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NASCAR's Cup filled with possibilities

February 11, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

I don't know if you noticed, but a funny thing happened to NASCAR on its way to the 2003 season.

It became a reality series.

In this new, live on a desert island, eat a bug, date a plumber world of television, it's all about the makeover.

New image, new work and new marketing that's what stock car racing is becoming.

For the longest time, fans loved that quaint, Mayberry R.F.D. on wheels look about NASCAR. It was a sport of former auto shop graduates turned good ol' boys who jammed their right foot to the floor, forgot what the left foot was for and whose only worry was to keep turning left.

Now it's corporate, baby. Just how are you going to keep them back in the garage once they get a taste of Wall Street?

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Cars have become rolling billboards and drivers are pitchmen with a southern drawl.

In fact, you could go so far as to say if some of the old favorites weren't driving, it would be easier to identify the cars by the sponsors instead of the drivers.

It would make for some interesting race calls. Consider some of these situations:

"Coming down the stretch, there's the Viagra No. 6, driven by Mark Martin, battling the Hooters No. 11 of Brett Bodine. And its Hooters taking the checkered with Viagra following close behind."

Other great advertising battles to watch for this season are NetZero vs. AOL; Budweiser vs. Coors Light vs. Miller Lite; M&Ms vs. Stacker 2; Cingular vs. Alltel.

Can you hear it now? Good.

But the biggest makeover is yet to come. Last week, Winston announced it was throwing its Cup into an ashtray. Right away there was a hush across the sport like every car suddenly got a new muffler.

Maybe the dismay was media generated, but suddenly it was what are we going to do five years from now when NASCAR will be forced to use Nicoderm.

The sport is just going to have to get comfortable with a new image. Here are some possibilities.

Go to one of the big paper plate businesses and play off the idea that auto racing has Southern roots.

It could be the Dixie Cup.

Or they could strike a deal with that snoring firm and get all the drivers to wear those nose Band-Aids.

They could be the Breathers' Cup.

How about that moving van firm with yellow trucks? Call it the Ryder Cup.

Shedd's Spread could grease a few palms and turn the season-long points race into the Butter Cup.

NASCAR needs tools to keep the cars on the track. It might be a natural to call it the Stanley Cup.

A couple of these are taken already.

They might be able to coax the citrus juice industry. Remember, orange juice isn't just for breakfast any more.

It would be the Vitamin C Cup.

Or let's go one better. They could get Victoria to tell her Secret and put angel wings on all the cars.

That way, pit stops would become drives down the runway, auto racing would have some real sex appeal and the word "Vitamin" wouldn't have to be used at all.

Face it. It would give NASCAR a sponsor that would thank you for your "support."




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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