Charlotte to see if bet pays off as ‘roval’ NASCAR race approaches
At a coffee shop in Nairobi, Kenya, a few months ago, Greg Walter was surprised when a Formula One fan came up to him to ask about Charlotte Motor Speedway’s “roval” NASCAR race this weekend.
“A guy actually stopped me and said, ‘Are you with that racetrack in America?’” and I said, ‘I am,’ and he said, ‘Well, I’m an F1 fan, but tell me about the roval,’” recounted Walter, who serves as CMS’s executive vice president and was visiting the African country. “I was like, ‘Dude, let me buy you a cup of coffee!’ When you have that kind of intrigue and other series are looking and asking about it, that’s exciting and what you want as a promoter.”
In a bid to reinvigorate a fall race that had grown somewhat stale, the track moved this year’s Bank of America 400 from the oval course it’s used for decades to what will combine part of the oval with an infield course that had been there for years but was not used for professional competition.
Bank of America 400
■ Venue: Charlotte Motor Speedway
■ Circuit: Combine oval and road course
■ Layout: 2.28 miles, 17 turns
CMS is not the first track to run a race on a circuit that combines parts of an oval and infield road course; IMSA’s Rolex 24 race at Daytona International Speedway does the same every year. But CMS has gone all out on the venture over the last year, spending significant (but undisclosed) sums of money and time to make the circuit look more professional; market it to an at-times skeptical public; design a new logo and trophy in conjunction with race title sponsor Bank of America; set up new hospitality areas and other elements like a pedestrian bridge; and even to trademark the term.
“When you have a dream and a vision that you have worked on for quite some time, to finally see it happen, it’s like Christmas morning,” Walter said.
Executives from Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns the track, have said that CMS is seeing a ticket sales increase over last year’s race at the 85,000-seat venue, but would not release specifics. The race is part of NASCAR’s playoffs, and coverage begins on Sunday at 2 p.m. on NBC.
First Look podcast for Sept. 24, 2018:
Walter said he was particularly enthused by the number of first-time buyers for a CMS event. “We’re focusing on, ‘How do we make a great first impression for people who are coming out?’”
CMS sold around a half-dozen signage packages around the circuit that aim to have an F1-type, bold look. One package even plays off the chaos that could come as drivers negotiate the track for the first time. CMS sold Glaxo-SmithKline brand Tums signage around the Turn 1 area and dubbed it Heartburn Turn. Tums also bought a media package with NBC Sports to enhance the signage with on-air mentions. Some of the other packages were sold to brands including Bank of America and Toyota.
“Overall, from an industry standpoint, we feel a lot of people are coming to this race, industry executives and partners; there’s a lot of optics on this,” Walter said. “This is one not to miss.”