SBJ/April 23 - 29, 2007/This Weeks News

Die-cast makers duel over Car of Tomorrow

The race to deliver the first NASCAR Car of Tomorrow die-cast cars to market was won by a little-known company in its first year of producing die-casts, but a competitor has called the authenticity of its cars into question.

Checkered Flag’s die-cast car

Checkered Flag Sports of Martinsville, Va., with an office of 150 employees, plays David to the Goliath of Motorsports Authentics, a joint venture of Speedway Motorsports Inc. and International Speedway Corp., two giants in the motorsports business. But after two NASCAR Nextel Cup races using the Car of Tomorrow on March 25 and April 1, Checkered Flag remained the only producer with COT die-cast cars for sale at the racetrack.

Motorsports Authentics is taking pre-orders, but its die-casts won’t be delivered until June, President Ruth Crowley said. The reason for the delay, she said, is that NASCAR continued to tweak the Car of Tomorrow into early January, which set back MA’s production. Checkered Flag, on the other hand, continued with its production plans through the winter as the COT design was being tweaked by NASCAR and decided to make its changes after the initial run.

Crowley called into question the authenticity of the COT die-casts that already have hit the market.

Checkered Flag Sports has been selling Robby Gordon No. 7 die-cast cars since the first COT race at Bristol, Tenn. The only other COT die-casts available as of the April 15 race at Texas were Mark Martin’s No. 01 replica and Sterling Marlin’s No. 14. Those cars are produced by Checkered Flag, but Sports Design, a subsidiary of SMI Properties, operates the souvenir trailer. The cars are retailing for $7 to $62, depending on size.

“I’ve seen their cars and there are a lot of errors,” Crowley said. “We were not going to bring something to the fans and the collectors that wasn’t authentic. We’ve spent a lot of time making sure all of the updated specs have been incorporated.”

Butch Hamlet, president of Checkered Flag, said that NASCAR’s rules changes make alterations to the die-cast cars inevitable.

“We are currently making some running changes to reflect NASCAR’s changes in the rules, which are constantly evolving,” Hamlet said.

“You can always argue that it’s not exactly the way it’s presented at the track. That’s nothing new because the rules change. It takes a month or so for the changes to show up [in the die-casts].”

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