Detroit's Big-3 Are WASTING Millions In NASCAR!

NASCAR was a recent topic in another thread. This article cloese the argument that NASCAR is a total waste. Read on...
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by Peter M. DeLorenzo
Detroit: It's Time to Pull the Plug on NASCAR.
Detroit. Since starting this website five years ago, I've built a reputation by 1. Talking about things people in the business are usually only comfortable with discussing in private conversations or after hours, 2. Talking about things that executives are only willing to discuss with journalists "off the record," or in "deep background" conversations, and 3. Talking about things that others haven't even thought about yet, which inevitably become topics of the moment in the business, thanks to us. In short, creating Autoextremist.com and writing The High-Octane Truth every week has become about leading the discussions crucial to the industry, it's about being out front, and in some cases, it's about saying things people don't want to hear, but who, in private moments, admit are unflinchingly accurate, albeit as painful as that may be.
With that reminder, today I'm going to lead the discussion on why Detroit's infatuation with all things NASCAR needs to come to an end. On the surface, this might be about as popular as suggesting that mom and apple pie have outlived their usefulness, but the reality is that NASCAR has become counterproductive to "Detroit" - and its cumulative and urgent interest in stemming the import tide, and it desperate mission to stop the erosion of market share in the North American market.
Heresy? In some circles, you bet.
But there is a growing belief in executive suites around the Motor City that NASCAR has outlived its usefulness, which is a tough stand to take, especially when you look at all that comes with NASCAR in its current form. It's the No. 2 spectator sport in the U.S. behind the National Football League. Its weekly races generate the kind of consistent viewing numbers that make Madison Avenue media mavens grin with a "cha-ching" soundtrack dancing in their heads. And NASCAR has exploited every opportunity to orchestrate a monster multi-billion dollar marketing juggernaut that has sponsors clamoring for a piece of the action (well, it used to, anyway. Lately, NASCAR has been in the throes of an actual sponsor exodus, as companies have found out that participating in NASCAR is all about promoting the NASCAR brand and little else).
But what does that really mean to Detroit? What does NASCAR actually have to do with helping Detroit in its quest to hold market share - or even increase it? DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors spend $75 million each on their NASCAR programs. That includes direct payouts to teams, drivers, promotions and advertising support. What, exactly, does Detroit get for its money?
In a few words? Not a damn thing.
First of all, NASCAR has created a cult of personality based on its drivers (and their car numbers) and their teams. The drivers are the first priority for NASCAR's marketing machine, and they've been extremely successful creating this cult of personality - based on the number of TV commercials, print ads and promotions that we see with NASCAR drivers involved.
Second, NASCAR has created a marketing environment for its participating sponsors second only to the NFL in both its effectiveness and in the pampering way they treat their sponsor representatives at the events (which helps mask the fact that the sponsors are putting more into furthering NASCAR's interests than they are getting a return for their investments).
Third, NASCAR has created a marketing vehicle only loosely based on the actual racing. Instead, it's all about "the show" - and NASCAR does everything in its power to enhance that show - with sponsors, the car companies and especially the fans taking a backseat to NASCAR's "vision" for what constitutes entertainment.
What does that last point mean, exactly?
It means that NASCAR has taken gradual steps over the last decade to equalize the competition, figuring that if "the show" has as close to a boffo ending every week that they can possibly orchestrate, then the TV numbers will stay up, and the whole machine can get fueled for even more sponsor participation - i.e., even more money.
But in their zeal to orchestrate "the show" - NASCAR has proceeded to make Detroit's participation irrelevant. The cars, masquerading as the Dodge Intrepid, Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Monte Carlo, are now defined by "headlights" and grille openings created by different decals, and if you squint real hard they look like the cars' street counterparts (sort of), but in fact, the car bodies are identical, with heavy restrictions due to aerodynamic controls and the quest to "equalize" the competition. Not to mention the fact that the cars populate rental car fleets across America and are completely useless in Detroit's fight in staving off their import competitors.
What is Detroit getting, exactly, from their involvement in NASCAR?
I'll reiterate an earlier point, only this time with an assist from the late, great R&B singer Edwin Starr - absolutely nothing.
