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Volume 24 No. 160

NASCAR Season Preview

The ‘12 NASCAR season kicks off this weekend in Daytona with the sport “once again charting an upward trajectory on and off the racetrack,” according to Sam Mamudi of MARKETWATCH. Last year was a “bounce-back year for NASCAR, with new sponsorship deals, a reverse in falling television ratings and the closest championship finish in its history.” As the new season gets underway, the “sport is looking to build on the momentum.” NASCAR is in the “first year of a five-year plan aimed at attracting and keeping fans, a plan that will see new cars that will more closely resemble road cars, an in-house digital media operation and greater focus on the drivers” (, 2/24). NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France said, "We have a lot of momentum going into 2012.” He added the sport is “always hit harder" in an economic downturn, but "the future looks bright for us.” France: "Our attendance is on the up rise and there's more demand right now across the board for tickets" (, 2/22).’s Kurt Badenhausen noted after a “multiyear slide that saw big sponsors and fans abandoning the sport, TV ratings for the season increased 10%, attendance at the tracks stabilized and 18 different drivers found the winner’s circle in 2011, one shy of the record.” Hendrick Motorsports President Marshall Carlson: “I’m as optimistic about the business side of this sport as I’ve been in five years” (, 2/22). Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage “believes NASCAR is in its redemption phase.” Gossage: “I don’t think we did anything wrong as a sport. But we’re in that redemption process again.” He added, “There’s a whole different attitude down here this year than there was two or three years ago. You can just feel it” (FLORIDA TODAY, 2/24).

SURVEY SAYS...: In N.Y., Ken Belson notes NASCAR “interviewed nearly 40 of its executives and 151 industry stakeholders, including drivers, race teams and sponsors” to review how the sport “communicates with fans new and old.” More than “1,000 casual and avid fans completed online surveys,” and news media coverage of NASCAR during the past decade “was analyzed to see how it could be improved.” NASCAR Senior VP & CMO Steve Phelps said, “The media landscape has changed so much and we were slow to change to it.” After spending “more than $5 million on the research, NASCAR spent millions more buying back its digital rights in 2013 from Turner, which had paid NASCAR a fee to run its Web site.” NASCAR also hired “nine new staff members, in part to help market to Hispanic, urban and young fans.” Drivers were also “encouraged to use Twitter and Facebook to communicate.” Phelps “commissioned an ethnographic study that gauged how fans navigate racetracks” to attract new fans (N.Y. TIMES, 2/24).

CHANGING OF THE GUARD? SI’s Jeffery Salter writes Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch are poised to “dominate the sports in the coming years the way” Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson have “for much of the last decade.” Fox’ Darrell Waltrip said, “A changing of the guard in NASCAR is coming. Historically when the establishment gets firmly established in NASCAR, they’ll look in their rearview mirror and see a bunch of younger guys coming fast. We’re at that transition point right now” (SI, 2/27 issue). YAHOO SPORTS’ Jay Hart wrote to say Dale Earnhardt Jr. “winning, even once, would benefit NASCAR and everything involved with it -- TV ratings, ticket sales, Internet clicks, etc. -- would be to beat a dead horse that’s been beaten and dead for a few years.” His popularity “hasn’t waned much, which is a credit to him,” but it remains a “small consolation when the business at hand is winning races, something he hasn’t done in more than 1,300 days and counting.” Earnhardt Jr. on Wednesday said, “I just want to win -- anywhere. I just want to go ahead and get that done so I can think about the next one and get this streak over with” (, 2/22).

