NASCAR’s Tony Stewart and Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton swapped cars at Watkins Glen International back in 2011. Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images for Mobil 1
By: Toby Christie – Follow on Twitter @Tobalical
NASCAR and Europe; on paper they go together like peanut butter and ketchup. In the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby they even played up this very fact, however the reality is that NASCAR is seriously considering running some races across the pond.
If NASCAR does indeed look at tapping the European racing fan market as has been reported by Autoweek, they have a huge market to capitalize on, as there are millions and millions of rabid racing fans in that part of the world.
According to the report, NASCAR is looking at running an exhibition race (or more) every year in Europe, to help expand the fanbase of the sport overseas.
The concept sounds simple, but there would be many challenges, mainly the differences in the culture of the fans in each part of the world. The biggest difference is that European racing fans have had an affinity for open wheel road course race cars forever. In America we love closed wheeled stock cars that beat and bang around the corners. In Europe the fans drink wine and eat caviar, at Talladega Superspeedway our fans drink many beverages but the one constant seems that it’s a cold beer, and they have a hotdog in the other hand.
The differences in attending a Formula One race and a NASCAR race are also vast. NASCAR fans are used to over saturation of their drivers. At any moment a NASCAR fan can meet one of their heroes, get him or her to autograph an item, and then follow their daily activities via Twitter. NASCAR drivers, more than any other athletes of any other sport are open to the public. Formula One fans hardly ever get much, if any interaction with their favorite drivers.
Formula One has more of an exclusive club, then the wide-open you’re part of the family approach that NASCAR goes with.
That being said, deep down the racing fans in Europe care about the exact same thing as racing fans in America. They love the unpredictable nature of racing. They love ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things in a racecar, a racecar that has so much horsepower that any of us would have no idea how to keep it between the lines on the highway.
Tony Stewart’s relationship with Mobil1 may have helped NASCAR test the waters a bit, as the three-time Sprint Cup Series champion has had a hilarious advertising campaign with Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton. In addition former Formula One championship contender Juan Montoya is actively competing in NASCAR, and Jacques Villenueve (a former Formula One champion) has tried his hand at the sport as well. So if NASCAR wasn’t on the radar for our friends in Europe, it definitely should be now.
If the past is any indicator, then it seems that this could be a huge success. NASCAR has gone to Japan in the late 1990s as well as Mexico and Canada in more recent years. The fans in those countries openly embraced NASCAR, the only question is will Europe do the same?