CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Does winning a championship at a track sanctioned by NASCAR hold more weight than winning a championship at a track that operates independently or is sanctioned by another organization?
It’s an interesting question.
NASCAR is the largest motorsports organization in the United States and sanctions not only the NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series, but several regional tours and more than 40 local tracks.
Most of the drivers racing at the regional and local levels will never get the chance to compete in one of NASCAR’s three national series, much less race for a championship at those levels.
However, many of them have the opportunity to race for NASCAR championships at local tracks such as Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Elko (Minn.) Speedway and Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway.
Promoters believe that matters.
“I think it does,” said Gregg McKarns, promoter of Madison Int’l Speedway in Wisconsin. “It’s a nice point fund check at the end of the year, it’s nice recognition, there are fire suits when you’re a state champion, there are helmets. There are all those benefits, which are not monetary.
“It is pretty cool when you win the championship at MIS and you’re on the backstretch having a few beers at the end of the night, taking pictures in front of the scoreboard and you the driver get to slap a NASCAR championship hat on yourself and your crew members and a sticker on the C-post saying they’re NASCAR champions and stickers on their haulers.
“There is definitely a pride to it.”
Bill McAnally, perhaps best known for his Bill McAnally Racing team that has dominated the ARCA Menards Series West ranks for decades, also promotes California’s All American Speedway.
McAnally agrees that the NASCAR logo and colors generally provide additional motivation for drivers at his track to battle for a chance to be recognized as a NASCAR champion.
In fact, McAnally credits his own NASCAR weekly racing championship in the early 1990s with helping establish the lengthy relationship he has enjoyed with NAPA Auto Parts, which continues to sponsor his race team.
“Being able to run for a national, regional and weekly title is a great opportunity for a young driver trying to establish themselves and move up the ranks,” said McAnally. “If I had never been a NASCAR Winston Racing Series weekly champion, I tell you, I would have never had my relationship with NAPA Auto Parts.
“It gave me a title and something to promote and to introduce myself as while I was trying to get in the door with sponsors.”
Steve Britt, owner of Virginia’s Dominion Raceway, first got involved in track ownership and promoting when he purchased Old Dominion Speedway. He says he specifically sought a track to purchase that was sanctioned by NASCAR because he felt there was added value in being affiliated with NASCAR.
“I don’t know how to do this without a NASCAR banner,” Britt said. “There are some tracks that are now doing it without the NASCAR banner. I don’t know how they envision doing that and I don’t know what the implications for race teams would be without that.
“Everybody that comes here (Dominion Raceway) to race has chosen this track for location and for the NASCAR banner. I know it has value because we really have some of the best car counts in our area at this point and we’re NASCAR sanctioned where some of the other ones around us are not.”
Britt notes that incentives such as additional point fund money and insurance for injured drivers make the NASCAR brand more enticing to competitors.
“I think it (the NASCAR sanction) has great value,” Britt continued. “Then you add the insurance component in there and some of the recognition that goes along with it. I just think the brand has good value. People know that. I do think it’s very attractive.”
From a marketing standpoint, the NASCAR logo is one of the most recognized in motorsports across the globe. Being able to utilize that and say you’re a NASCAR champion, even if it’s at the local level, must be worth something.
“It can’t hurt to have the NASCAR bar logo affiliated with what you’re trying to do from a marketing standpoint,” McKarns said.
There are, of course, plenty of local race tracks across the United States that operate successfully without NASCAR’s involvement. With that in mind, what sounds better: Being a track champion at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway or a NASCAR track champion at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Personally, I’d take the latter.