NASCAR this season stands to “benefit big time” from Danica Patrick’s move from the Izod IndyCar Series to a full-time Nationwide and part-time Sprint Cup schedule, according to Holly Cain of NASCAR Senior VP & CMO Steve Phelps said, “There is no doubt that the series is healthier with her in it. It’s taking a positive, and making it better.” Cain noted in a time when corporate America is “tightening its sponsorship purse strings and attendance and television ratings have been sagging, Patrick’s presence could translate into a well-timed economic spark for the sport.” Phelps anticipates a “healthy spike in merchandise sales and fully expects Patrick to be among the top 10 in driver-licensed merchandise.” Her sponsor Go Daddy “isn’t just investing in car sponsorship but also buying up TV commercial time.” Phelps: “She is essentially providing her own fan base to us -- driving eyeballs and a new audience to NASCAR. And our hope is these people will stay with us even long after she retires from NASCAR.” NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who won last year's Nationwide Series championship, said, “It’s a win-win no matter what. When you have more people showing up for the races, you have more people tuning in on TV. Sponsors like to see that” (, 2/22). In Miami, David Neal noted NASCAR hopes Patrick “brings her vast popularity over from IndyCar, where only one win in seven seasons didn’t prevent her from being a fan favorite.” Her willingness to “occasionally confront other drivers after on-track dustups puts her right in line with the settle-it-behind-the-barn attitude old-school NASCAR fans often say they miss from modern drivers” (MIAMI HERALD, 2/19). NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson: “We need people tuned in and watching and she brings in a lot of new fans. She has been able to get our sport onto a different platform, with mainstream media and things that she is involved with outside of racing. I’m excited about it” (, 2/23). 

DANICA INC.: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel noted Patrick will become the “highest-profile female (and just third ever) to enter the Daytona 500,” and the bonus for NASCAR is that “in a circuit that has seen sponsors drop out in recent years, Patrick comes with her own corporate backing.” Go Daddy will serve as a "presenting sponsor for Saturday’s Nationwide broadcast” in addition to being Patrick's primary sponsor in the Daytona 500. Go Daddy Founder Bob Parsons said, “I did not sponsor Danica because I wanted to get into racing. I got into racing because I wanted to sponsor Danica. If it wasn’t for Danica, I’m not sure I’d be involved in racing.” Wetzel noted Patrick’s “suggestive, campy and often-ridiculous commercials for aren’t much for cinematic genius.” However, they have been “wildly successful for the company, and the secret may be that Patrick is known to rewrite jokes, suggest gags and even go through takes where she doesn’t know what’s coming.” Patrick said that she “loves the challenge of coming up with the advertisement and the fact GoDaddy is so willing to listen to her input" (, 2/23). USA TODAY’s Nate Ryan in a front page cover story notes Patrick could likely become the Nationwide Series' “highest-finishing woman ever,” and that would be a “boon to her 'Beautiful Revolution' brand created by IMG." Patrick said, “It’s about being different and unique and doing something that’s never been done before, but doing it as a girl and looking good while doing it. And it being a really beautiful thing that it’s happening.” Patrick’s current and future endeavors are “more pristine than the risque ad campaigns of Go Daddy.” GMR Marketing VP/Business Development Jimmy Bruns said, “Even though Go Daddy tends to push the boundaries a little in their marketing, I never got the sense that she crossed the line or puts NASCAR or herself in a bad light” (USA TODAY, 2/24).

HANGING WITH THE BIG BOYS: FORBES' Kurt Badenhausen reported Patrick's move to NASCAR "will add millions" to her annual earnings, and "should put her among the sports' top earners." Her $12M income last year "ranks eighth among" NASCAR drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is NASCAR's "highest-paid driver for the fourth straight year," earning $28M in '11 thanks to the "highest licensing income in the sport and a host of personal endorsements with the likes of Wrangler, Chevrolet and Dollar General." The second-highest-paid driver in NASCAR is Jeff Gordon, who made $24M. Badenahusen noted all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers -- Earnhardt, Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne -- were "among the top 10 drivers in earnings." Defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart last year earned $6.6M in winnings and $6.1M in Sprint Cup bonuses for his title, which "sparked buying Stewart swag and he ranked behind only Dale Jr. for merchandise sales" (, 2/22).

