Auto Racing

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AUTO RACING

In auto racing, drivers compete amid breakdowns and crashes in order to reach the finish line first. They race on drag strips, deserts, city streets, road courses, and closed-circuit tracks made of asphalt or dirt. The cars they race are as diverse as the races in which they compete. Stock cars resemble ordinary passenger cars, while some dragsters have long slender frames with large wide back tires and small narrow front tires, plus a parachute for stopping. Open-wheel racers are characterized by a bullet shape with a single seat and exposed wheels.

Automobile Development and Auto Racing: A Parallel Progression

The concomitant development of the automobile and rise of auto racing began in the United States during the late 1800s. The first recorded automobile race, however, wasn't really a race at all, and it didn't occur in the United States. The Paris to Rouen race in France in 1894 was more of a reliability test with the purpose of motivating European inventors to work the kinks out of their self-propelled vehicles so that they could travel farther and faster in a dependable fashion.

Meanwhile, Americans hoping to strike it rich worked to transform a nation of horses and buggies into one of automobiles. Would-be inventors designed vehicles that were powered by everything from steam and electricity to gasoline. It was not until 21 September 1893, however, when brothers Frank and Charles Duryea affixed a one-cylinder gasoline engine to a carriage that the U.S. automobile era was born.

As news of early European auto races crossed the ocean, a Chicago Times Herald newspaper correspondent convinced his boss, H. H. Kohlsaat, to organize the first race on U.S. soil. Intrigued by the circulation possibilities for his paper, Kohlsaat set the date of 2 November 1895 for a race from Chicago to Evanston and back. Nearly 100 eager auto builders signed up, but only two cars arrived to race that day.

Kohlsaat, hoping to garner more entrants, postponed the race to Thanksgiving Day. This time five cars showed up for the fifty-four-mile-long race: an electric, three Benz, and a Duryea. A major snowstorm hampered a sixth driver's efforts to get to the starting line. After more than eight hours, Frank Duryea won $2,000 when his gasoline-powered car crossed the finish line traveling an average of 7.5 miles per hour. More than an hour later the second and last car, Oscar Mueller's Benz, crossed the line. The facts remain dubious about who actually crossed the line with Mueller's car, as some reports indicate that Mueller had collapsed from the cold. Other cars either crashed or quit working. Still, the race proved successful for the Chicago Times Herald as eager readers sought to learn everything about the race, the automobiles, and their drivers.

The next race in the United States occurred in 1896 and was 104 miles long. Cosmopolitan magazine organized the race from Manhattan to Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, and back, with a grand prize of $3,000. Only three of the six race entrants made it out of Manhattan. Those three cars, unable to ascend Ardsley Hill in Westchester, had to be pushed to the top by spectators. Frank Duryea eventually won that race as well.

Impact of Early Auto Racing

Early auto racing had both a social and technological impact on American society. Prior to the Rhode Island State Fair in 1896, auto races were run on road courses. That year the fair organizers planned the first race on a closed-circuit dirt track previously used for harness (horse) racing. This approach proved lucrative for the organizers because the estimated 50,000 spectators could be charged admission. Meanwhile, contented fans were able to watch the entire race from one location. By 2003, U.S. racing venues were predominated by closed-circuit tracks with elaborate spectator stands.

Advancing the development of the automobile was K. K. Vanderbilt's primary objective when he organized a series of road races on Long Island in 1904. The Vanderbilt Cup, the first race in the series, was won by A. L. Campbell in a Mercedes that averaged about thirty miles per hour. Eighteen cars entered the race, with only five having been made in America. Controlling the spectators was a difficult task; some were nearly killed as they ran out into the road to see the cars pass. Although the Vanderbilt races were recognized for the publicity they gave to auto racing, especially through newspaper reporting, they eventually were discontinued when foreign cars kept winning the races and too many accidents affected both drivers and onlookers. Still, the Vanderbilt races were so influential to society that a Broadway musical—Vanderbilt Cup —was named after them. As middle-class fans followed the races, automaker Henry Ford began to see increases in passenger-car sales.

Three transcontinental auto races during the early 1900s underscored the need for reliable cars, as well as a reliable road system complete with signs and maps. Newspapers reporting on the coast-to-coast racing events influenced the public to buy autos. It took only ten years to move auto racing in the United States and Europe into a highly popular and exciting sport characterized by the juxtaposition of humans and mechanical technology.

Geographic Division of Racing Types

Some of the most common types of automobiles raced in the United States include, but are not limited to, stock cars, dragsters, Formula 1 cars, and Indy-style cars. Many of these racing types share the same racing venues today; however, each originated in different geographic regions.

Stock Car Origins The genesis of stock cars occurred in the South during the Prohibition era between the 1920s and 1930s. Southern bootleggers in the business of transporting illegal alcohol used passenger cars that had been modified to travel faster and handle better in order to flee the police. They continued to transport moonshine after Prohibition because it was less expensive and had a higher alcohol content than the legal brands, resulting in the development of even faster cars. Soon interest arose in finding out which bootlegger's car was the fastest. Illegal races were organized in cow pastures on tracks made of dirt. Onlookers tipped bottles of moon-shine as they watched drivers who donned old football helmets for protection.

