This is not your grandfather’s NASCAR. Literally. NASCAR is turning a new corner for the start of the 2020s, with a ton of interesting updates along the way. NASCAR racing back to cultural relevance with decisions and developments that may be downright shocking to people who haven’t been paying attention. What are those developments you might ask? Well for starters, Michael Jordan, Floyd Mayweather, Pitbull, and Emmitt Smith are all NASCAR team owners now. How about the fashion? The league’s first collaboration with Eric Emanuel sold out in 10 minutes last fall, 23XI Racing and McDonalds dropped a streetwear line of their own this year, and a fresh line of Starter jackets just hit the NASCAR store.
Is that all? No. NASCAR’s iRacing eSports platform continues to explode, providing opportunities for competitive gamers. Meanwhile, they also became the first league to launch on Discord and have been spotted throughout the metaverse thanks to collaborations with platforms like Zed Run, Rocket League and Jailbreak on Roblox.
Plus, NASCAR is averaging 4 million viewers per Cup Series race (by far the biggest US motorsports TV audiences), with multiple sellouts and meaningful social/digital growth so far this year. What’s more, NASCAR is committed to making decisions that open the sport to new audiences, new owners, and new innovation through its strengthened commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who share a passion for racing, and their bold decisions to deliver a dynamic schedule that brings the sport to new tracks, new media markets, and new fans.
Over the past two weeks, ONE37pm has gotten the chance to interview driver Ryan Blaney, Brandon Thompson, NASCAR Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, and we even got to tour the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. Below are the interviews.
ONE37pm: Thanks for chatting with us Ryan! How did you get started driving?
Blaney: Quick backstory, I grew up watching my dad race in the late 90s all the way to about 2014. I personally started driving at nine-years-old, and I always knew that I wanted to do what my dad did. It’s been a wild ride, and I’m blessed to have been a part of this sport and have met a ton of awesome people!
ONE37pm: Charity work is something that is really important to you. Can you expand on that just a little more?
Blaney: We started the Ryan Blaney Family Foundation in 2018, and it hits close to home because it is Alzheimer’s associated, and my grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s which was tough to watch. It’s been a treasure to work with the Alzheimer’s Foundation as they do really great work.
ONE37pm: Can you tell us more about your t-shirt line?
Blaney: It’s been a lot of fun developing these t-shirts. I’m a huge concert t-shirt guy myself, so it’s definitely been cool to create!
ONE37pm: What do you want the world to know about today’s NASCAR?
Thompson: That this is not your grandfather’s NASCAR! Because we’ve taken a different approach to how we go to market, even with recruiting talent, we are now smarter and more efficient. For example, the initial diversity program was one where NASCAR would basically write a check to ten different teams, and each team would operate separately in terms of funding the costs with NASCAR being there as a support system.
The next iteration was bringing it all under one roof in North Carolina to focus on continuing to build and grow the relationships to get more helping hands and manufacturer relationships for the driver. If you take back to 03/04, drivers would literally show up to the racetrack hoping that their car would be there and that it had been worked on equally, to now being able to exchange notes with the head of engineering at Chevrolet. Those are the things that have gotten better.
ONE37pm: What do you think the near future looks like for NASCAR?
Thompson: In the next five years I would like to see us going to market with a diversity lens, but having that be the foundation where it’s not specified as being inclusive because that is what we want our organization to represent, and we have a diverse fanbase. We’ve seen fans in hijabs, with pride flags, etc., so we already have the diversity there. Also we want to continue to become smarter in how we market and go about our strategies in terms of how we portray the sport.