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At NASCAR Summit, a season starts anew
CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR has its own version of spring training in January, but instead of the drivers or teams, it's the folks working behind the scenes who are getting in preseason reps. The annual NASCAR Summit Presented by American Medical Response (AMR) concluded its three-day run Tuesday at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center, where hundreds of dedicated track services, medical, safety, and security workers prepared for the season ahead. Now in its 16th year, the NASCAR Summit has provided open forums and sessions for those workers to learn about best practices and innovations to help make the sport go from weekend to weekend. "This meeting is really one of the best meetings of the year and it really sets our tone for the season in terms of safety," said John Bobo, NASCAR Managing Director of Racing Operations. "We have operations here, security, we have our medical personnel and we really get to look at what we did in the past season and then we get to look at the season ahead and do everything we need to do to prepare for it, but it's the special people who run toward the blue light and run toward the siren and toward the fire. These are those people and it's great to be with them and to figure out everything we need to do to make sure every event is safe and all our competitors are safe." NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton echoed those sentiments before Tuesday's awards ceremony, where unsung heroes in the medical, security and track services fields were recognized for their outstanding contributions. "One of the most particular reasons that I enjoy saying hello to you and a thanks to you is because in order for NASCAR to do what it does, it has to have a heart and soul of people who are of the character that run toward a situation instead of away from it," Helton said, "and there's nobody in our organization that is as significant as the group that is in here today for this summit that represents that character of our sport." Attendees of the annual conference gathered information and learned techniques from five general sessions Monday and then chose from 11 breakout sessions Tuesday in their various fields. Subjects ranging from proper jet dryer operation, injury trends among NASCAR pit crews, track painting and preparation and an update on the NASCAR Green Initiative were among the offerings. Summit participants also sampled wares from 26 exhibitors and vendors. Among the presenters was new premier series entitlement sponsor, Monster Energy, handing out stickers and free samples as its relationship with stock-car racing grows. "I think we're as interested in Monster as the general fan is interested in Monster and what changes that'll bring and how things are presented, what life is like at-track," Bobo said. "We certainly do appreciate Monster being here at the Summit and all they've done to support us. They've certainly kept us (going) through some of the sessions late in the afternoon, so it's been great." During the Summit's awards ceremony, the NASCAR Foundation announced that $4,845 had been raised from Sunday's Trivia Night, a charity raffle and other donations over the three-day convention. The honorees for exceptional service from the 2016 season were: Track Services • Mission Award: Daytona International Speedway • Teamwork Award: Kentucky Speedway • Innovation Award: Pocono Raceway • Excellence in Track Services Award: Jay Donnay, Homestead-Miami Speedway Medical • Above and Beyond Award: Dr. Angela Fiege, Dr. John Maino, Dr. Brian Nao • Nursing Director Award: Jackie Coats, Watkins Glen International • Teamwork Award: Darlington Raceway , Bristol Motor Speedway Security • Security Director's Award: George Brazzale, Las Vegas Motor Speedway ; Jim Hosfelt, Dover International Speedway Contributing: NASCAR Wire Service
Brad Keselowski shares secret to success at Talladega
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Talladega EDITOR'S NOTE: In a rare first-person exclusive, Brad Keselowski gives his thoughts on racing at NASCAR's biggest track, Talladega Superspeedway. From racing the track on a video game to racing the pack in real life, Keselowski gives a glimpse into the "moves" that translate into Talladega success. Some drivers relish Talladega. Some drivers hate it. I still remember this time—it was probably 2003—and there was this video game called " NASCAR Racing 2003 PC." And I would run it and have a great time. There was this online community, and we would race all kinds of different tracks. It was a lot of fun, but there weren’t a lot of great drivers. I wasn't a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver then, but I was a decent online racer. We'd go to all these different tracks. We'd go to a Bowman Gray or a Dover or a Michigan, and I had a blast with that. But you'd only get maybe five or 10 