During the mid-1930s, city officials in Daytona, Florida, organized a series of beach races for the so-called stock cars. In 1937, William France began promoting the races until they were interrupted by World War II. After the war, dirt-track races continued to grow in popularity at places like Pennsboro Motor Speedway in West Virginia, which was originally converted from a horse track.

Bill France's creation of the National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing (NASCAR) in 1947 promoted stock car racing throughout the South. More tracks were quickly constructed around the region as the sport grew in popularity. The most famous track for stock car racing, the Daytona Speedway, was completed in 1959. Lee Petty won the first Daytona 500, with an average speed of 135.521 miles per hour.

The popularity of stock car racing has evolved from its southern origins to become a sport with national appeal. A key event that brought stock car racing into national prominence was when the NASCAR Winston Cup series (stock car racing's top level, which was renamed the Nextel Cup starting in 2004) introduced the Brickyard 400 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) in 1994. The race was significant because the speedway—which for years had hosted only Indy car races—was considered to be the mecca of U.S. auto racing. By racing at Indianapolis, NASCAR proved it had national—not just regional—appeal. In 2004, racetracks were located all over the United States, offering both professional- and amateur-level stock car events.

Indy Car Origins Unlike stock cars, the Indy car has its roots in the northern region of the United States. The name "Indy" car originated from the Indianapolis 500 race held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 2.5-mile-long rectangular speedway, constructed in 1909, held its first Indy 500 in 1911.

The American Automobile Association (AAA), through the races it sanctioned across the country, was instrumental in promoting Indy car racing. During World War II, however, racing in all forms was sparse. In 1955, after more than eighty people were killed at a race in Le Mans, France, the AAA quit sanctioning auto races and the U.S. Auto Club (USAC) took over as the American sanctioning body in racing.

During the 1970s, several Indy car drivers felt USAC was no longer meeting their needs, so they broke away from USAC and formed Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) in 1978. CART sanctioned races in the United States, Canada, and Australia each year on four distinct types of tracks: large ovals, short ovals, permanent road courses, and temporary road courses. Large ovals are generally between 2 and 2.5 miles long and are characterized by speedways, such as those at Indianapolis and the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. The Pennsylvania International Raceway epitomizes the second type of track, which is a short, mile-long oval. The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course characterizes the third type, a 2.4-mile-long permanent road course with fifteen turns. The last type is a temporary road course that may be completed on city streets as well as highways.

Since 1996 there have been two top levels of open-wheel racing in the United States: CART, and the Indy Racing League (IRL). The IRL was founded by IMS president Tony George, who wanted to make it easier for American drivers to race in a top-level Indy car circuit. He developed a separate race series with its own racing schedule, which of course included the famous Indy 500. To complicate matters, the IRL restricted the number of CART cars that could compete in the Indy 500. CART, in retaliation, created a competing event called the U.S. 500, to be held on the same date as the Indy 500. This created a dilemma: the Indy 500 was the best race, but CART had all the top drivers, meaning that fans would ultimately have to decide which event they would attend: the Indy 500, with virtually unknown race drivers, or the new, unknown event (the U.S. 500) with all the top-level drivers.

The split between the two organizing bodies remained contentious until 2000. That year, a CART driver raced in the Indy 500 for the first time since the breakup. In fact, not only did a CART driver run in the race—he won it. Juan Montoya, racing for the Chip Gannasi team, stunned IRL drivers when he raced to victory. Another CART driver, Helio Castroneves, won the race in 2001. Castroneves won again in 2002, but by then he was once again an IRL driver—earlier that year, his team owner, Roger Penske, became the first major owner to switch from CART to IRL.

Despite these moves toward reconciliation, as of 2003, many differences still existed between the two groups. CART allowed their cars to be turbocharged and raced on both oval courses and road courses in North America, Europe, and Australia. The IRL did not allow turbochargers and raced on ovals, D-ovals, and tri-ovals in North America only. Open-wheel racing aficionados were optimistic that CART and IRL would eventually be able to resolve their differences and reunite, as the division between the two led to lower attendance and fan support, less media attention, and the impression that an inferior product was being put on the track because the best drivers were not facing each other every week.

Formula 1 Compared to Indy cars, Formula 1 (F1) cars have a unique history due to strong European origins. Another distinguishing feature of F1 is the international race series that they compete in called the Grand Prix. F1 drivers are the highest paid and most elite racers in the world, having established their skills in lower echelons of racing, such as Formula 3.

The first Grand Prix race organized by the Automobile Club of France occurred in 1906 in Le Mans, France. Francois Szisz, driving a Renault, won the two-day-long competition, which involved racing twelve laps around a 103-kilometer closed track. A key factor in his win was the quick tire changes made with his detachable Michelin rims. Everyday drivers eventually benefitted from such innovations when automakers and tire manufacturers passed the improvements on to their consumer divisions. The first American Grand Prix was held in Savannah, Georgia, in 1908 and was followed by eight years of races until 1916 when the open-wheel Indianapolis 500 race captured the allure of fans with its speedway and spectator stands.

