The 200-MPH Billboard: The Inside Story of How Big Money Changed NASCAR / Edition 1

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Overview

What began on the dusty racetracks of the rural South is now a world-class enterprise, as closely watched by Wall Street as by hometown racing fans. How NASCAR grew from its provincial roots to become a big business of international proportions is the story Mark Yost tells in The 200-MPH Billboard.

A seasoned sports and business reporter for the Wall Street Journal and contributor to the New York Times and the Sports Business Journal, Yost demystifies the economics and politics behind NASCAR sponsorship. His book takes us behind the scenes of some of the head-turning corporate deals that altered the way NASCAR does business.

From Junior Johnson’s contract with Darrell Waltrip and Mountain Dew, which announced a significant change, to deals between the likes of Dale Jr. and Budweiser, Tony Stewart and Home Depot, NASCAR and Fox Television, this book clearly tracks the subtle and not-so-subtle transformations that corporate sponsorship has wrought in recent years. And it offers a rare insider’s look at what these changes have meant for NASCAR and its devoted fans.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
NASCAR.com, Sept. 25, 2007

“If you have any questions about how NASCAR went from southern-based fixture to by-God sporting phenomenon, you can find the answer in Mark Yost’s new book … Some books of this type leave you gasping for air in the midst of statistics, concepts and strategies; this one doesn’t … This offering from Motorbooks is exhaustively researched … Yost’s writing style is easy and comparatively less dense than almost all of them, yet he still gets the story across in language plain and proper … This book gets a strong buy from this writer.”


Publishers Weekly

“Business and sports reporter Yost takes on the rise of NASCAR, bringing readers into the deals that have turned a Southern good ol' boy racing circuit into a clean-shaven marketing goliath.”

“NASCAR fans with an interest in business history will enjoy this 320-page book, which examines how NASCAR grew into a multibillion-dollar business through profitable advertising deals with corporate sponsors.” –Gayot.com

SpeedTVBooks.com, August 2007

Book Review by Gregg Leary

“A thought-provoking read that documents a largely untold side of NASCAR racing.”

Area Auto Racing News, Oct. 23, 2007

“The book is an interesting and fast read.”

National Speed Sport News, December 2007

NationalSpeedSportNews.com, December 2007

“Let me recommend the ideal holiday gift for a racing fan: Mark Yost’s engaging book, ‘The 200 MPH Billboard,’ subtitled ‘The Inside Story of How Big Money Changed NASCAR.’ It is an intriguing story, hard to put down … Both of these books belong in every serious fan’s library.”

Publishers Weekly

Business and sports reporter Yost takes on the rise of NASCAR, bringing readers into the deals that have turned a Southern good ol' boy racing circuit into a clean-shaven marketing goliath. Yost is admirably unsentimental about the sport's growth, but fails to capture NASCAR's appeal to its fans as he looks at racetracks from the corporate hospitality suites. Content to mimic the suits, he frequently observes that the fans are remarkably loyal to the brands they see on the cars, the drivers and virtually anything else associated with American stock car racing. Yost does have access to some inside deal making: a chapter on NASCAR's business-to-business council shows how NASCAR brokers lucrative deals between sponsors, including nontraditional partners like Waste Management. However, the narrative often falls into a quicksand of numbers, including old television ratings and income from prize and sponsorship money. Additional chapters on deals between NASCAR and outfits like UPS and the armed forces feel redundant. In essence, companies sponsor NASCAR because it's high visibility, fast and cool, and because the sport's leaders and drivers are preternaturally accommodating to corporate needs. Business school students may enjoy the details, but general readers might wish Yost had stepped out of the boardroom to hear the crowd and the cars. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Gayot.com
NASCAR fans with an interest in business history will enjoy this 320-page book, which examines how NASCAR grew into a multibillion-dollar business through profitable advertising deals with corporate sponsors.
Library Journal

A seasoned sports and business reporter, Yost looks at the influx of sponsorship money into NASCAR, exploring the corporate deals that have altered the way the sanctioning body does business. His approach is less scholarly than historical: the development of racing as a spectator sport once known for good old boys and high-speed hijinks but measured by "brand impressions" and "B2B" (brand to business) measures. It is a story explored before, as in Robert G. Hagstrom's The NASCAR Way, Joe Menzer's The Wildest Ride, and Jeff MacGregor's Sunday Money. However, Yost brings a specific analysis of the NASCAR of today, which has solidified its hold as a money sport (it's the second most-watched in America) and is intent on maintaining that hold. Among the more controversial topics are the entry of Toyota into the field formerly limited to the American "big three" automakers and the adoption of NASCAR's "Car of Tomorrow," which will limit racing teams to using specially designed chassis on which only fairly minor adjustments can be made.
—Eric C. Shoaf

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780760328125
  • Publisher: Motorbooks
  • Publication date: 8/15/2007
  • Edition description: First
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Yost has reported on sports and business for nearly twenty years. He has written for the Dow Jones Newswire and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. Yost continues to write for the Wall Street Journal Leisure and Arts pages, where he writes about the business and economics of sports, as well as Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal and other publications. Yost is also the author of Tailgating, Sacks, and Salary Caps: How the NFL Became the Most Successful Sports League in History.He lives in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, but calls Brooklyn, New York, home.

Mark Yost has reported on sports and business for nearly twenty years. He has written for the Dow Jones Newswire and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. Yost continues to write for the Wall Street Journal Leisure and Arts pages, where he writes about the business and economics of sports, as well as Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal and other publications. Yost is also the author of Tailgating, Sacks, and Salary Caps: How the NFL Became the Most Successful Sports League in History. He lives in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, but calls Brooklyn, New York, his home.

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Table of Contents


Contents

Acknowledgments

Foreword               
 

Introduction          Fifty Years of Racing at Daytona

One                         A Good Old Boy Goes Courting

                                How NASCAR Wooed Corporate America

Two                        The Suite Life

                                Inside NASCAR Corporate Hospitality

                                                                                                                       

Three                      Betting the Farm

                                The Early Days of NASCAR

Four                        From Rags to Riches

                                Junior Johnson Turns Tobacco into Gold

Five                        The Sponsorship Shepherds

                                Four Hundred Cases of Coffee and a Side of Viggy

                               

Six                           Mama, I’m Gon’ Be on the TV

                                The Small Screen Revolution

Seven                     When NASCAR Comes to Town

                How Much Is That Track in the Midwest?

Eight                       Speed Dating for Dollars

                                Inside the NASCAR B2B Council

Nine                        See the Brown Truck Go

                                How UPS Took NASCAR to Mexico

Ten                         Fantasy Accidents

                                Allstate’s All-Star Ad Campaign

Eleven                    What’s DLP?

                                Educating the Public at 200 Miles Per Hour

Twelve                   The Military Marches In

                                Recruiting at the Racetrack

Thirteen                 Bringing the Big Show to the Little Store

                                How Associate Sponsorship Changed the Game

Fourteen                Teaching Old Brands New Tricks

                                 A Wunderkind Helps Goodyear Leverage its Legacy

Fifteen                    We’re An American Brand

                                Toyota Comes to NASCAR

                               

Epilogue                What’s Next for NASCAR               

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Introduction

Johnny Allen drove to his first Daytona 500 in 1959 and slept in his car. In subsequent years, he splurged on a three-dollar-a-night flea-bag motel on the Daytona beachfront.

In 2007, Jimmie Johnson, the defending NASCAR Nextel Cup champion, flew down on a private jet and spent the week on the 150 he owns with fellow driver Jeff Gordon. When he was at the track, Johnson spent his down time in his new $1.4 million motor coach, which features two forty-two-inch plasma screen TVs, a master suite with marble shower and gold fixtures, and a hyperbaric chamber that he uses to raise the oxygen level of his blood before races.

All the cars in the 1959 race were truly "stock." In the 1950s, many drivers literally drove their car to the track, raced it, and drove it home (if they didn't wreck it). No one car looked alike. There were coups, convertibles.

In the 2007 Daytona 500, the only way you could tell the make of car was to look at the front bumper, where the words "Fusion" or "Camry" were printed. Except for the paint scheme, every car looked alike. Jimmie Johnson's car was a Chevrolet Monte Carlo in name only, a distant cousin of the one being sold in showrooms. Johnson's car had spent hours in a wind tunnel, sculpted to make it as aerodynamic as possible. The headlights were just stickers.

In 1959, none of the practice, qualifying, or even the Daytona 500 were televised. There were very few sponsors. Allen drove a '57 Chevy, finished eleventh and earned four hundred dollars.

In 2007, every minute of Daytona SpeedWeeks was broadcast somewhere-ESPN, Fox, SPEED, DirecTV. The lineup of sponsors was all encompassing, each paying about twenty milliondollars to be on the hood of one of the forty-three entries. Johnson, a former motocross and off-road truck racer from El Cajon, California, finished a disappointing thirty-ninth and won $298,886.

Allen didn't have a sponsor for the 1959 Daytona 500. In fact, most drivers didn't.

"Sponsorship was race to race," Allen said. "You'd maybe get fifty dollars, which would pay your entry fee and gas money."

Pure Oil, one of the earliest NASCAR sponsors, understood the tough financial times these drivers faced. Before they left Daytona every February, drivers were allowed to pull up to the gas pumps and fill up the trucks they used to tow their race cars and the gas cans they used during the race.

"That was a godsend," Allen said, "because most years I didn't have gas money to get home."

Many drivers came to races in the early days without a car or a sponsor. They would just show up with their helmet and look for a car owner who needed a driver. The deals were done with a handshake.

Jimmie Johnson's team is sponsored by Lowe's home improvement stores, number forty-two on the Fortune 500 list. The company pays a reported twenty-five million dollars a year to have its name on the hood of Johnson's car for all thirty-six events of the NASCAR Nextel Cup season. The Mooresville, North Carolina, company also sponsors the Busch series car driven by Kyle Busch.

Every minute of Jimmie Johnson's schedule during Daytona SpeedWeeks was accounted for in the BlackBerry of his public relations assistant and his business manager. Every deal he does is scrutinized by his attorney. Every contract is negotiated by his agent. . .
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Foreword

Whenever I'm introduced to someone claiming to be a NASCAR fan, my first question is, "What's your local track?" The answer is always telling. I guess I need to know a fan's motives: Is it in your blood? Are you among those of us who are easily intoxicated by exhaust fumes and the sound of an American-made, normally aspirated V-8 engine? Does the spectacle of the first, full-speed lap at Talladega or Bristol cause your chest to thump and bring tears to your eyes? Or did you read about the sport in Time magazine and watch the Daytona 500 from a glassed-in, luxury hospitality suite? The answer can tell me a lot about a fan.

I don't notice the billboards any more, or the laundry list of sponsors the drivers unabashedly mention during victory lane interviews. I notice the number on the door. Actually, well before I concentrate on any of those other things, I know who's driving. From a flash-frame glance at the car, I can tell you the make, the driver, the primary sponsor, the associate sponsors (those who buy only a mere mention of their product on, say, the trunk lid or rear quarter panel), how long that driver's been with that team, and how long the sponsor's been with the car. I can usually tell you who the crew chief is and a bit about his personal history. Real fans commit the starting field to memory; it's not a studied, by rote process . . . it's just like the way kids memorize Major League Baseball starting lineups or all the available accessories in the American Girl doll collection.

NASCAR's management and drivers are fond of repeating the sport's mantra: It's for the fans. The problem is-as with any big, burgeoning business-the fans are getting squeezed as thesport expands. Treasured regional tracks to which the sport can trace its storied lineage have been closed in favor of gleaming new facilities in new markets. Weeds grow through cracks in the asphalt where giants once roared just inches above. Some families have to save all year to see their favorite race-the annual tailgate gathering with friends has become a prohibitively expensive affair. Attending a premier NEXTEL Cup event can often mean hours in traffic, a parking spot miles away, ridiculous post-9/11 restrictions on coolers and parcels, and exorbitant prices on ticket packages that force fans to buy for three days worth of events when all they want to see is the main event on any givenSunday.

Fans all show up wearing the gear. It's virtually impossible to find a race fan in the stands who is not wearing at least one item of merchandise linking them to their favorite car in the field. They are sponsor-loyal (ask the folks at Tide what happened to their detergent sales after they started sponsoring a car), but also logo-neutral. They don't see it as wearing a leather jacket emblazoned with the Viagra logo so much as they see wearing the garment as a way of supporting Mark Martin, the longtime driver of the No. 6 Ford (of course, Martin now drives part-time in the No. 1 Chevrolet sponsored by the U.S. Army).

NASCAR's growing pains put the sport in the same position as the kid in high school who goes on to be a big success: Everyone at the twenty-fifth reunion pointedly watches to see if they've gotten too big for their britches in the intervening years. It's the old saying about "the one that brung you to the dance."

It's why I ask about local tracks. At its top levels, NASCAR is a huge, corporate-driven sport. As a family-owned and -controlled enterprise, it has no real comparison in American business. This nation's small stock car tracks-glowing islands of light, smoke, and noise that dot the countryside and roar to life on Friday and Saturday nights-are where fans encounter the sport in its purest form. The drivers are builders, mechanics, and plumbers by day, and on a good week they can steal away two nights in the garage to hammer out the dents and fix the ball joints after a rough heat race the week before.

Racing at the small-track level is hand-to-mouth-it survives on favors from friends, duct tape, and large amounts of luck. The fans in the stands often have a personal connection to the drivers. I've told my own children many times at our local track never to root too loudly against any given driver, because that might be his wife, mother, and kids sitting directly in front of us. Cars racing at small tracks have small sponsors (like Moresco Auto Body), and the fans have smaller amounts to spend. Hot dogs are cheaper, and Daytona seems light years away. But it's a step in the sport that no driver can afford to skip if they hope to compete and survive at the highest level. And the fans in the stands are the same ones the larger sport needs: after all, those are the people who brung NASCAR to the dance.

Brian Williams is Anchor & Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News.
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