guys who were any good, and the rest were intimidated, so it was almost like it was too easy. So this online league I was racing with started this thing where we would race on Tuesday nights, and we had this series where we would race on superspeedways, and like 80 to 100 people would show up and race it. Talladega was two of the races, and my bother (Brian) and I would race on it together. I remember winning those races and thinking, 'That's so cool to beat all these guys' and kind of almost falling in love with Talladega online. And so the first time I went there, it was a little bit of a shellshock being in a pack for real. It was a lot different from being in a pack on a damn computer—I can tell you that right now. But the moves and the techniques and all those things are really similar, and when you can slow it down and think of it as a giant chess match, where things aren't just happening—they're happening because you want them to, it starts to breed a lot of confidence in you. You feel comfortable at those tracks. And that why I’m looking forward to Sunday’s GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). MORE: Full Talladega schedule " 'Dega paint schemes You've still got to get over the wrecks and the big packs and all those things you know you’re susceptible to. You still have to get over that, and that's a tough challenge, but the moves to me are like a game of chess, and I enjoy that game. Learning the moves is like anything else in life. How do you learn to ride a bicycle? Sometimes you bust your ass. Sometimes you learn by watching somebody else and what they can do. What's interesting about Talladega is that it seems like every year—or maybe every three or four years—a new move comes out that no one has ever thought of, no one has executed before. That's what made Dale (Earnhardt) so special there. He was always creating the new moves. Because of that, he was always a step ahead. I think that continues to happen now. The great racers at Talladega are the ones that can innovate and create a new move that nobody knows how to defend. And that's really, really tricky. It takes a lot of research, a lot of timing, a lot of work, a lot of study. But some of it's just intuition and learning the hard way, too. STATS: Keselowski's 4 Talladega wins, more I guess what I’m trying to say is, like anything else in life, there’s a lot of ways you can learn. You can learn the hard way. Sometimes you learn because you just have a natural talent at it, or sometimes you learn from studying. I think it's really all three. In my first win in the No. 2 Miller Lite car, when I broke the draft on the final lap, someone else had made that move, but they made it at a time that wasn't critical to the outcome. Going into that race, I had that move planned, but not until the end when the timing was most beneficial. That won that race, and now that move is defunct. You always think you've found the next move, but you never know until the race is over, and it either worked or it didn't. But I can't tell you what it is—it's a trade secret. I think it goes in waves. I think you have a year or two where it’s like nothing's clicking, and you get frustrated. Then you find a new move, find a new technique, and things start to click, and you feel like you're in charge and dominant. And then everybody eventually catches up to those moves, or those moves are made irrelevant by rules changes and so forth, and you have to find a new one. I think there's a bit of an ebb and flow to it. At this point in time, we have a series of moves that are pretty strong, that have put us in a position to win a lot of plate races at Team Penske with a lot of things that Joey (Logano) and I have learned and worked on together. But those moves eventually will become irrelevant. There will be something different. Hopefully, it will last a long time, but history shows it won't. That's OK. I look at probably the last three years on the plate tracks, and I feel like Joey and I have been the most successful, and we hope to continue that. As told to Reid Spencer of the NASCAR Wire Service . &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
NASCAR digital and social media numbers continue to grow in 2016
During his State of the Sport press conference prior to the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier this month, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France relayed an anecdote about watching a scaled-down, highlight-driven Duke college basketball game on his laptop. The story painted a broad picture of the shift in fan consumption habits. And for NASCAR , that has meant a shift in strategy to serve fans who want an immersive experience, whether attending live in-person, watching on TV, or engaging with sports at home or on the go. By all metrics, NASCAR ’s digital and social media numbers have shown strong growth over the 2016 season, validating a strategic choice to reach race fans in the multifaceted ways they opt to consume