So you want to get into NASCAR? Let’s consider our options for entering into this re-branding of “ole dixie” and Budweiser into board rooms, social media and the influx of Yankees - corporate America from north of the line; the Mason-Dixon Line.
Some trace NASCAR’s roots to Daytona Beach in the 1920’s, racing south down A1A, turning left onto the beach, tearing north back up on the hard packed sand and turning left back onto A1A completing a 3.2 mile lap. Waving at pre-bikini wearing sunbathers was optional.
Others follow NASCAR ancestry to the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina and stock cars driven by legends like Willie Clay Call, attempting to deliver their 100 gallons of white lighting to their moonshine-seeking customers. These guys worked on their own cars – no pit crew - tinkering with suspension and horsepower.
With a brief history lesson under our belt, we turn to NASCAR today. Most drivers come up through the ranks the same way as their predecessors. That is they start at an early age, some as young as four years old, and work their way up from go karts to midget racing to stock cars. Along the way, they attempt to attract the attention of a team owner and sponsors to help with the enormous financial commitment (more on that later) it takes to land in the driver’s seat of a Sprint Cup car.
Drivers today may ascend to a throne the same way as old timers did like "The King" Richard Petty or the immortal "Intimidator" Dale Earnhardt, but staying in the driver’s seat now takes more than just great racing skills. Modern NASCAR drivers are businessmen. Period.
First and foremost, a driver must prove to a sponsor he is worth the risk of millions of dollars. Kurt Busch has raced for four teams in four years. Why? He has embarrassed himself and his sponsors by acting like an anger management class dropout. Doesn’t matter how talented he is behind the wheel, eventually he will run out of chances.
Sponsors want more than to be just not embarrassed. Drivers have responsibilities for face-to-face meetings with the corporate bigwigs, making appearances to promote the sponsor and to help bring in new sponsorship deals. In other words, a driver must be a great communicator. My dream Sprint Cup car: The Playboy Jeep Pentastar Yeungling Pizza Hut (non urinated crust) #69 car. Doubt I would win many races, but I would sell merchandise!
Drivers today must also be mechanics. During practice sessions, a driver has to communicate with his or her crew chief about the handling of the car. Returning to pit road saying, “I heard something click,” probably won’t help the crew chief diagnose whether the car is loose or tight.
Fantasy NASCAR already exists; you can play at fantasygames.nascar.com. So for the purpose of this article, I am going to create my own fantasy NASCAR team. What positions do I need to fill? I need an owner with deep pockets and even deeper connections. Next, I will hire a crew chief. Yeah, I know, it’s a no-brainer. Finally, I need two drivers and a substitute in case one of my racers goes Tony Stewart and breaks a leg outside of the race-car.
5 Owner: Richard Childress, RCR Racing
Richard Childress is a winner: 14 championships, over 200 victories (in all 3 NASCAR divisions: Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck) and wins at 19 of the 22 tracks currently in use. The man has money. Our database places his net worth somewhere north of $200 million dollars. Estimates place fielding a car in a NASCAR race at $20 million dollars a year or an astounding $400,000 a week. The cost of an engine alone is $100,000. Childress is a renaissance man. In addition to his racing supremacy, Mr. Childress stomps grapes at his North Carolina winery and churns out a lovely Chardonnay. Finally, he is a humanitarian. In 2008, he partnered with the Wake Forest University Baptist University Medical Center to form The Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma.
4 Crew Chief: Chad Knaus
Chad Knaus has gaudy championship numbers and he earned them. His father, John Knaus, raced in Illinois against some NASCAR legends including Dick Trickle. At 14 years old, rather than participating in the high school age tradition of doing nothing but “out know” your parents about everything, Chad followed his dad to the race track and learned about stock car engines. His first job in NASCAR was with Jeff Gordon’s #24 where Chad worked under Ray Evernham. In 1997, he joined Dale Earnhardt Inc where he took his first crew chief position for Steve Park. Of course today, Knaus is paired with Jimmie Johnson and that has proven to be the best crew chief-driver combination in NASCAR history.
3 Driver 1: Dale Earnhardt Jr
What?! Not Jimmie Johnson? Let me explain. First of all, even if Junior did not just win the Daytona 500 this last weekend, I still would have picked him first. Earnhardt Jr. possesses the unique qualities of motivation and will to win on the racetrack, combined with a laid back personality that is perfect for sponsors from both above and below the Mason-Dixon Line. Plus, as previously reported, Junior just won his record winning 13th consecutive Most Popular Driver Award voted on by NASCAR fans. And Junior holds an Associate’s Degree in auto mechanics from Mitchell Community College in Statesville, NC. Junior is more than qualified to report back to Knaus about how the car needs to be adjusted.
2 Driver 2: Jennifer Jo Cobb
“Who?” screamed the casual NASCAR fan. This woman has an interesting story. Firstly, she currently races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS). In 2011, she finished 6th at Daytona, making her the highest placed female finisher in track history. Nothing against Danica, I just want to win. She holds an Associate’s Degree in pre-journalism from the University of Kansas helping make her media savvy. In fact, Cobb has appeared on Speed, Fox, ESPN and in a multitude of print publications. But what intrigues me most about Ms. Cobb is her off-the-track endeavors. There is a story about NASCAR driver Mike Harmon being arrested and charged in December of 2012 with stealing Ms. Cobb’s hauler containing five Camping World Trucks and two Nationwide cars. As of this writing Mr. Harmon is out on bond awaiting trial. While Ms. Cobb apparently did nothing wrong, I want her on my team so I can get the real story on what happened that late December night.
1 Substitute Driver: Tony Stewart
Not only can Tony Stewart race, he can hang. And by hang, I mean enjoy a few barley pops with me while we commiserate about owning NASCAR teams. I picture our conversation going a little like this:
Tony: Was your batch of rubber bad this week?
Me: I don’t know, I wasn't with the Sprint Cup girls after the race.
Tony: I'm talking about tires, you dumb-a**!
Plus Tony can race anything with wheels on it. So if Jennifer Jo Cobb gets called to court to testify about her hauler being stolen, Stewart can hop behind the wheel of the truck and go capture us some points in the (NCWTS).
So there is my fantasy Playboy Jeep Pentastar Yeungling Pizza Hut (non-urinated crust) 69 NASCAR race team. What do you think? Would you like to add your company decal onto my ride?
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