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
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 TV schedule: Feb. 20-26
NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing season begins Feb. 28
The world's top online racers will take the green flag when the seventh NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series Powered by iRacing.com gets underway Feb. 28 at 9 p.m. ET. Driving race simulators from the comfort of their homes, a full field of elite iRacers will wheel their virtual Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusions and Toyota Camrys around a laser-scanned model of the Daytona International Speedway in the first of 16 events in NASCAR's official eSport series. At stake is $25,000 in cash and prizes together with a NASCAR champions ring and trophy to be awarded during the NASCAR Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. Following the Daytona race, competitors will race at digitized versions of many of the tracks on the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on alternate Tuesdays, with flag-to-flag coverage broadcast on iRacing Live. The series champion will be determined by a playoff system based on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, with the top four finalists battling in the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series finale on the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway this fall. By any measure, defending champion Ray Alfalla figures to be the man to beat. A USPS mail carrier from Cape Coral, Florida, Alfalla edged New Hampshire-based PJ Stergios for the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series championship last season, and captured his third title in six years. While he has never finished lower than second in the season standings, Alfalla faces new challenges this season ranging from the new Chase format to new aerodynamic rules similar to those Jimmie Johnson , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch and friends will be dealing with in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . "One of the keys this year is adapting to the reduction in downforce for 2017, just like in the real world," Alfalla said. "We'll also have a playoff for the first time, so the dynamic of each race will change, and the final race at Homestead will be nuts. Last year it was me and PJ neck-and-neck for the championship; this year there will be twice as many of us going for the title. I'm pretty excited about it!" In addition to veterans like Stergios and former champions Kenny Humpe and Michael Conti, Alfalla will have to deal with a promising crop of newcomers that includes Darik Bourdeau, of Montreal, Canada. While anything short of another title for the series veterans will rank as something of a disappointment, Bourdeau has a different outlook. "My goal is to get some solid runs and finish races in the top 10 and five," he said. "If you can stay out of trouble and pull out some solid finishes you will more than likely make The Chase. Then, it's 'win and you're in' the finale, when anything can happen." Last year's schedule produced nine winners in 16 races, while more two dozen sim racers scored at least one top-five finish. It's the kind of "anything can happen" competition that prompted PEAK Antifreeze to renew its title sponsorship of the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series through the 2019 season. "The NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series consistently produces some of the most exciting racing action you'll find, whether you're talking real or virtual racing," said PEAK CMO Bryan Emrich. "The great racing and the overall professionalism of the series are a perfect fit for PEAK. That's why we're excited to be associated with this series." The 2017 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series gets underway Tuesday, Feb. 28. Catch all the excitement on iRacingLive starting at 9 p.m. ET.
Update available for NASCAR Heat Evolution
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! Can't get enough NASCAR Heat Evolution? Well, get ready. The game is about to get even more real. An update to the Dusenberry Martin Racing game launched Feb. 21. It's $9.99 on the PlayStation Store, Xbox Marketplace and Steam. The update includes team and roster updates, new drivers, new 2017 paint schemes, the 2017 schedule, new Toyota Camry model and the video debuts of the No. 41 Monster Energy and No. 77 5-hour Energy cars. Dusenberry Martin Racing's long-term and deeply rooted relationship with NASCAR has allowed the company to develop a wide range of games across multiple interactive entertainment platforms, giving fans a uniquely NASCAR gaming experience. NASCAR Heat Evolution features fun and exciting gameplay for all skill levels, up to 40 player online multiplayer races (a console gaming first), more than 40 drivers, all 23 licensed Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tracks and a variety of thrilling gameplay modes. In today's world of technology, video games can often take much time and skill to master, leaving a novice or causal gamer frustrated. Finding the balance between realism and fun, NASCAR Heat Evolution features an adaptive artificial intelligence (AI), which adjusts to gamers' competence, keeping them challenged based on their skill level. Equal to the importance of the game's adaptive AI is the players' ability to relate and understand the connection between racing for hours in a video game and doing the same in real life. NASCAR Heat Evolution features numerous game play modes that allow gamers to run just a few laps or up to an entire race. Along with full-length races, the game includes a career mode that gives users an understanding of acquiring sponsors and how to improve their car race after race. Brad Keselowski played a sample of the game last year with NASCAR .com and gave his insights. You can re-watch that video here.