NASCAR content. Consider these numbers: Overall, NASCAR drew 256 million social engagements across all its digital platforms, an 87 percent increase year-over-year, and a massive increase of video content views. NASCAR saw a 14 percent growth in followers across its social and digital platforms. Of particular note was a spike in the growth of Snapchat followers after NASCAR announced its partnership with that platform in February. NASCAR competitors and fans provided live content from four races, starting with the Daytona 500 , under the aegis of "Snapchat Live Story." The Daytona 500 itself saw a 63-percent increase in race day impressions, while engagement with NASCAR content tripled. "It’s been fantastic," said Jill Gregory, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer. "I think that what it has done is validated our strategy that we set out at the very beginning of this season, when we talked about leading with digital and social and really trying to talk to our fans where they were and going to reach them at all the places they consume NASCAR . "We started that with our 'Ready.Set.Race' campaign and the Hashtag 500 around the Daytona 500 , and it’s really just continued to build throughout the whole season." The Hashtag 500, the race to win Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s firesuit, generated 13,000 NASCAR -related mentions in a single minute, a high-water mark for NASCAR content since the advent of the sanctioning body’s Fan and Media Engagement Center. Central to the success of the 2016 digital and social media campaign was heavy promotion of #TheChase across all platforms, leveraging Twitter, Vine, Periscope, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to engage fans throughout the 10-week playoff. Capturing the drama of the Chase, which concluded with Jimmie Johnson claiming his record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, was the digital film series "Ready.Set.Chase." All told, the five-film series garnered more than 13 million views. "I think we’re seeing it at NASCAR , and obviously we see it happening across the sports and entertainment landscape, that fans want to customize their experience regardless of what they’re watching or looking at," Gregory said. "If we want to talk to those fans, we have to go places that are convenient for them. "If they’re watching on their mobile app, if they’re watching via NASCAR .com, if they’re watching on television, it’s our job as the league to provide all of that great content in all of those places and then make sure that we deliver the right experience for each of those platforms."
NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 revealed
Robert Yates, Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier and Ron Hornaday Jr. will be part of the Class of 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame with Jim France being honored as the Landmark Award winner.
NASCAR releases 2018 schedule
NASCAR .com's Jonathan Merryman breaks down big changes in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule, including Charlotte Motor Speedway running the road course in the 2018 playoffs.
NASCAR may get 'the Boot' at Watkins Glen
RELATED: Learn more about Watkins Glen " Course breakdown by turn WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Now that Watkins Glen has started repaving its racing surface, running "the Boot" may be back on the table for NASCAR races. The current configuration of the Glen for NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series races eliminates the Boot, which contains Turns 6 through 9, and shortens the course from 3.40 miles to 2.45 miles. But with repaving already having taken place in the Boot, smoothing the bumps in that portion of the track, NASCAR is considering running the full Grand Prix Course, which currently is used for the Tudor United Sports Car Championship. "We could," NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell told the NASCAR Wire Service before Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen. "We're discussing it with the track. It's something we're looking at down the road." Even with the addition of the Boot, Watkins Glen wouldn't be the longest road course on the NASCAR rotation. Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, which hosts the XFINITY Series, measures 4.048 miles.
Best in-car audio from the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race
Listen in on NASCAR's top drivers as they battle through the Monster Energy Open then go for $1 million in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race.
NASCAR drivers take on the 'Little 600'
Some of NASCAR's biggest names raced at GoPro Motorplex for the title of Little 600 Champion. Find out who was able to dominate in the rain, and go home a winner.
Robert Yates: 'Now I have a permanent place' in NASCAR
NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 member Robert Yates reacts to being inducted to the sports highest honor.