Anheuser-Busch has expanded its relationship with Daytona Int'l Speedway, adding entitlement rights to the Duel races and Speedweeks, the 10-day stretch of stock-car races from the Shootout to the Daytona 500. Its Budweiser brand also will become the presenting sponsor of a pre-race concert and segment on the broadcast show and the title sponsor of two 150-mile qualifying races during Speedweeks. The expansion will see Budweiser drop its entitlement for the Shootout, a non-points race held the week before the 500. A-B VP/Sports & Entertainment Marketing Brad Brown said, “This is about how do we make what we have bigger and better. The toughest thing to do is manage tradition and move forward when opportunities are there. We feel as we get closer to the Daytona 500 weekend we can increase the experience we have.” A-B last year signed a four-year extension with DIS that gave it title rights to the Shootout and signage at all events hosted by the track, including the Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400. It will continue to be the naming-rights partner for the infield concession area, known as the Budweiser Bistro, and the 46-foot-high platform along the superstretch, known as the Budweiser Party Porch. The new rights are an enhancement to that deal and will run through '15. Financial terms were not available, but industry sources said A-B would spend 20% more to add the Duel and Speedweek entitlements.

SHOOTOUT VIEWERSHIP ON DOWNWARD TREND: Shootout viewership has declined for five consecutive years. Fox finished with a 4.2 rating and 7.467 million viewers for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Budweiser Shootout last Saturday night for Kyle Busch’s win. Brown said the TV audience decrease was discussed internally as Budweiser weighed dropping its entitlement of the event, but he said that Budweiser has ample brand awareness, so that was not as much of an issue as the fact that the company was excited about the opportunity to own Speedweeks. He said that the A-B marketing team has talked about possibly hosting an afternoon concert or happy hour party after next year’s Duel. Brown: “Super Bowl is so fresh in our minds. We do some incredible things there for Bud Light. This is the Super Bowl of racing and we want to do some incredible things here for Budweiser. Making the experience more engaging for fans is what we’re all about.”

NO TITLE SPONSOR FOR DAYTONA 500: DIS President Joie Chitwood said that he never entertained signing Budweiser or any other sponsor as a title sponsor for the Daytona 500. Chitwood: “If I entertained that thought, they would probably be looking for a new president. The Daytona 500 is the Daytona 500 and I don’t see any reason to enhance that with a sponsor’s name around it.” The speedway’s sales team is searching for a new title partner to replace Budweiser for the Shootout. That deal would likely be worth $1-2M. Chitwood said that Gatorade will remain the official isotonic beverage of the speedway and sponsor of victory lane. The company’s agreement with ISC, Daytona’s parent company, is up for renewal this year. The Budweiser deal was put together by Chitwood and ISC Account Director Carrie Register. Brown said that Chitwood first broached the idea of Budweiser taking over entitlement for Speedweeks when the two were in Chicago for the first race of the '11 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Brown: “It was one of those would-you-be-interested-if conversations. It wasn’t fully baked but it did get our attention.”

Several NASCAR advertisers are planning to debut new creatives that will air during Fox' broadcast of the Daytona 500 Sunday. While some mark the beginning of a season-long campaign, others are scheduled to air only during the Great American Race.

Edwards, Glazer star in Subway's latest
"Famous Fans" campaign

SUBWAY: Subway will continue its “Famous Fans” campaign with a new 30-second spot featuring Carl Edwards and Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer. Subway Dir of Sports Marketing & PR Paul Bamundo said Edwards in the ad “is talking about how he had a great year last year and it was really intense, but he wants more this year." When Glazer asks, “More?,” Bamundo notes it leads into “some really cool shots of Jay putting Carl through the paces and the two of them training and working out together.” Boston-based MMB created the ad, as Bamundo said the company has created every spot Subway has done with Edwards. Bamundo added Subway will primarily use the 30-second spot for the beginning of the NASCAR season, then probably unveil one or two 15-second spots and another 30-second spot later in the year.

DIET MOUNTAIN DEW: Dale Earnhardt Jr. will debut the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevy this weekend, and Mountain Dew will complement the launch with a 30-second spot for its diet soda. The ad, “Trade,” was created by BBDO N.Y. and features a convenience store shopper driving away with the “ultimate prize” after Earnhardt makes a surprising trade for a Diet Mountain Dew. The spot also introduces the brand’s new tagline: “Yeah, it tastes good.”

