A Trip Down Memory LaneBy Lori Tyler
Growing up on the West Coast, before the opening of California Speedway, big league stock car racing didn’t have a prominent place within our culture. There are some that may argue that given the attendance at our own Auto Club Speedway that it hasn’t yet found its way to the hearts of Southern Californians. I will politely disagree with that point of view and save that argument for another article, as a simple trip through the canyons, toward the beaches, and the dreaded 91 freeway, proves that stock car racing, NASCAR in particular, is alive and well here. This has developed, over time, due to the brilliant marketing strategy that NASCAR has set forth over the last several years. Back then, fans had little recourse to obtain information here on the “Left Coast,” other than to pull up your favorite internet page, call your friends on the other coast, or catch what happened to be showing on television or recorded on the DVR, based on television packages purchased from cable providers that specifically included channels that featured coverage on the sport. NASCAR’s desire to move into a mainstream sport drove one of the most impressive marketing strategies I believe I have ever seen.
Fast forward a few years, and here they are, prominently displaying their place as a major league sport. I must admit, there was a time that I never dreamed that this would be the case. However, they have capitalized on every avenue available to them to propel this sport into the spotlight. Technology, talent, and just plain hard work, has definitely played a hand in their current fortunes, but it took brilliance behind the scenes to properly align themselves in the move toward, “the future.” Back then, being a fan was a rather frustrating experience for many of us on the West Coast. Purchasing fan gear was difficult if not impossible, as most stores didn’t carry merchandise pertaining to the drivers or the sport. Conversation with the locals proved fruitless, unless you surrounded yourself with those of like-minded interests. Many had never heard of Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, or any other of the sports super stars. In fact, quite honestly, I am unable to count how many times people questioned if I was a native or transplant to our beautiful state because it was difficult for them to understand how a Southern Californian grew up with a passion for auto racing. Believe me when I say there were always plenty of us here, but it wasn’t always easy to meet up with people that shared our passion. However, slowly but surely, that has changed, and a simple trip to any store is most assuredly to provide a plethora of NASCAR themed or related merchandise. Bumper stickers and tshirts, jackets, hats, abound any area that people congregate as the general public has finally understood the draw to this sport. No longer are special television packages from cable providers needed to enjoy the mountain of coverage available to us on any given race weekend. This concerted effort between sponsor and sanctioning body has created a marketing machine that is awe inspiring at the very least, and quite convenient for the avid race fan looking for their NASCAR fix.
For now, I will just sit back and enjoy the convenience of being a current fan of this sport. With phone in hand, radio playing in the background, and television ready to fire up on any given race day, I am enjoying a unique perspective of evolution that has taken place right before my eyes. While some may not appreciate the technology and perks available to us now, I can sure remember a time when things were much, much different. NASCAR has finally made that transition into mainstream that was a topic of conversation a decade and a half ago. Many questioned if it was possible, even under the best of circumstances, for NASCAR to shake its unflattering labels of the past, and move into a current and polished image. For those detractors, I would love to hear their opinions now, as the sport continues to march forward. They are here, loud and proud, and rightfully so, with every possibility of even more growth. Yes, detractors, they have arrived. At this point, I have to believe, that the people in place are capable of taking this sport just about anywhere they want it to go.
Views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Catchfence
Article Tags: Driver, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NSCS