NASCAR sees Fortune 500 involvement increase
NASCAR CMO Phelps: 'Technology is incredibly important for us' RELATED: NASCAR news release Technology, in the form of Fortune 500 investment, is reinforcing the notion that NASCAR makes good business sense. For the third consecutive year, the number of Fortune 500 companies utilizing NASCAR as part of their marketing mix has increased. In fact, nearly half of America’s Fortune 100 companies invest with NASCAR to help drive their business and more than one in four Fortune 500 companies are on board. The new analysis, conducted and released by NASCAR on Wednesday, indicated a 7 percent increase in Fortune 500 corporate involvement since the 2014 study. The 130 Fortune 500 companies now involved in the sport reflect a 20 percent increase since 2008. Now, investment is back in a big way, led by high tech involvement in the sport. "Technology is incredibly important for us," says Steve Phelps, NASCAR chief marketing officer. "It’s not only about helping us grow, financially, but how technology helps change people’s perception of NASCAR . Technology helps us on the race track with things like safety initiatives and brings fans closer to the sport they love in many ways." Phelps said the sport began to notice tech’s impact with Hewlett-Packard’s involvement three years ago. Now, NASCAR ’s partnership with Microsoft has other tech companies taking note. Tech corporation involvement is up 66 percent since 2013. "No question, this is great news for us," Phelps says. "We want our fan base to become younger and more diverse. Technology brings those fans. It’s important for us to be there, working with these companies." Phelps sees Microsoft’s collaboration with NASCAR as a true win-win that other tech firms might seek to emulate. "Microsoft, which signed deals with NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports , has used NASCAR as a validator of their technology," Phelps said. "One existing piece is an app they developed that helps us with the inspection process prior to the race. We’re doing things in half the time we used to, using a mobile inspection app as opposed to collecting information manually. This helps with data collection and storage." Phelps is quick to point out that investment in NASCAR ’s sanctioning body, its tracks and its teams extends far beyond the Fortune 500 list. " NASCAR continues to be a great place for all companies to get their marketing message across," Phelps said. "When you look at NASCAR ’s recovery over the past three years, I think it speaks volumes about how NASCAR continues to do very well in attracting businesses of all sizes. "It’s a way for business to reach the most loyal fans in all of sport who vote with their wallets. This continues to be the case in every research report we’ve done: NASCAR fans support brands that support their favorite sport. We think this is a major point of differentiation for us." Brand exposure in NASCAR is especially valuable given the loyalty of its fans. Repucom’s SponsorLink tracker shows seven out of 10 NASCAR fans are loyal to a brand when it sponsors their sport, higher than all other major sports properties. NASCAR CEO Brent Dewar echoed Phelps’ assessment in analyzing the most recent study. "We are gratified that NASCAR continues to be a place where best-in-class corporations choose our sport to drive brand awareness, preference and purchase behavior," Dewar said. "Our fans are fiercely loyal to our sport and the Fortune 500 brands that are an integral part of the NASCAR eco-system. We collaborate with partners across the industry each and every day to grow the sport and help advance sponsors’ objectives." It hasn’t hurt that NASCAR has taken a proactive approach in attracting and discussing its business environment with its investors. An example is NASCAR ’s Fuel for Business Council, which meets quarterly, and gets business leaders talking about opportunities in NASCAR , including branding and business-to-business opportunities. This month’s meeting in San Francisco featured presentations by Microsoft and by Fanatics, which is in the process of revolutionizing the sport’s at-track merchandising operations. "It’s an opportunity for companies to talk to each other, and that’s really important," Phelps said. "Microsoft’s presentation answered the question: 'Why are we in NASCAR ?’ In the end, we do business-to-business better than any sport on the planet – an important point of differentiation for investors." Phelps points out that investment extends far beyond the scope of Fortune 500 corporations and does not include dozens of companies advertising with NASCAR ’s media partners or the hundreds of small- and mid-sized businesses with direct ties to the sport. To be eligible for the Fortune 500, a company must be based in the U.S. and be publicly traded. Though many more Fortune 500 companies advertise on NASCAR -related television programming, only those that are partners or licensees with the sanctioning body, teams and / or tracks were counted in the analysis. Although being a Fortune 500 company is the "gold standard" of success for publicly-traded companies in the U.S., several global corporations currently involved in NASCAR were not included in the analysis because they do not meet Fortune 500 criteria. Those include Ingersoll Rand, MillerCoors, Mars, McLaren and Toyota. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule