The Frontstretch: Maybe the Northwest Isn't Ready For NASCAR by Mike Neff -- Thursday July 13, 2006

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Maybe the Northwest Isn't Ready For NASCAR

Full Throttle · Mike Neff · Thursday July 13, 2006


This past weekend I made a trip to Seattle. I was curious to see this hot bed of NASCAR fans that is clamoring for a Cup race. Having flown out of the airport in Charlotte, which sports a Robert Yates show car in the ticket lobby, I assumed I would see quite a few indications of the rabid NASCAR environment that exists in the Northwest. There obviously would be plenty of evidence of the thousands of NASCAR fans located throughout the area that justifies all of the discussion around putting a track in the area.

As I walked through the airport, I glanced into the various shops that dot the corridors of the terminal. Not one of them had the first indication of any NASCAR memorabilia available for purchase. No biggie, I'm sure once I get out of the airport I'll be inundated with advertisements festooned with the images of drivers and cars that grace the track every weekend. Pulling out of the airport and driving down interstate 5, I was amazed that I did not see a single billboard. No Ryan Newman Alltel ads, no Dale Junior and the Budweiser Chevrolet, not even a Jimmie Johnson Lowe's advertisement. Surely I must have just picked a small area that hadn't had their billboards renewed with the latest NASCAR PR.

As Friday afternoon rolled around, I was sure I would hear some discussion on the radio about the upcoming race and then get to listen to the qualifications from Chicago. I put the radio on scan and listened for almost an hour. Not once did I hear any discussion about the upcoming race or qualifying. How could such an avid fan base not be served by their local media? I must have just not had a radio that would pick up the station that was broadcasting the qualifying.

Saturday afternoon rolled around and I decided to see where the local fans got their public fix for racing. I went by a couple of different sports bars. They offered plenty of televisions. They were tuned to various baseball games from around the country. The World Cup was visible from any area of the establishments. However, not a single set, in either bar, was tuned to the Busch race. Maybe I am mistaken. Maybe the Northwest isn't the hotbed of NASCAR fandom that I had been led to believe.

When I got back to my hotel, I inquired at the front desk as to where the local race fans went to watch the races. None of the front desk attendants had ever heard of anyone watching NASCAR. They couldn't help me find a hangout. I also asked why they didn't have SPEED available on their in-house channel line-up. They informed me that I was the first person who had ever asked about it and they were not sure that it was available on their local cable provider.

Lucky for me, the race was on TNT on Sunday. Thank goodness there are enough Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean Claude Van Damme fans in the Seattle area so that TNT was available on the hotel TV. I watched the race for a while before heading to the Mariners/Tigers game.

While at the game, I inquired of several people around me if anyone was listening to the race on the radio. I received some of the oddest looks I’ve gotten since my high school days when I would occasionally have a zit the size of Cincinnati in the middle of my forehead. I was also the only person in attendance who happened to be wearing a NASCAR themed T-shirt.

As I headed to the airport on Monday, I once again was unable to find any NASCAR advertisements or radio programs. It struck me as very odd since, during my annual trip to Canada this year, I saw hundreds of billboards throughout Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota with Dale Jr., Ryan Newman and Jeff Burton. The closest NASCAR track to that area of the country is Chicago. Not only could I hear the NASCAR race on the radio as I drove through the Northwoods, but I could also see people decked out in the garb of their favorite drivers.

Now I may have just been poorly informed, or in the wrong place to see the NASCAR faithful in the Northwest. But from my personal experience, I could not find a soul in the Seattle area who was a NASCAR fan. I'm sure they are there. Maybe it is a closet, underground movement that will swell to the surface once a track deal is finalized. All I know is that, when I walked out of the Charlotte airport after arriving home on Monday, I intentionally walked by the RYR show car and gave it a pat. I was sure glad to be back among my own kind.

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07/14/2006 05:07 AM

You were just in the wrong part of the northwest,the track needs to be in Oregon,Portland already had a place for a track but ISC seam’s to want it to be Seattle were it rains all the time.My house is filled with Nascar stuff my fellow workers all play in our Nascar pool at work.So maybe you should of landed in Oregon instead.

