Questions, answers about Monster Energy’s partnership with NASCAR

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NASCAR announced Thursday that Monster Energy will become the entitlement sponsor of the sport’s premier series but many questions remain.

Here’s a look at what was said at Thursday’s press conference in Las Vegas and the questions that remain.

HOW LONG WILL MONSTER ENERGY BE THE SERIES SPONSOR?

No such details were given. NASCAR Chairman Brian France said that it was a multi-year agreement “with some options. We never get into the specifics of contracts.’’

WHAT WILL THE SERIES BE CALLED?

That detail was also not revealed. France said: “We are working on the exact composite logo … and we’ll be back shortly on that. It won’t be long. We’ve got some real good options on that.’’

WHAT ELSE IS INVOLVED IN THIS AGREEMENT?

Monster Energy will be the sponsor of the All-Star Race in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway and be the official energy drink of NASCAR.

HOW DOES THIS IMPACT MONSTER ENERGY’S SPONSORSHIP OF Kurt Busch’S CAR?

It won’t. Mark Hall, chief marketing officer for Monster Energy, said: “Kurt, you are still going to drive.’’

WHAT WILL BE DIFFERENT STARTING IN 2017?

Expect to have fun. The word fun was used 10 times in the 25-minute press conference, including nine times by France.

“They’re a fun brand that’s going to interact with our core fans in kind of a cool, neat way actually, and we’ve seen some of the plans, and they’ll get bigger and more robust as we go along,’’ France said.

“But we’re very confident that this is the right partner for us, and we’re looking forward to having some fun with it.  By the way, we’re in the fun business. We’re racing cars. We’re crowning champions. This is where people come to have fun, right?’’

WHY IS MONSTER ENERGY THE RIGHT FIT FOR THE SPORT?

“Motorsports is their DNA,’’ France said of Monster Energy. “When you walk through their lobby in California, you see that. You see the motorcycles and NASCAR memorabilia and all kinds of things, and that’s who they are, so they understand motorsports. They understand NASCAR. They understand how to reach across and excite our core audience and help us deliver on a new audience, and that was very exciting for us.’’

SO HOW WILL NASCAR HELP GROW ITS FAN BASE?

It will go after young fans.

“They get at a millennial audience in a different way clearly than we’ve ever been associated with, particularly at this level, and they know what they’re doing,’’ France said. 

OK, BUT WHAT ABOUT NASCAR’S OLDER FANS? HOW WILL MONSTER REACH THEM?

Through young fans.

“Young people set trends in fashion, and then older people adapt, and I don’t want to say old,’’ said Mark Hall, chief marketing officer for Monster Energy. “Fashion is set by a small group of influencers. The challenge is to make your product relevant to that group and then have them influence the others. If we’ve been successful in the past, we’ve followed that model.

“I think we have a lot of drinkers in the current NASCAR fan base. I think we can make the sport more interesting to some younger consumers, as well.’’

MISS SPRINT CUP IS GONE. WILL SHE BE REPLACED?

Yes. Monster Energy’s girls were at the announcement and will be visible moving forward.

“We also want to bring some good shows and entertainment for NASCAR fans, so they can interact with our brand and understand what our culture is all about, so when they leave the racetrack on Sunday they’ve had an experience,’’ said Mitch Covington, vice president of sports marketing for Monster Energy. “Of course they will have met the fabulous Monster Energy girls.  We’re going to have a lot of fun at NASCAR, both in the parking lot and inside the oval.’’

HOW DOES THIS NEW AGREEMENT DIFFER FROM OTHERS WITH REPORTS IT WOULD BE FOR A SHORTER TIME PERIOD AND LESS MONEY? WILL THERE BE ADJUSTMENTS THE SPORT WILL HAVE TO MAKE?

“No, it’s a different kind of agreement for sure in that it’s got activation in different ways and media in different ways,’’ France said. “But we’re quite pleased with the agreement, and no, there will be no changes at all. As a matter of fact, I think you’re going to see some additional activation, additional things that will occur, so this is a more, not less, in that regard.’’

SO HOW WILL MONSTER ENERGY MARKET NASCAR?

“We do market in a non‑traditional way, we do count on our athletes and our endorsers and to a certain extent our fans to do our marketing,’’ Hall said. “One component that our primary competitor utilizes that we haven’t is media. They routinely buy traditional television and traditional media, and we never have.  We have never created a commercial or an ad. 