SPRINT: The title sponsor of NASCAR's top series will debut a new ad for its Sprint Cup Mobile app featuring Clint Bowyer. In the spot, created by S.F.-based Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, Bowyer says there is “no such thing” in NASCAR as too much information. Bowyer notes the Sprint app provides fans access to in-car audio, stats and driver bios. Bowyer adds that Sprint’s unlimited data package means fans can find out everything about him -- including his “secret obsession” with Karaoke.

5-HOUR ENERGY: Bowyer will also appear in an ad for the primary sponsor on his No. 15 Toyota. The spot allows the viewer to tag along with Bowyer for the day as he works at the track, hunts game in the woods, rides his motorcycle (and later a jet ski) and works on his car before circling back to the track. The ad was produced by 5-hour Energy Creative Dir Carl Sperber.

AARON’S: The furniture retailer launched a series of ads during Speed's coverage of Speed Weeks. The spots feature Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip spoofing Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau’s characters from “The Odd Couple.” The drivers note they both “love Aaron’s” despite the fact that they could not be more different.” In one ad, Waltrip complains Martin is “wound too tight,” and in the other, Martin comments on the difficulty of working with the “immature” and “disorganized” Waltrip.

COCA-COLA: The soft-drink company kicks off the ’12 NASCAR season with an ad featuring its eight sponsored drivers, including last year’s Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart. In the 60-second spot, entitled “Tease,” the drivers race in the heat as fans tempt them with bottles of Coke. The majority of the ad, via Widen+Kennedy, was shot live at the Sprint Cup finale Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

FARMERS INSURANCE: The insurance company will debut a 30-second spot featuring Kasey Kahne entitled “Fire Suit.” In the ad, a professor along with a team of insurance agents welcome Kahne to discuss the parallels between custom-tailored insurance coverage and custom-tailored fire suits. RPA created the spot, which will highlight Farmers’ sponsorship of Kahne and Hendrick Motorsports.

NATIONWIDE: Nationwide will debut a 30-second ad entitled “Nationwide Insurance Chairman’s Spot” featuring its Exec VP & Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer Matt Jauchius and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. In the spot, Jauchius and Stenhouse stand next to each other discussing why Stenhouse chose to race for the insurance company. While Nationwide’s internal video team has produced local TV spots, this will be the first national commercial the team has made from start to finish.

NASCAR: NASCAR will roll out three new 30-second ads as part of a series of spots in this year’s campaign. NASCAR Media Group produced the campaign, which aims to elevate the sport by highlighting the qualities that make stock-car racing more than a game. “Game Changer” features Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch's crew team as it shows NASCAR’s serious and innovative efforts in the green space by highlighting the benefits of switching to ethanol fuel. “Celebration” emphasizes NASCAR’s authentic and colorful victory celebrations as compared to other sports that have drafted rules to discourage excessive celebration. In “Opposed,” young drivers compete on the same track as veterans, showing how NASCAR throws all its drivers into the same race and is opposed to a gradual system of competition like the minor leagues.

Fox hopes the momentum from last year's finish and a "host of new storylines this season" will be a "cause for optimism" during the '12 season, according to Erik Spanberg of NASCAR "rebounded in the TV ratings last season after five years of smaller audiences." Fox’ viewership grew by 9.7% in '11 to 8.6 million viewers each week. The "most noticeable change" for viewers this year is "likely to be the extreme makeover of the Hollywood Hotel." It will "include new video and camera features, including three screens behind the analysts offering more graphics and colors." After "dabbling in split-screen coverage last season during several races, Fox plans to try it again at the Daytona 500 and beyond." The format "provides viewers with more live racing as the screen is shared with commercials." Momentum is "shifting toward more split-screen racing coverage." All 10 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races in '11 "featured ESPN's NonStop coverage, splitting the screen during the second half of each race." Fox Sports co-President & COO Eric Shanks said that Daytona and "at least several more races will use the format, but details have yet to be finalized" (, 2/23). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes driver Michael Waltrip "represents the biggest change this year in Fox's NASCAR coverage." He will join its pre-race show and "will pop up during races for give-and-take with big brother Darrell" (USA TODAY, 2/24).