M. B. Voelker
07/14/2006 06:58 AM

You expected qualifying on the radio? Quallifying?? For real????????

Our local country station will mention who got the pole during the news break, but the only thing that merits broadcast is the Cup race. And I’m an exactly an hour south of Dover in Delaware.

I might listen to a race while at a baseball game, because baseball bores me silly and I only go to please my husband, but I have a hard time imagining an actual baseball fan distracting himself from the game at hand. :-) The right thing to do when hobbies collide is to tape the race and watch when you get home. LOL

I suspect that what you needed was to get out of the city into the rural areas to find the Nascar fans.

Senior Race Fan
07/14/2006 08:34 AM

Welcome to the club! I think I’m the only race fan north of Seattle! Don’t know where the idea originated for having a track in the Seattle area, but there is little support for it – if it’s even mentioned in the Seattle newspaper. We have too many big problems that demand money in western Washington – a race track seems like a luxury item. I would LOVE to see a track nearby – even Portland would suffice. In the meantime, I watch the races on cable TV and can only get MRN or ESPN radio coverage for the Cup races. Oh, let me correct that – I can get radio coverage only if there is no other sport going on that afternoon. Kinda sad, ain’t it?

07/14/2006 09:37 AM

I think your observation was spot on…My nephew’s wife’s family is from Seattle. They flat out told me nobody wants a track up there. Sounds like King Brian force feeding matters.

Dick Leakin
07/14/2006 10:21 AM

If you want to see why there is so much attention to Seattle by NASCAR go to the Seattle airport a couple days prior to the Las Vegas or Phoenix races. With planes full of NASCAR fans flying out you will see why NASCAR wants to be in one of the largest TV markets in the country. Also if the bars you were in were in the trendy Pioneer Square district no surprise they didn’t have NASCAR on. And yes radio coverage of NASCAR in Seattle is bad, only a low power country station, but that is why God made XM.

07/14/2006 11:49 AM

Unfortunately Dick, my rental car had Sirius satellite radio, not XM. I couldn’t believe the is no NASCAR programming on Sirius.

Yes M. B., I expected qualifying on the radio. WFMX out of Hickory NC carries qualifying, Truck, Busch and Cup races every week.

07/14/2006 07:03 PM

Mike, you gotta have XM (this season) if you want NASCAR programming anywhere but NC. I listened to qualifying on the way home from work today, something I’d never get on local radio.

Next season, it’s Sirrius , but for now, XM is where it’s at if you aren’t in the Motherland. (Fatherland for the Dodge teams.)

07/16/2006 12:12 AM

Well, they may or may not want a track on the west side of the state, but here on the east side, we would love a Nascar track! Put it near the center of the state, where it’s easy for all of us to get to, and I think it will fly. I know my family would love it, and lots of our friends, too!

07/16/2006 01:15 AM

Sounds like NYC. The only NASCAR ad I’ve ever seen is a billboard with Jeff Gordon posing for Tag Heuer watches in Times Square. And that came down within a week.
Seems like only a few dozen fans in the city proper; and yet $$$ has been invested into the future Staten Island track, with no date, no parking, and a very tenuous fan base. Not that I wouldn’t be happy to have local Cup racing, but I’d rather they’d bring back North Wilkesboro. I guess the potential 20 million peeps in the local area trumps any actual groundswell for a track., or respect for the history and heritage of the sport.

J. Meyer
07/16/2006 07:33 PM

How dare you people question the King Brians mandates! My God! What is wrong with you?!
If Brian France says a particular area is ready for an ISC/NASCAR track, then by God, they are ready!
Brian France knows what is best for us all, even though we may not know it ourselves. NEVER question the motives and wisdom of The Big BF. He will save us all from ourselves.
Please forgive these unknowing cretins, oh great and mighty leader. They know not what they say.

M. B. Voelker
07/17/2006 07:52 AM

“Yes M. B., I expected qualifying on the radio. WFMX out of Hickory NC carries qualifying, Truck, Busch and Cup races every week.”


There wasn’t any qualifying coverage when I lived in Boone, NC several years ago and we don’t even get the Busch Race on radio here in southern DE.


Contact Mike Neff

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