When Formula 1 raced earlier this year in Miami, it was an event. A happening. A place to see and be seen.
While none of that was important from a racing standpoint, it was important from the standpoint of drawing attention to the sport in the right circles. Those who simply love racing for its own sake may scoff at the notion that celebrity appearances and corporate VIPs gathering in a luxury suite are important for the sport, but the fact of the matter is that those sightings and sound bites from famous people and those with extreme financial resources cause some who pay no attention otherwise to take notice.
When people take notice, those with a vested interest in selling products take notice. And that, of course, is the meat of the matter. Racing doesn’t happen without dollars. This is an expensive sport and sometimes its sanctioning bodies and participants have to play to those who have money in order to keep the sport alive and thriving.
NASCAR will be racing at a locale that offers the opportunity for a somewhat similar circumstance as F1 had in Miami this weekend.
Nashville is a vibrant city and a destination for those with fame and fortune. It’s a place for those who want to see and to be seen. It’s also a place where sports are very much an integral part of the community. The NFL’s Tennessee Titans and the NHL’s Nashville Predators are both highly popular around the mid-state region and have made their mark nationally.
This weekend’s Ally 400 at the Nashville Superspeedway is one of the events that could provide a “see and be seen” stage. With its place in the world of music and entertainment, the capital city of Tennessee has no shortage of star power. And it is highly likely that many of those celebrity types will be on hand as a part of the show or simply hanging out in a suite or even the pit area.
So why does this matter?
Again, with celebrity comes money and money is essential for racing at this level. Of course, the quality of the race matters. A show in which one driver goes out and leads 90% of the laps with hardly any entertainment value is not ideal. But at some tracks and events, the atmosphere is every bit as important as the competition. Nashville has the ability to provide such an atmosphere.
Kyle Larson led much of the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway on his way to victory last year. But the race had entertainment value. In Jeff Gluck’s(The Athletic) “Good Race Poll”, over 77% of respondents agreed that it was in fact a good race.
As long as the majority of fans see the NASCAR races as good and those who have the ability to draw attention continue to show up, the sport needs the vibrant Nashville market. To the die-hard racing fan, having celebrities and corporate big wigs on the property may not seem that important. However, to those who have to pay expenses it is important.
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Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.
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