BUD LIGHT: Fox finished with a 4.2 rating and 7.467 million viewers for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Budweiser Shootout last Saturday night for Kyle Busch’s win. Those figures are down 7% and 5%, respectively, from a 4.5 rating and 7.847 million viewers last year. The season-opening exhibition race did give Fox a win in primetime. The event has now seen a viewership decline for five straight years (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

Kyle Busch
Kurt Busch
Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick
Dale Earnhardt Jr.

:'s Bob Pockrass noted driver Kurt Busch Thursday "apologized face-to-face to ESPN pit road reporter Dr. Jerry Punch as the two met with a television camera rolling for the first time since their infamous encounter last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway." The last time they met in a race-track garage, Busch "launched into a profanity-laced rant while waiting for Punch to interview him in the garage after his transmission broke in the opening laps" of the '11 season finale. Between Nationwide Series practices Thursday at Daytona Int'l Speedway, Punch "interviewed Busch during ESPN2's coverage." Busch said, "Let's just start off with a hug, Doc, c'mon. I'm so sorry with the way last year ended" (, 2/23).

The following chart lists the primary sponsors for the 43 cars entered in Sunday's 54th Daytona 500.

No. 99 Carl Edwards (Ford) No. 16 Greg Biffle (Ford)
Roush Fenway Racing Roush Fenway Racing
Fastenal 3M
No. 14 Tony Stewart (Chevy) No. 17 Matt Kenseth (Ford)
Stewart-Haas Racing Roush Fenway Racing
Office Depot/Mobil 1 Best Buy
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Chevy) No. 78 Regan Smith (Chevy)
Hendrick Motorsports Furniture Row Racing
Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Furniture Row/CSX
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose (Ford) No. 48 Jimmie Johnson (Chevy)
Richard Petty Racing Hendrick Motorsports
Stanley Lowe's
No. 31 Jeff Burton (Chevy) No. 33 Elliott Sadler (Chevy)
Richard Childress Racing Richard Childress Racing
Caterpillar General Mills/Kroger
No. 98 Michael McDowell (Ford) No. 20 Joey Logano (Toyota)
Phil Parsons Racing Joe Gibbs Racing
K-Love/Curb Records The Home Depot
No. 29 Kevin Harvick (Chevy) No. 18 Kyle Busch (Toyota)
Richard Childress Racing Joe Gibbs Racing
Budweiser M&M's
No. 22 A.J. Allmendinger (Dodge) No. 24 Jeff Gordon (Chevy)
Penske Racing Hendrick Motorsports
Shell/Pennzoil Drive To End Hunger
No. 7 Robby Gordon (Dodge) No. 39 Ryan Newman (Chevy)
Robby Gordon Motorsports Stewart-Haas Racing
Mapei/Menards/Speed Energy U.S. Army/Quicken Loans
ROW 10
No. 1 Jamie McMurray (Chevy) No. 5 Kasey Kahne (Chevy)
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Hendrick Motorsports
Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boots Farmers Insurance
ROW 11
No. 6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Ford) No. 55 Mark Martin (Toyota)
Roush Fenway Racing Michael Waltrip Racing
Ford EcoBoost Aaron's Dream Machine
ROW 12
No. 2 Brad Keselowski (Dodge) No. 26 Dave Blaney (Chevy)
Penske Racing Tommy Baldwin Racing
Miller Lite Ollie's Bargain Outlet
ROW 13
No. 34 David Ragan (Ford) No. 56 Martin Truex Jr. (Toyota)
Furniture Row Motorsports Michael Waltrip Racing
Scorpion Truck Bed Liners Napa Auto Parts
ROW 14
No. 43 Aric Almirola (Ford) No. 51 Kurt Busch (Chevy)
Richard Petty Racing Phoenix Racing
ROW 15
No. 10 Danica Patrick (Chevy) No. 15 Clint Bowyer (Toyota)
Stewart-Haas Racing Michael Waltrip Racing
Go Daddy 5-hour Energy
ROW 16
No. 11 Denny Hamlin (Toyota) No. 47 Bobby Labonte (Toyota)
Joe Gibbs Racing JTG Daugherty Racing
FedEx Express Kroger
ROW 17
No. 38 David Gilliland (Ford) No. 87 Joe Nemechek (Toyota)
Front Row Motorsports NEMCO Racing
MHP Power Pak Pudding / Pellet & Wood Stoves
ROW 18
No. 42 Juan Montoya (Chevy) No. 13 Casey Mears (Ford)
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Germain Racing
Target Geico
ROW 19
No. 27 Paul Menard (Chevy) No. 93 David Reuttiman (Toyota)
Richard Childress Racing BK Racing
Peak/Menards Burger King
ROW 20
No. 83 Landon Cassill (Toyota) No. 21 Trevor Bayne (Ford)
BK Racing Wood Brothers Racing
Burger King Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center
ROW 21
No. 26 Tony Raines (Ford) No. 30 David Stremme (Toyota)
Front Row Motorsports Inception Motorsports
Front Row Motorsports Inception Motorsports
ROW 22
No. 32 Terry Labonte (Ford)  
FAS Lane Racing  
C&J Energy  

