For the second year in a row, Comcast has the naming rights to the NASCAR Cup Series’ penultimate race of the season at Martinsville Speedway.
After 500 laps on the famed paperclip, the four drivers with a chance at the 2021 championship will be determined.
By design, Comcast went after Martinsville to be its entitlement sponsor thanks to the playoff drama it has provided.
Over the past handful of years alone, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin had their first dustup, the phrase, “He may have won the battle, but he ain’t winning the damn war,” was said by Martin Truex Jr. after being moved for the win by Joey Logano and Hamlin had another run-in with Logano. Then last year, Kevin Harvick saw a 42-point cushion entering the race dwindle as he missed out on the Championship 4.
Quite simply, Martinsville is a must-watch, action-packed, drama-filled race.
“We really circled this one,” Matt Lederer, Comcast’s VP of brand partnerships and amplification, said. “The attention that the sport gets this weekend, and obviously the weekend in Phoenix [Raceway], is fantastic. The storylines that come out of it. The potential for drama; I know there will be when you look at the Cup guys. There are so many things that can happen, and all these guys have had success at Martinsville, which makes it really interesting to see what’s going to happen this weekend.
“This is not a mistake that this is our weekend and our race. The fact that it’s in a (Comcast) market is great. We look forward to having this race for years to come and build some equity in the Xfinity 500 of being that penultimate race and being the one that decides who the final four drivers are going to be.”
Virtue of wins at Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway, Kyle Larson is locked into his first Championship 4 appearance. Elliott and Hamlin are looking good, sitting 34 and 32 points above the cutline, respectively. But it will be a barnburner, white-knuckled fight for the fourth spot, as Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Truex and Brad Keselowski are separated by six points.
Leading up to the race weekend, Comcast has been active in its local community efforts — something the company prides itself on. Earlier this week, Harvick, virtually, spoke to the Boys & Girls Club of America of the Blue Ridge — one of the new Comcast Lift Zones. The facility received 200 laptops and internet connectivity in part of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program to close the digital divide.
Also, many Xfinity customers that visited the retails stored in Danville, Va., and Lynchburg, Va., received free tickets to the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Cup races at Martinsville.
Activations within race markets is one of the ways Comcast has expanded its NASCAR partnership this season, instead of focusing solely on at-track activation, which it hasn’t done much of since 2019.
“It’s galvanizing the local community when a race comes into that market,” Lederer said. “For us, it’s drawing attention to our Lift Zones and what we’re doing in terms of giving back to the community and driving traffic to our retail store, supporting larger goals through our partnership with NASCAR.”
Outside of local activation, Comcast launched its Xfinity Rewards program in July. The Rewards program is the company’s new customer appreciation program that’s free to join for any customer. Based on tenure, it’s Xfinity’s way of thanking you for being a customer, whether that’s for the past day or 20 years.
On the NASCAR front, Harvick and Alex Bowman have hopped on as ambassadors, giving the brand additional “authenticity,” specifically through the Xfinity Rewards program. It also offers the NASCAR Scanner for free.
“We’ve been able to figure out digital, social and scalable ways to give thanks to our customers who are NASCAR fans through this partnership, while also in the right markets and at the right time rewarding and appreciating customers by sending them to the race,” Lederer said.
This weekend, Xfinity customers will be the grand marshal of the Xfinity 500, another will wave the green flag and hundreds more will watch from the grandstands.
On Wednesday evening (Oct. 27), Comcast announced its three Comcast Community Champion of the Year finalists: Curtis Francois (Raceway Gives), Greg Walter (Speedway Children’s Charities) and Jamie Little (Animal Help Alliance). The winner will be announced at the end of November.
And with the offseason quickly approaching, the work doesn’t stop for Comcast. While it will continue focusing on the Rewards program, there will also be prizing for fans to attend the Daytona 500. The brand just wants to keep its eyes on what this world is going to look like and how it can utilize in-person engagement versus digital and social.
“I think the biggest thing for us going into next year is going to be, what’s the world look like?” Lederer said. “What’s our planning for next year? Is there going to be an increased level of ability to do things at track and engage with drivers and fans that way? Xfinity Rewards is going to continue being a big priority for us. It’s got it’s training wheels on, and we’re looking forward to what this is going to do going forward.”
First up, Martinsville.
About the author
Dustin joined the Frontstretch team at the beginning of the 2016 season. 2020 marks his sixth full-time season covering the sport that he grew up loving. His dream was to one day be a NASCAR journalist, thus why he attended Ithaca College (Class of 2018) to earn a journalism degree. Since the ripe age of four, he knew he wanted to be a storyteller.