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Volume 20 No. 42
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Racing’s J.R.? Childress reality show in works

NASCAR and Turner Sports have teamed to develop a reality show around Richard Childress, his grandsons, Austin and Ty Dillon, and the rest of the Childress and Dillon family.

The sanctioning body and broadcast company are developing the show and hope to film a pilot soon. The show would emphasize the family’s life off the track, where Childress is an avid outdoorsman and has a vineyard in Lexington, N.C.

“It’s sort of an unscripted ‘Dallas,’” said Ben Schlosser, Richard Childress Racing’s chief marketing officer. “The family is at the heart of it. It’s not about racing.”

From left, Mike Dillon, Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon and Richard Childress celebrate a truck series win.
Childress famously built his race team with a $20 investment in 1969. He ran a race in Talladega as a replacement driver and made $7,500, which he used to fund his car and continue racing. His team now claims annual revenue of more than $150 million.

“I just kept building and building and reinvesting,” Childress said during an interview a year ago.

The team he built, Richard Childress Racing, has become a true family business. His son-in-law, Mike Dillon, is the team’s vice president of competition, and his grandsons, Austin, 22, and Ty, 21, drive in NASCAR’s Nationwide and Camping World Truck series, respectively.

If one of Turner’s networks such as TNT, which broadcasts NASCAR races, or another outlet picks up a reality show focused on the family, it would help expose the team and its sponsors. It also would raise visibility of the team as the Raine Group continues to look for an investor to replace Chartwell Investments as an equity partner in the team.

The effort is being led by Zane Stoddard, vice president of entertainment marketing and business development, who works out of NASCAR’s Los Angeles office.

NRA TO TITLE SPONSOR RACE: At the same time NASCAR undertakes its massive rebranding effort, Texas Motor Speedway is playing to type.

The track, which had been without a sponsor for its spring Sprint Cup race since Samsung last year opted not to renew its title sponsorship, last week finalized a deal with the National Rifle Association to title sponsor its Sprint Cup race April 13. The deal, which is expected to be announced this week, will result in NASCAR holding its first NRA-branded race.

The race comes at a time when the NRA and gun rights remain a flashpoint nationwide. It also follows NASCAR’s effort to support and raise money for Newtown, Conn., which lost 20 children and six adults in a mass shooting. NASCAR partnered with Swan Racing to put a special Sandy Hook School Support Fund paint scheme on the No. 26 car during the Daytona 500, and there were concerns during the race weekend that word of Texas’ talks with the NRA might become public and harm the sanctioning body’s efforts to raise money for the Newtown community.

KEEPING UP WITH CAR COSTS: The new Gen 6 car was celebrated throughout the race weekend for generating considerable news for NASCAR, but it’s also creating red ink for teams.

Team executives said their costs are swelling as they begin using new templates, increase their research-and-development spending and add staff to build the new vehicles. They said it’s made budgeting for the year an “experiment.”

“The car is great for the sport, super for the fans, but it puts short-term financial pressure on teams,” said Brett Frood, Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president. “It’s not costs going up day to day, it’s over the year, and we haven’t figured out how much yet because it’s evolving.”

Richard Childress Racing Chief Operating Officer Torrey Galida added, “Where the challenge has come in for us is the body parts are double the cost of what they used to be.”

Some of the body parts, such as the hood and decklids, are now made from more expensive materials. Galida said the new cars can be built quicker than the old cars and may require less labor in the future, which would reduce costs over time. But the combination of building new Sprint Cup cars for this season and the need to build new show cars meant that costs have gone up this year. A lot of those costs are still being determined.

“We reserved budget knowing it would cost money,” Galida said, “but it will be several months before we know if it’s $500,000 or $1 million more.”

Budweiser driver Kevin Harvick celebrates his victory in the first Budweiser Duel.
Roush Fenway Racing President Steve Newmark added, “We hope it’s an aberration because it’s been a significant increase. We look at the end product and know it’s worth it. We’ll work with NASCAR to make it more affordable in the future.”

BUD’S SPEEDWEEKS DEBUT: Shortly after driver Kevin Harvick won the first Budweiser Duel race, the driver of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet headed across the street to serve 240 Budweisers to fans who gathered for a post-race party.

Blaise D’Sylva, Anheuser-Busch’s vice president of media, sports and entertainment marketing, watched from a stage nearby with a grin on his face. His Budweiser brand team had made a huge bet on ending its 34-year title sponsorship of the season-opening Shootout all-star race to sponsor Daytona Speedweeks and the Duels, and though it will be months before the company gets final return-on-investment figures, things already were looking good.

“When your guy wins your race, that’s synergy multiplied,” D’Sylva said.

Budweiser brought Harvick everywhere last week. He attended a beer-tasting event for local retailers, delivered tickets to the Daytona 500 to two Marine veterans, and showed up at Hooters after the Duels. In addition to working with Harvick, Bud brought 10 Clydesdales to the Daytona 500 and created a barn for them under a tent in the midway where fans could see the horses up close. The brand complemented that with radio giveaways, a Facebook promotion and a text-to-win sweepstakes that provided fans with special events.

D’Sylva said the company’s marketing budget for Budweiser is somewhat limited, so finding small, effective ways to reach fans and expose them to the brand was important.

“We can buy all the media in the world but this experience here, with Kevin serving the brand and connecting with consumers, is so important,” D’Sylva said. “You can’t beat the loyalty experiences like what this [appearance at Hooters] and experiencing the brand provide.”

Budweiser faces an important decision later this year on the team side. Harvick is leaving Richard Childress Racing for Stewart-Haas Racing, and A-B will have to decide whether to go with him or stay behind and sponsor Childress’ grandson, Austin Dillon. It is expected to make a decision in the coming months, and D’Sylva said it won’t be easy.

“Kevin is fantastic,” he said. “He’s worked for our whole system. We love Richard Childress. He’s a racing icon. We didn’t cause it, but we’ve got a tough decision in front of us.”

DEVELOPING STAR POWER: NASCAR continues to look for a managing director to lead its driver star power initiative.

Jill Gregory, NASCAR’s vice president of industry services, said the sanctioning body interviewed five candidates for the job last month, but didn’t find a person that they felt fit the position. The job will involve working with drivers to develop branding and marketing plans to raise their profiles. NASCAR wants to find someone with brand experience who also has an understanding of the divisions between tracks, teams, drivers and NASCAR. Gregory said NASCAR is restarting its search and hopes to hire someone by late spring.