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.
2017 update available for NASCAR Heat Evolution
New paint schemes, drivers plus the debut of the No. 41 Monster Energy car -- this 2017 update for the NASCAR Heat Evolution video game has all of it, plus more.
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
NASCAR unveils huge social media effort surrounding Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- At heart, we're all racers. That's the crux of NASCAR's massive marketing and social media platform surrounding Sunday’s Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), one that includes activation on Twitter and Snapchat and gives fans a chance to win prized race-used memorabilia by "racing" each other in the Hashtag 500. In an integrated marketing campaign titled Ready.Set.Race, combining television creative and social engagement, NASCAR seeks to highlight the racers in all of us. "When you're a kid riding a bike and racing the other kids in the neighborhood," says Jill Gregory, NASCAR senior vice president, marketing and industry services. "Or when you're at the gym on the treadmill, and you're trying to secretly race the person next to you. "To us, all that just reinforces that love of racing, and what better way to get your racing fix than watching or attending a NASCAR race. We're absolutely focused on that in our television creative, but this digital and social component, where we're encouraging fans to race each other during one of our events, is a new and innovative way to make that love of racing come to life." MORE: Race-day experience elevated with Snapchat partnership During the Daytona 500 , fans wishing to compete for race-used memorabilia must watch the FOX broadcast (pre-race coverage starts at noon ET) and follow @ NASCAR on Twitter to receive a custom hashtag for each of 10 memorabilia items. Once each hashtag is unveiled, the 500th person to tweet that hashtag in concert with #DAYTONA500 will win that race and the prize that goes with it. That's not the only aspect of Twitter's expanded support around the Great American Race. Other activations will include the use of Vine and Periscope; Twitter Moments; @ NASCAR tweets featuring such celebrities as John Cena, Florida Georgia Line and Ken Griffey Jr.; Twitter Mirror, a tablet based application where celebrities pose for their own photos; and infield branding in Daytona International Speedway . RELATED: Exclusive Daytona content via Twitter To help tell the story of what it's like to attend a NASCAR race, Snapchat will at least double its Live Story coverage of NASCAR events in 2016, beginning with Sunday’s Daytona 500 . "(There will be) a curated stream of photos and videos submitted by fans at the race, and Snapchat will provide people outside the race track and outside the sport an inside look at what NASCAR's all about." The thousands of submitted Snaps from each event will be curated and packaged by Snapchat into a video stream that is shared globally with Snapchat's more than 100 million daily active users right on their mobile devices. Each NASCAR Live Story will be available to view on Snapchat for 24 hours. Facilitating the social media engagement is the recently completed $400-million Daytona Rising project, which transformed the Birthplace of Speed into the first true motorsports stadium. One of the many benefits of Daytona Rising includes enhanced WiFi capability designed to heighten social media engagement of fans at the races. In addition, broadcast partner FOX is asking fans to submit video content from Daytona 500 week for inclusion in a crowd-sourced documentary titled "100,000 Cameras," to air on FS1 in late February. NASCAR also offers a full range of digital and mobile products offering fans everything from in-car cameras to driver audio to social feeds and fantasy scoring. RaceView , for example, provides a 3-D representation of every car and track, real-time driver stats and multiple viewing angles for each NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in real-time. Last year, NASCAR set a record with 1.1 billion page views across its NASCAR .com website and digital platforms, a 20-percent increase over 2014. "We know that our core fans are engaged quite a bit with these (social and digital) platforms, and we know younger, more diverse fans are users of these platforms," Gregory says. "So for us it's a win/win, because fans across all our segments have a way to engage with NASCAR ."
