AFTER 33 EVENTS, CART SAID goodbye to the International Speedway Corporation-owned Michigan International Speedway this summer. July's Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota ended a long history between the series and the track, as the economics of the race became prohibitive for the series and the track. "Each race we consider must make business sense for us, our shareholders and investors, and our race promoter," says CART chairman and CEO Joseph Heitzler. "In this instance, it was determined that it is in the best interest of our race series to look at other alternatives."
"The CART races at Michigan International Speedway have provided our fans with some terrific racing over the years," says MIS president Brett Shelton. "And although this is a difficult decision, we believe it is in the best interest of both CART and ISC's long-term growth strategies."
Shelton adds that without a CART race on the schedule, MIS has been talking with other series, including the IRL, NASCAR, and ARCA, but through mid-July had not yet finalized any deals. Financially the race has turned into a black hole for the track and IMG, which promotes the Michigan 500. The speedway had been seeking relief from CART's annual sanctioning fee, which was believed to be between $2 and $2.5 million. And with decreasing attendance, IMG has been losing as much as $600,000 per race at the MIS. Despite leaving Michigan, CART says it plans to continue to hold races at ISC's California Speedway.
Without Detroit on the schedule, other cities are looking to add a high-profile race to their markets. Bobby Goldwater, the executive director of the [Washington] D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission, says that the city will host at least one major race in 2002 or 2003. Both CART and the American Le Mans series have been in talks with the DCSEC.
While the Michigan 500 and other CART races have been on the move recently, the series' headquarters may also be changing its address. CART's longtime Troy, Mich., offices may soon be headed to the Las Vegas area, with a first step as holding the series' annual awards banquet in Nevada later this year. Heitzler has recommended the move to his board of directors, and the new offices potentially open by next February. Orlando, Chicago, and Indianapolis have also been mentioned as possible locations for its headquarters, which employ 60 people.
CART is also in talks with Disney, DreamWorks, and AOL Time Warner about the possibility of developing a CART museum somewhere in the country. CART CEo Joseph Heitzler notes that both NASCAR and the IRL have museums dedicated to the series at their respective headquarters in Daytona Beach and Indianapolis, but he won't commit without a green light on the business plan from one of the potential partners.
Houston-based Waste Management Inc., the world's leading waste removal and recycling company, signed a sponsorship deal with NASCAR that shows the value of a tie with the sanctioning body. The company will spend approximately $2 million on NASCAR beginning next year, but expects to turn its investment into as much as $100 million in new business.
While Waste Management already has sponsorship deals with various tracks, this is the company's first national effort with the series. However, these deals are primarily locally based, and Waste Management executives think NASCAR can significantly help the $12-billion company. In spite of WMI's size, more than half of NASCAR's sponsors use the company's competitors, and WMI is counting on the well-known brand loyalty of the series' fans and sponsors. "NASCAR people return favors," says series vice president Brett Yourmark in SportsBusiness Journal. "If you're marketing at a track, people are going to do business with you."
"When you take into account NASCAR sponsors, licensees, tracks and teams we don't have [as clients], we estimate there could be as much as $100 million in [new] business out there," says Curt Knapp, Waste Management's vice president of marketing.
In other sponsorship deals, electronic giant Sony is also building a relationship with NASCAR with its new deal to become an associate sponsor of Penske Racing South's Jeremy Mayfield Winston Cup car. The one-year deal is worth as much as $3 million, and Sony will be specifically marketing its high-end flat-screen tube TVs. Also, Arctic Cat signed a three-year marketing contract with NASCAR to promote its all-terrain line of vehicles. Arctic Cat will have access to endorsements by specific drivers, such as Picky Rudd, and will develop a line of NASCAR-themed clothing and accessories.
WIX Filters, the official filter of NASCAR, has added Robert Yates and his team to its list of endorsers this year. WIX will now supply filters to Yates, Dale Jarrett, and Rudd. In addition to the Yates team, WIX also sponsors Joe Gibbs' racing team and several others. Over the past two seasons, approximately 75% of Winston Cup, Busch Grand National, and Craftsman Truck top-five finishers used WIX filters.
In race title sponsorship deals, General Mills and the North Carolina Speedway extended the naming rights to the Winston Cup Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 through 2004. This year's event will be held at the speedway on November 4. Also, the Texas Motor Speedway and Chevrolet signed title sponsorship deals for TMS's fall Craftsman Truck and IRL Northern Light races. The truck race will be known as the Silverado 350, while the IRL event will be called the Chew 500.
NASCAR and the-Universal Technical Institute recently broke ground on the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C. The 14,000-square foot school is expected to open for classes next summer and will be an extension of the series' Officially Licensed Automotive Aftermarket Program. UTI, which specializes in automotive technology training, will license the NASCAR trademark and will operate the school.
The Mooresville campus will accommodate 1,800 students interested in automotive careers, specifically as technicians with NASCAR crews. The curriculum will run for 57 weeks, with the first 10 months focusing on auto technology and the remaining time centered on NASCAR series.