SPOT FOR SALE? YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee reported Robby Gordon after racing his way into the Daytona 500 Thursday during the Gatorade Duels "offered his spot in the race" to Michael Waltrip's No. 40 Aaron's Toyota. Gordon during a press conference "conceded that his team was facing tough economic times." He said, "We're in a bad state right here. It's tough. It's really, really tough." He later said in the garage, "Everything's for sale!" NASCAR Senior Dir of Communications for Competition Kerry Tharp said that he "couldn't recall a similar incident where an owner sold his spot to another driver, but agreed that it was doable in theory." A Waltrip spokesperson indicated there were "no plans for this at the moment" (, 2/23).

SB NATION’s Jeff Gluck reported HBO's “Eastbound and Down" will sponsor the MAKE Motorsports No. 50 NASCAR Nationwide Series car driven by T.J. Bell in Saturday's DRIVE4COPD 300. The car features some “recognizable images from the popular comedy series," including main character Kenny Powers' "prized jet ski, and has a purple and leopard-print design.” It also features “Powers' face -- and epic mullet -- right on the hood.” Gluck noted one reason MAKE Motorsports may be signed the deal is because the team's owners are natives of Shelby, N.C., which is Powers' hometown in the show (, 2/21). AWFUL ANNOUNCING’s Joe Lucia wrote, "Say what you want to say about NASCAR, but a cult favorite show among sports fans sponsoring a car can only bring new eyeballs to the sport” (, 2/22).

COOKIE MONSTER:’s Gabriel Beltrone reported as part of the Oreo brand's 100 anniversary this year, driver Tony Stewart “will trade in his regular Office Depot-sponsored Chevy Impala to drive a special-edition version of the same model painted in homage to Oreo's 100th at the Nationwide Drive4COPD 300.” Limited edition Birthday Oreos “have already started to hit shelves,” but the “majority of the new advertising campaign around the anniversary won't launch until the sandwich cookie's official centennial on March 6.” Stewart signed a deal with Kraft in ’10 (, 2/22).

:’s Maria Burns Ortiz reported NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski's No. 19 ride during Friday's Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 "will feature the Twitter handles of more than 2,600 fans selected through a contest run on the microblogging site.” Keselowski's truck marks “the first time that thousands of social media handles have been displayed on a NASCAR vehicle.” The handles will be displayed “on the bed of the truck with 10 winners having their Twitter names displayed prominently on the truck's doors” (, 2/22).

: The National Watermelon Association announced it will celebrate its 99th year of service by placing its logo on the hood of the SS Green Light Racing No. 08 Toyota driven Ross Chastain, who will make his first start in the Camping World Truck Series this weekend (National Watermelon Association).