The NASCAR marketing machine is in place to do one thing: Promote, enhance and expand the NASCAR brand. Period.
They use their drivers to create a "cult of personality" in order to orchestrate and perpetuate that mission.
And they use their sponsors in the same way.
In a now annoying ritual, NASCAR drivers, in a typical post-race Victory Lane interview, first thank their car sponsors in an endless regurgitation of a laundry list memorized for the occasion, then they thank NEXTEL, the series sponsor, then they thank the sponsor of the actual event itself. If Dodge, Ford or Chevrolet is mentioned, it's in a brief throwaway line that inevitably gets lost in the shuffle.
Detroit's participation, in short, has become an afterthought.
NASCAR makes no bones about the fact that it believes it can get along just fine without Detroit, either. Moving closer to even more of a "spec car" series in the interest of "the show," NASCAR is contemplating building the center sections of the cars and only allowing teams to finish them off for their particular "brands" at their shops - all in the interest of making the cars as identical as possible. NASCAR has even discussed making and selling "spec" engines that remove any chance for a manufacturer to exploit any engineering advantage discovered. Heaven forbid a manufacturer be actually encouraged to use racing for what it has always been used for - to push the envelope, to innovate and to explore new technologies that end up improving production cars that we can all enjoy on the street.
Detroit is wasting a cumulative $225 million on NASCAR. And wasting is the operative and dead-accurate word to use here. Here they are locked in the fight of their lives, literally for their very survival - and they're pissing away a quarter of a billion dollars every year to advertise their rental car fleets and help fuel NASCAR's marketing machine.
What Detroit is doing in NASCAR has nothing to do with racing - instead, it has everything to do with perpetuating the NASCAR brand and enhancing "the show." And for those very crucial reasons, Detroit is being classically underserved in its interests.
There are several other viable racing series in this country that allow Detroit to actually go head-to-head with the same import competition that they face in the showrooms every day. Those venues, like the SPEED World Challenge and the American Le Mans Series, offer import-oriented consumers a real opportunity to see Detroit products in action, and they can do wonders for Detroit's credibility. When Detroit can't even get on most import buyers' radar screens, they've got to go out of their way to do everything possible to change that - and pissing away millions on NASCAR's glorified branding exercise isn't going to cut it.
The perpetual problem in Detroit is that nobody high up enough in these companies has the cojones to say "no" to NASCAR. Their marketing minions trot out the usual TV numbers and sponsor mumbo-jumbo, but nobody has the guts to ask the tough questions, such as - what are we selling here? And what are we really getting for being part of NASCAR's show? Or, are we making a dent in the consumers we need to reach, or are we just placating a diminishing domestic-oriented constituency?
And nobody in the motorsports departments wants to deal with the reality of the situation either. Given the choice of racing in NASCAR or not racing at all, they will always just shrug their shoulders and go along to get along with the NASCAR juggernaut. It's as much about inertia as anything else.
And that's just a flat-out travesty.
Two years ago, General Motors walked away from one of the most important racing programs in its history. Their Cadillac American Le Mans Series prototype racing program had endured setbacks and fits and starts, yet they were just on the verge of becoming consistently competitive against the dominant Audi racing program. But then they walked away from it, ostensibly because "they just didn't have the money," as one of GM's top executives pointedly told me at Pebble Beach last summer. So, instead of going head-to-head against Audi for the overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans - the most prestigious sports car race in the world - GM folded its tent and cancelled the program.
It was one of the most momentously wrongheaded decisions ever taken by an automobile company. And the real reason was not that GM didn't have the money, the real reason is no one had the cojones to say "no" to the NASCAR machine. So, instead of competing for the hearts and minds of imported car intenders around the world with their resurgent Cadillac brand, they shored up Monte Carlo's stature as one of America's favorite "go to" rental cars.
The sooner Detroit collectively realizes that they're just another sideshow in the NASCAR circus, the better off they'll be.
It's time for Detroit to finally pull the plug on their NASCAR involvement. ------
Patrick '93 Cobra '83 LTD
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On 4 Jul 2004 21:13:08 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com (Patrick) wrote:

Excellent article. Do you have a website addy for it?
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http://www.autoextremist.com/page2.shtml
Yet another $.02 worth from a proud owner of a 1970 Mach 1 351C @ http://community.webshots.com/album/18644819fHAehGJAjt
(Patrick) wrote:

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(Patrick) wrote:

Autoextremist.com
Patrick '93 Cobra '83 LTD
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Patrick wrote:

How about this. At least once a month I see some tattooed mullethead driving a new Monte Carlo with NASCAR decals on it. Why for you never see a Tarus or an Intrepit like that? :P
--



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WindsorFox[SS] wrote:

IMO, it's because that tattooed mullet head has no choice but to be in a Monte Carlo (or it's derivatives under another brand name). GM has left the average gear head with nothing since the Camaro was axed. He might as well put decals on it because there's not much else he can do to that POS from a performance aspect. You don't see Taurus' like that because Ford buyers have some real choices for performance like the Mustang, and other SVT vehicles.
Even Dodge is actually getting into performance in a decent way now which gives the tattooed mullet heads a real performance choice. Much of this is due to the "D" in "DC".
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The preference for most dyed-in-the-wool performance enthusiasts is still rear wheel drive. The offerings are thin but it appears that the manufacturers are addressing the condition.
BTW.... I have neither tattoo nor mullet and I enjoy NASCAR immensely - big buck "stock car racing" (the Taurus is not a rear wheel drive and it certainly isn't a 2 door) still drives a lot of technological advance both in cylinder head design, materials and assembly techniques. That the only electronics found in a Nextel Cup car are in the ignition system only serves to keep costs from soaring as in Indy and Formula car racing.
Manufacturers will continue supporting these teams since they are still a very good advertising medium, the races draw extremely large numbers of people and the races last hours rather than seconds (though I'm a big fan of drag racing too).
Anything on a race track is better than stop light shenanigans...
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I still enjoy NASCAR but every year I like it less. They are becoming the WWF or Jerry Springer version of auto racing. Now the fans (likely the newer ones) get sloppy drunk and throw trash on the track when they don't get to see Jr. win a race. At the pace NASCAR is dumbing down the sport I doubt I'll be watching the races in the next couple of years.
Automobile racing is as much about technical innovation by manufacturers/INDIVIDUAL race teams as it is about drivers. NASCAR is castrating the car/engine builders and making them more irrelevant as each year passes. Technical innovation is part of every sport, especially with auto racing. Nowdays winning a NASCAR race comes down to 10% driver skill, 10% race team skill and 80% luck. IMO, this isn't what a sports event is suppose to be. Striking an equal third balance between these three would be about perfect.
As for keeping the costs down in NASCAR verses formula racing (or any other) it's just a matter of where the money is spent. NASCAR goes through the same amount of money only they line their pockets with it instead of furthering the sport from a technical aspect and promoting safety like formula racing does. NASCAR is basically run by a bunch of greedy bastards that sell out the sport at every opportunity to make another dollar. They no longer have any great love for stock car racing.
Jim Warman wrote:

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I'll grant that the sport isn't as colourful as it once was.... political correctitude (is that a word??) has taken over and the 'good ol' boy' fisticuffs have vanished leaving the clean, young "star" in its wake.
All the same, NASCAR is still about what the rules "don't" say as much as what they do say - even though we will never, ever see guys like Smokey again.... Cubic inch limits (358 inch, now, IIRC), restrictor plates, constant wind tunnel testing..... these all have an effect on the iron we will be driving in the years to come through the lessons learned. NASCAR has, and will be, a valuable developmental tool for engineers (and, strangely, I didn't notice anything about Toyota trucks...... something about Toyota taking a giant leap backwards as they plant Holley carbs atop their motors).
Years ago, it could almost get boring when someone stumbled on a secret or what-have you and ran away from the field. Now, with NASCARs tampering, we see strategies... we see drivers spending several laps setting up a pass..... I got interested in NASCAR back when they had a convertible class (Saturday I celebrated my 29th birthday...... for the 25th time). Bobby Isaacs, Glenn "Fireball" Roberts, Jr. Johnson and Maurice Petty (along with his upstart son)...... 'scuse me, I think it's time for my meds...

