps told Williams he is a "tremendous ambassador" for NASCAR. He said he plans to start an Industry Council, and Williams is going to be its charter member. Phelps told Swift that he would send him and his family to the race of his choice, "all-expenses paid." He also vowed to "provide tickets to every member" of Reutimann's pit crew "so they can bring their families to a race in 2011." Later, Phelps told the camera, "What I'll take from this week is knowing that I was able to affect some people's lives in a positive way, and that's something that I feel very fortunate to have done. What I found working with these people is that we truly have the best fans in the world and some of those best fans in the world are the ones that work right here at NASCAR" ("Undercover Boss," CBS, 10/24).
GREAT OPPORTUNITY: Phelps said while he is "not an in-front-of-the-camera kind of guy," he knew the show "would be a great way to expose our sport to millions." Phelps: "It's a great show, and it's not one of the gotcha shows. It's a feel-good show. We thought our sport would resonate with their viewers." Phelps added, "I did the best job I could to represent my sport, my family and myself" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/24).
CO-STARRING ROLE: In Charlotte, Theoden Janes noted Hendrick Motorsports' Williams was "featured in a memorable supporting role" during last night's episode. Williams is "one of the best rear tire carriers in the business -- and one of a small but growing number of African-Americans working in NASCAR." Phelps said that Williams "was 'absolutely' one of the most memorable people he came into contact with that week" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/23).