“We’ve done different things that we’ve been successful getting a lot of eyeballs on, but I think looking at this opportunity and this close partnership to where our names are linked so synonymously, we’re thinking that this for us is a way to do traditional media, the reach of the connection and the partnership is going to be unique for us because our names will be closely associated, and every time you say NASCAR, we hope we’re going to say Monster Energy.’’

My Home Tracks: New Mexico’s the Land of Enchantment and home of Cardinal Speedway

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The state of New Mexico is known more for IndyCar racing, with the Unser family being the state’s favorite sons.

Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s, brother Bobby three and Al’s son Al Jr. a two-time winner (this weekend’s 500 marks the 25th anniversary of Little Al’s second 500 triumph).

But there’s a strong grassroots racing scene in the Land of Enchantment, particularly in the far southeast corner of the state at Cardinal Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in the little town of Eunice.

NASCAR America continues its My Home Track series of 50 states in 50 shows.

Wednesday, we visit New York state.

2018 NASCAR schedule changes: EVP Steve O’Donnell breaks it down (video)

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell joined us to discuss the NASCAR Cup schedule changes in 2018, including running a road race at Charlotte and having Indianapolis be the final race before the playoffs.

“I’m real excited about these changes,” said O’Donnell, who cited unprecedented cooperation between NASCAR, its teams, drivers and sponsors to reach agreement on the schedule changes.

Among the key changes: Las Vegas will kick off the 10-race playoffs in 2018 (Chicagoland Speedway, which will have hosted the last seven playoff openers, will return to its more traditional race date in early July/late June and serve as a run-up to the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona.

Several other changes include:

  • The fall playoff race at Charlotte will move up a couple weeks in the schedule and also incorporate competition on both the infield road course and part of the speedway itself.
  • After 14 years as the deciding race to qualify for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Richmond International Raceway will now become the second race of the playoffs.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see it’s Brickyard 400 go from late July to become the final qualifying race for the playoffs in early September. While still in the rumor stage, there’s a lot of talk that IMS may change the race to something akin to its Verizon IndyCar Series Indy Grand Prix race in mid-May, where half the race is run on the infield road course and the other half on the traditional racetrack surface.

Catch up on all the changes in the above video.

Tony Stewart pulled over by state trooper, but it’s not for speeding

Photo courtesy Damein Cunningham Twitter account
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Retired NASCAR Cup driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart was stopped by an Illinois State Trooper over the weekend near DeKalb, Ill., about 90 minutes west of Chicago.

But before you think Stewart was stopped for speeding by Trooper Damein Cunningham, he wasn’t.

Rather, Cunningham pulled Stewart over for improper lane usage, although exactly what the infraction was is unclear.

After getting a verbal warning, Stewart gladly posed with Cunningham for a selfie, which the trooper promptly tweeted out.

“Just pulled over NASCAR LEGEND Tony Stewart on I-88 in DeKalb, IL, what you think I got him for? #NASCAR #ISP”

But according to the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham’s bosses apparently didn’t have a sense of humor about the incident or realize the good PR it meant for the Illinois State Police.

That, or they’re not Stewart or NASCAR fans. They ordered Cunningham to delete the tweet, which he did.

It’s unclear what Stewart, who was stopped on his 46th birthday, was doing in the Land of Lincoln.

But his luck went from bad to worse a few hours later. According to USA Today, Stewart and others were stuck in an elevator in a Madison, Wisconsin hotel for about 20 minutes before being rescued by firefighters.

We can just imagine what the elevator riders talked about while trapped.

How much do you want to bet Stewart said, “Man, do I have a story about a cop that I have to tell you.”

Cunningham then posted another tweet on Sunday after attending church services.

 

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All-Star Race will remain at Charlotte in 2018

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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NASCAR confirmed that the All-Star Race will be held again at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite more of a push from competitors and others to move the event.

Criticism was raised after last weekend’s 70-lap event featured only three lead changes. Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart to begin the final 10-lap stage and went on to win. It marked the fourth time in the last five years the All-Star winner led every lap in the final stage. In 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte since the track was repaved, there have been two lead changes in the final five laps.

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, was clear in a call with reporters Tuesday that the All-Star Race is set for Charlotte.

“We’ve finished our discussions for ’18,” he said. ” We’ll begin looking at ’19 and beyond in the near future.”

The All-Star Race debuted at Charlotte in 1985, moved to Atlanta in 1986 and returned to Charlotte the following year. It has been held at Charlotte ever since.

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