This is NASCAR’s big week in New York City, so NASCAR is everywhere and everyone is abuzz about all things NASCAR. Well, the brass in Daytona would at least like you to believe that second part. For the 26th year in a row, the NASCAR Cup awards banquet is going to be in New York City at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, but whether the event should take place in New York is great fodder for debate. The greater question is: Does the series need to spend a week in the city hocking its wares?
Having the actual banquet in New York is kind of neat. Bill France was of the opinion that having the event take place in the Big Apple helped legitimize the sport and, while the sport is now more than legitimate, it is still a great way to celebrate the champion and the year. However, the fact that it has become a week-long event is quite a bit of overkill.
Drivers are seen on every TV show that originates in New York. They are paraded around on city streets, snarling up already intolerable traffic. The mayor declares Nextel Cup day in New York. Watches are awarded in a separate celebration. Times Square is blocked off for a photo shoot. It is just a never-ending cavalcade of NASCAR related activity.
The question is, why? Last year, a film crew walked the streets of the city with Carl Edwards. They stopped 20-30 people and Carl asked if the people recognized him. There was only one person who had any idea who Carl was. After 26 years of events and several years of week-long media blitzes, you would think a few more people would know one of the stars of the sport.
NASCAR would be better served to do a nationwide tour before the banquet. During the two weeks between the final race and the banquet, take the top 11 drivers around the country. Hold events in California, Texas, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Tennessee. Let the true fans of the sport have an opportunity to celebrate the sport they love one last time before the long arctic winter that is the off season.
The drivers are used to traveling for sponsor appearances. This wouldn’t be any different. Put them on one of NASCAR’s corporate jets and whisk them around the country. Give the fans who make the sport a chance to see the best of the best up close and personal. It would go a lot farther in rewarding the true fans of the sport than a bunch of staged media opportunities in a city that doesn’t truly follow the sport that we love.
The banquet in New York is a great idea. It is a great way to honor the champion and celebrate the year just passed. But the events leading up to the banquet should be about thanking the fans of the sport; the working class Joes who travel around in their RVs or pack up the family and sit in the cheap seats to see their heroes compete across the country. NASCAR would spend their money much more wisely taking their stars to the people rather than puppeteer them around in a big city that doesn’t seem to care.