NASCAR track sanction deals to allow for schedule flexibility
Several NASCAR tracks are expected to get only single-year sanction agreements for the next handful of years, according to sources, in a bid by the sanctioning body to keep its scheduling options wide open.
From 2016 through this year, tracks that host NASCAR Cup Series races have had the same five-year contract, which guaranteed them either one or two events annually for the duration. However, with calls from fans, drivers and others inside the sport to change up what is perceived as a stale schedule, sources say NASCAR is considering one-year terms for many tracks to gain maximum flexibility, at least until the sport’s media rights deals expire after 2024. It was not clear which tracks could get single-year terms.
Prior to the current five-year deals, NASCAR had renewed track agreements on an annual basis, but switched to the longer term to save industry executives administrative time. As for other motorsports properties, IndyCar has had annual agreements in the past but has recently started moving toward multiyear agreements. Formula One’s deals are typically multiyear.
One-year terms would also give added teeth to NASCAR’s proposed new attendance standard for 2021, which would levy a penalty on tracks that don’t reach 70% capacity for Cup Series races. NASCAR would have more ability to review and possibly strip a race from a venue over poor attendance, sources say.
Tracks that host two Cup Series races and don’t sell out are seen as the most likely to lose a date when the 2021 schedule is released, which is expected to be around April 1.
■ PRESIDENTIAL MOMENT: As lines snaked hundreds of people deep leading to the entrance of Daytona’s infield fan zone, the things keeping fans calm were occasional cloud cover, a breeze, free water and the promise to see a historic presidential visit.
With one of the largest domestic Secret Service presences in U.S. history, the race faced unprecedented security measures that resulted in lines that took fans two to three hours to get through. More than 500 agents were on site, sources said.
Talladega Superspeedway President Brian Crichton led a group of several NASCAR employees who walked up and down the lines handing out free water to parched fans.
Regardless of the lines, the security effort was ultimately successful. Sources said the plan included the track and all teams having to keep their various spaces, buildings and haulers unlocked the night before the race so that Secret Service could do sweeps.
Several teams and sponsors canceled driver appearances on race day because many of them involved a driver having to leave the infield to go to a grandstand suite, a movement that was complicated by the security effort. One source even spotted low-key NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France standing in a security line on race day before someone with NASCAR noticed who he was and whisked him through.
NASCAR received a halo effect from President Donald Trump’s visit. The initial tune-in for the race on Fox was up 32%, according to Nielsen fast national numbers, which seemed to indicate a Trump bump.
In this election year, industry executives have now turned their attention toward whether Trump may make another motorsports splash later this year on Memorial Day weekend. With both the Indianapolis 500 and Charlotte’s Coca-Cola 600 bathed in patriotic themes, some are predicting that Trump could stop by one or even both of the events that day.
■ DAYTONA STILL RISING: Four years after the completion of the $400 million Daytona Rising project, the track continues to evolve and add amenities and events on its grounds.
On the day before the race, Daytona announced it will host a new soccer tournament on July 4th weekend next year with pro teams from North and South America. This is first time a NASCAR track will host a pro soccer match, and the event is the latest example of how speedways are leveraging their facilities to land high-profile non-racing events. The Daytona Soccer Fest, which is being organized in conjunction with Latin American sports and entertainment event company Torneos, will also include music, esports competitions, fishing and water slides.
Meanwhile, The Daytona, the new Marriott Autograph Collection hotel that is part of the One Daytona mixed-use development across the street from the track, was open for its first 500 weekend. The hotel, which was fully booked for the weekend, has an array of racing-related touches in its lobby.
■ THERE’S THE BEEF: The Daytona 500’s status as NASCAR’s biggest race typically results in some blue-chip brands that are not often seen in the sport making a play. Wendy’s was the most notable company to fit that definition this year, with a multifaceted campaign that included two large pop-up restaurants at the track plus a media buy with Fox Sports.
Wendy’s, which has not been in NASCAR beyond routine TV advertising for years, set up a pop-up structure at the entrance to the infield fan zone and on the sponsor midway, which is close to the grandstand gates. Launching a new Breakfast Baconator sandwich next month, Wendy’s used the platform to let fans sample its new product. A source said Wendy’s is looking at doing other deals in the sport, so this may not be a pure Daytona 500 one-off track deal.
Other brands newly activating on the midway included Barstool Sports and Anheuser-Busch’s Babe wine-in-a-can brand. Meanwhile, A-B’s call-to-action social media sweepstakes campaign, #Pit4Busch, was the No. 1 trending topic in America throughout the race, even above the #Daytona500 hashtag itself, receiving 225,000 social media mentions.