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On Mon, 05 Jul 2004 17:59:20 -0400, "Michael Johnson, PE"
---- snip ----

I think there are probably some areas where their desire to stay cutting-edge within the given rules has produced some unbelievable power from a relatively small motor. The R&D they've put into materials, manufacturing techniques, engine airflow, combustion chamber design, and the like have produced some pretty astounding results. Isn't it reasonable to assume that some of this technology has worked its way into the mainstream automobile? JMHO
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Tom
1998 GT Coupe 5-spd. Bright Atlantic Blue K&N FIPK, Tri-Ax, 3.73's, FRPP Coated Shorties, SpeedCal, P&P 2K Heads, 2K Intake, Bassani X-Pipe and Cat-Back, Subframe Connectors, JMS Chip, Eagle Alloy Wheels www.bluestanggt.corral.net
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Indeed.... materials, cylinder head design - all the way down to understanding the combustion process better (vis a vis runner and chamber design). Let's look at Ferrari experimenting with lighter fuel...... LIGHTER fuel.... as in comparable BTU output with less weight.
The current state of the art owes a lot to racing and will do in the future. In case one hasn't noticed, the SPI motor is getting a little long in the tooth.
If we want to complain about wasted bux.... let's discuss hockey and baseball players... guys getting a million bucks for playing a round or two of "whap-f*ck" or the money it costs when a street race goes awry.......
Racing has brought about advances in all aspects of vehicle technology..... occupant restraint and protection, materials, construction techniques. While these may not be commonplace on a race car, many have been tried and proven in race car development.
Just where on earth does anyone think the idea for high performance cars come from, anyway???
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Jim Warman wrote:

These NASCAR teams have nothing on a major auto manufacturer when it comes to R&D. They are working within such a narrow set of rules that they are into splitting hairs for performance gains. All there work MIGHT mean something in their world but little of applies to todays vehicles. Most modern engines are computer controlled OHC designs with variable valve timing and work by their own set of rules. IMO, NASCAR's tech advancements stopped translating to the real world in the mid 1980's.

I agree that racing contributes a great deal to mainstream car technology. NASCAR, OTOH, contributes nearly nothing. A typical modern day engine resembles a formula engine much more than a cup motor.

Lets be honest. We would all take the money and never complain about being paid too much. People who complain about the wealthy are mostly pissed that they aren't wealthy. ;)

That's kind of a chicken or egg first type of question.

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You should know by now that I'm usually p*ssd by just about everything 8^)
I guess we can chalk this up to our usual agreement to disagree.
NASCAR teams aren't contrained so much by technology....... it is how they use technology that castrates them. Compared to other venues, Nextel cup cars are "cheap". The factories feed their golden teams allowing some real world testing to come down the pipe..... in spite of what you may think. While not the hotbed that it once was, there is valuable information to be gained.
As I step back from our conversation and give my head a firm shake, I notice that little has been said about other motorsport venues. How much for a Lola chassis??? Does anyone realize that most Indy car engines are LEASED? When it comes to street cars, does anyone believe that a 20,000 rpm 2.0 liter V10 is in their future?
Most all forms of professional motorsports can offer up technological gains in one respect or another.
Getting back to NASCAR..... with the growing momentum in regards to popularity, would it be astute for any manufacturer to stop supporting teams (look at what happened to Dodge so many years ago) with tens of thousands of fans sitting in the bleachers rooting for "their car"?
Wasted money? You can find that almost any place you look.
While we're on the subject.... ballet, opera, figure skating - the list goes on - is (in Canada) largely government funded. I'm sure that, in the states, 'fine' arts rely on government funding. Some may feel that this is money well spent...... I feel that these venues are a waste of money - MY money. I see no government funding for auto racing other than the odd "Army" or "Navy" sponsored car. If the shareholders of any manufacturers are comfortable with these expenditures, I will "waste" the odd Sunday afternoon enjoying it.

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I fully agree. It's just like NASA! NASA advanced so many things! The benefit to man is tremendous!
I'd bet without NASCAR, cars would not be what thay are today! They'd have less power, get less mpg, weigh more, be less reliable, etc., etc., etc.
--
John
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On Wed, 7 Jul 2004 21:20:40 -0400, "John"

Nasa public relations has for years made a big deal about their "spin offs". The fact of the matter is that they haven't had much effect at all, and there would have been a greater advancement of technology if we had simply invested the money spent on NASA into research and developments.

I've always wondered why my Mustang always turned left better than it turned right. Must be part of that NASCAR legacy.
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Jim Warman wrote:

Now Jim, word on the street is you are really a softy at heart. :)

I never said NASCAR contributes nothing but what it does contribute is infinitesimal to the current overall advancement of automotive technology. If anything NASCAR is leaching

How many cars have VVT, OHC, multi-valve heads etc.? These were technologies born out of racing and it didn't come from NASCAR. Today's engines are much more similar to that 20k rpm V-10 than a carburated, 2-valve, pushrod NASCAR engine.

Yes, but what has NASCAR done for the advancement of automotive technology in the last ten years?

I like Jeff Gordon who is a Chevy guy but I haven't owned (and never plan to own) a Chevy since the '71 Nova I drove in high school. The overwhelming majority of NASCAR fans don't buy their personal vehicles based on which auto manufacturer support their favorite driver.

Wasted is a relative term. They claim the rules are there to keep costs down but NASCAR has plenty of money to improve safety and to let teams use technology to advance the sport. I would like to see them loosen the noose regarding technology and reduce the amount of fuel a team can utilize during a race. That would result in technological advancements that may mean something in the real world. The formula car advancements have had a huge impact on the engines we drive on the street. Like I mentioned before VVT, multi-valve heads, computer control, forced induction technology, combustion chamber design etc. have been incorporated into many of the new cars we can buy today. NASCAR's ancient engine platform and restrictive rules leaves very little of their technology that can be applied to todays engines.

I'm not advocating that auto makers abandon racing but they should push for more advanced technology be used IN the race cars. Carburated, pushrod V-8's aren't the up and coming hot new technology auto makers are promoting. NASCAR is slowly removing an important component of any racing program. That being the technological advancement and the application of the advancements by allowing teams to differentiate their cars from one another. NASCAR is stagnating itself and it will come back to haunt them.

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snipped-for-privacy@NOSPAMnetzero.net wrote:

They make the big power with high rpm's. Just about any larger displacement V-8 engine will make impressive power while turning 8,000-9,000 rpm. The only thing impressive about the cup engines is their longevity. I can build a 351W that will make more hp and torque than they do for $20k. With the proper machine work it could spin to 9,000 rpm too. These teams are just barely eeking out performance improvements from these motors because they are handcuffed by the rules. I can tweak the hell out of a lawn mower engine but in the end it's still a lawn mower engine. If you want to see just how technically challenged a NASCAR ride is then compare it to a formula racer. It's like comparing a Model "A" to a Ford GT. I don't see where much tech from a current cup car can translate to mass produced vehicles. I bet a built 5.4L Lightning motor (with 32 valve heads) would kill a cup engine, even without the blower.
NASCAR is homogenizing everything to the point that all these teams look/perform the same. Winning a race is mostly luck nowadays. Winning a championship means you drive like milk toast all year and just finish in the top ten as many times as possible. If they want to make things interesting then make winning a race mean something in the points standings. ;)
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That is their goal and to me it is BOREING and getting more so every year. I see no point in watching it or careing about it one bit.
LJH 95GT
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Larry Hepinstall wrote:

I won't be watching either in 2-3 years if they don't change. IMO, between the rules and the low class of fans they are attracting, NASCAR has really degraded in the past 5 years.
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Thats because Dale Jr. drives a Monte not a Tarus or RT. :)
MadDAWG
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