Bobby Isaac joins NASCAR Hall of Fame Class 2016
RELATED: Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame In a different era, in which stock cars driven to and past their limits didn't break with frequency, there's no telling how many races or championships Bobby Isaac might have won. Isaac, the 1970 NASCAR premier series champion, won 37 of his 309 starts. But he was a DNF -- did not finish -- 129 times. His 49 poles rank 10th all-time, with 19 -- a still-standing, single-season mark -- coming in 1969. Only 38 drivers have won 19 or more poles in a career. Nobody ever had to tell Isaac to "stand on it." "Bobby was a never-give-up kind of guy," said Buddy Parrott, a member of Isaac's No. 71 K&K Insurance Dodge crew and a 49-time winner as a premier series crew chief for NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip among others. "Bobby had no fear." Isaac's accomplishments are such that he'll join the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2016 along with Jerry Cook, Terry Labonte , O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner. Their induction will take place Jan. 22 in Charlotte, N.C. The ceremonies will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET by NBCSN. Isaac, born on a farm near Catawba, North Carolina in 1932, saw his first stock car race at nearby Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway and at age 17 bought a 1937 Ford and put roll bars in it. He flipped the car on the race's second lap but that didn’t dampen his desire. Working at a variety of low-paying jobs, Isaac began racing the NASCAR late model sportsman circuit. He survived but sometimes just barely. "One time I drove 200 miles to drive a fellow's modified car with $4 in my pocket," he once said. "I figured that I'd have enough to buy gas and get down there and eat a hot dog before the race. The gas was $3 but I had to put two quarts of oil in my car so I was broke when I left town. When the feature started my stomach was not only growling but I didn’t have enough gas to get back home. "I drove that car as hard as I could and won. I had to win." Isaac, described by some as "mercurial," went sportsman racing fulltime in 1958, driving for Ralph Earnhardt. He won 28 feature events, competing against the likes of NASCAR Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and David Pearson. Isaac, at age 28, competed in his first premier series event in 1961. Driving a Dodge for Ray Nichels, he won his first race in 1964 -- a 50-lap Daytona 500 qualifier in which he edged Jimmy Pardue in a photo finish after Richard Petty ran out of fuel. With factory-supported teams jumping in and out of the sport in the mid-1960s, Isaac went from top ride to no seat at all. His fortunes changed in 1968 when he was hired by Indiana insurance magnate Nord Krauskopf and paired with legendary crew chief Harry Hyde, whose larger than life persona was captured as Harry Hogg in the film "Days of Thunder." Over the course of five seasons, 1968 to 1972, the trio's "Poppy Red" Dodges won 36 times -- 17 alone in 1969 when Isaac won 17 times in 50 starts. Bedeviled by 19 failures to finish, Isaac wound up sixth in the championship standings. Isaac "only" won 11 times in his championship season, but the DNFs were reduced to just nine. The K&K team is remembered best for its winged Dodge Charger Daytona, the needle-nosed, high rear-wing version of the standard Charger. Remarkably, Isaac visited Victory Lane only once in that model, at Texas World Speedway in 1969, his 20th career win and first on a superspeedway. "We won a lot of short-races, but we couldn't pull it all together on the big tracks until the last race of the season," said Isaac in Greg Fielden's book " NASCAR : The Complete History." "Winning the championship gave me personal satisfaction, but I'd rank it second to the Texas win. "The way I look at it, it took me seven years to win a superspeedway race and only three years to win the championship." In September 1971 the team took its winged car to the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah where Isaac set 28 speed records, including a 217.368 mph "flying kilometer" mark. "That car weighed 3,900 pounds and it had 650 horses in the motor," Hyde told Car and Driver's Bob Zeller in May 2002. "And when Bobby set it sideways, it looked like a hydroplane on water. He came by at 200 mph broadside with a big rooster tail of salt comin' out the back." Driving part-time schedules for a number of owners, Isaac ran his last premier series race in 1976. He returned to Hickory Motor Speedway the following year where, on Aug. 14, he pulled out of a sportsman race feeling ill and was taken to a local hospital where he succumbed to heart failure at age 45. Isaac was inducted into the National Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1979 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996. In 1998, NASCAR honored him as one of its 50 Greatest Drivers of all time. Tickets are available for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Dinner and Ceremony (limited quantities available). Individual ticket and ticket packages are available at ticketmaster.com, the NASCAR Hall of Fame Box Office or by calling 800.745.3000.
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