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NASCAR Fashion Becoming Less Fashionable

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 4 2012

Driver gear has become optional for fans attending NASCAR races. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Tami Kelly Pope)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Normally when covering a race I arrive at the track at least four hours before it starts in order to get pre-race work completed and avoid the traffic. However, I faced a different scenario the morning of Martinsville’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 and that left me sitting in traffic for about 45 minutes.

With traffic moving at a snail’s pace, it allowed me to observe the fans. Of course, there is always a wide variety of ages at Martinsville because it attracts families. There are small children attempting to keep up with their parents and those adults willing to walk a half mile for an “easy out” parking place. There are a few tail gaiting, there’s an aroma of grilling steaks, most everyone is carrying a beverage or a small cooler, and there are college-age students who appear to be enjoying a spring break.

However, one thing that was quite obvious and surprising to me was the absence of apparel identifying a fan’s favorite driver. It has been at least 20 years since I have seen so many fans in regular street clothes. No jackets, T-shirts, shorts, fanny packs or coolers proclaiming their favorite driver. I saw a Dale Earnhardt NASCAR 50th Anniversary T-shirt, a No. 3 shirt, a couple with Jimmie Johnson items and even a T-shirt touting Fox’s “Digger”.

The only drivers I saw represented with several fans were Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, but even those were far and few between. I looked over at the souvenir trailers and the midway appeared crowded, but with the sluggish economy they could have just been “window shoppers.”

Fans no longer have to wait until they attend a race to purchase apparel or an item touting their favorite driver. It’s available at each race shop’s souvenir store, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, NASCAR.com and Wal Mart. Yet, unlike 10 years ago when everyone could look at each other’s shirt and know who they were rooting for that day, Sunday’s Martinsville crowd was extremely non-descript.

It is no secret that souvenir sales have been down in recent years and most have pointed to the sluggish economy. Fans will admit they can’t afford to purchase a new jacket each year and if their driver changes sponsors, well, they’ll often opt to remain with the old one. The sponsor climate also has changed as most now share primary sponsorship with other companies during the season. It’s obvious the corporate colors just don’t carry the weight they once did.

NASCAR has tried recently to work with the teams to boost souvenir sales, but if Martinsville’s crowd is a prognosticator of this year’s market, it could be a much bigger issue than anticipated.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 4 2012
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • SR Racing says:

    Die hard Nascar fans always find a way to show their driver support through either purchased souvenirs or at times things they make themselves.

  • Terry says:

    I just sent an email to Jim P. about how many drivers at Martinsville when interviewed by SPEED….said
    “No, I have never eaten one ot those hotdogs and probably never will.”
    There is a disconnect with the BABY HUGGER – CORPERATE MANNIQIUN
    drivers that we have now and the average fan.
    I am not asking for Turner & Weatherly…..just eat a hot dog.
    The 2 drivers that said they eat them a lot….were Jr. and Smoke.
    Who are fan favorites….hhhhmmmmm…..Jr. and Smoke.
    I have long since given up on a ……
    PEARSON SQUARED + SUNGLASSES x GUM/CIGARETTE = STEVE McQUEEN..formula
    They just don’t make them anymore.