Race cars had no weight or engine restrictions until 1904 when the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) introduced the first "formula." When Formula 1 began in 1948, the FIA invoked specifications largely for engine capacity, car design, and weight, with the formulae changing every few years.

The World Driver's Championship and the manufacturer's championship were created in 1950 and 1958, respectively. According to FIA regulations, there must be at least eight and no more than sixteen races held annually in order to award the World Championship Driver and World Championship Constructor titles. Although the races take place around the world, most occur in Europe, and only one takes place in the United States (Indianapolis Motor Speedway).

Drag Racing Origins Much like stock car racing, drag racing also had illegal beginnings. In the 1930s, young drivers in southern California began racing side by side on city streets, back roads, lonely stretches of highway, and even on dry lake beds to see whose car was the fastest. It is said that the term "drag racing" refers to the powerful acceleration of the engine that forces the front wheels up into the air, thus sometimes dragging the rear of the car on the pavement. Dragsters are also called "hot rods." The basic objective of drag racing is to see which of two drivers can cross the finish line first in a quarter-mile-long race.

Finding places to race was a problem due to the illegal nature of the sport. Still, California became an early leader in drag racing history when, in 1950, the state highway patrol permitted the use of the tarmacs on a closed-down naval air base for racing. A year later the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) was formed. Strict rules for participation ensured the sport's safety. In less than ten years the sport had strong national appeal as rivalries developed between the two coasts. In 2003, twenty-three national events were scheduled to be held at twenty drag strips throughout the nation.

Diversification of Types of Autos Raced

Race cars can be compared according to general appearance (stock versus open wheel) and by comparing the races in which they participate. Based solely on appearance, most stock cars look like modified versions of ordinary sedans that are used on streets and highways. Open-wheel racers have single seats, are low to the ground, and exist for the sole purpose of racing (see Figure 1 for a comparison of stock to open wheel cars).

Race car comparisons: stock car vs. open wheel
  Stock car Open wheel
  Winston Cup Indy Car Champ Car Formula 1
SOURCE: CART Car comparisons, 2002.
Shape Passenger car Bullet shaped Bullet shaped Wedge shaped
Driver's position Left front side Centered low Centered low Centered low
Open wheels No Yes Yes Yes
Height 51″ 37″ 37″ 38″
Weight 3400 lbs. without driver 1550 lbs. without driver 1550 lbs. without driver 1322 lbs. without
Length N/A 193.74″ 195″ 173″
Width N/A 79.55″ 79″ 71″
Fuel Octane gasoline Methanol Methanol High Octane gasoline
Transmission Manual (4 gears) Manual (6 gears) Manual (4–6 gears) Semiautomatic (4–7 gears)
Horsepower 700+ 650+ 830+ 800+
Roll bar Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windshield, rearview mirror, fenders, front/rear bumpers Yes No No No
Wheel base 110″ 110″ minimum 120–126″ 106–120″
Tires 15″ 15″ 15″ 14″
Traction control Not allowed Not allowed Allowed Allowed
Engine location Under front hood Rear Rear Rear
Engine 358 cubic inches V8 3.5 L V8 2.65 L V8 Turbo 3.0 L V10
Top speed Approx. 200 m.p.h. Approx. 230 m.p.h. Approx. 240 m.p.h. Approx. 225 m.p.h.
Comparison of top-level auto races
  Nextel Cup (NASCAR) Indy Cars (IRL) Champ Cars (CART) Formula 1 (FIA)
SOURCE: Vielhaber, Dan. Dan s Indianapolis Motor Speedway Homepage. Available from http://www.indymotorspeedway.com/. 2002.
Start of race At race speed using pace car At race speed using pace car At race speed using pace car Stopped position
Number of races annually 39 16–17 20 16
Race locations Only U.S. Mostly U.S., plus one in Japan (2003) International International
Racing circuit Ovals Ovals Ovals and Road courses Road course
Number of cars raced 33      
Race duration Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 2 hours
Drivers accessible to fans? Yes Yes Yes No
Rain during race Race is delayed Race is delayed Race is delayed Race continues with grooved tires

Another way to illustrate the differences among race cars is to compare selected aspects of the races such as the overall objective, shape of the track, location of races, and so forth. Compared to other top-level race series, Formula 1 is the only race with a time limit of two hours. The other races (Nextel Cup, IRL, and CART) complete a designated number of miles within the shortest amount of time. Formula 1 has another distinguishing feature in that the race is not delayed by rain—grooved tires are put on the cars and the race is continued (see Figure 2).

Dragsters are vehicles that participate in a unique kind of race unlike the other top-level racing cars. Top Fuel cars belong to the highest and fastest level of drag racing in the National Hot Rod Association. They are characterized by large wide back wheels and small thin front wheels that sit on a long chassis with the driver sitting down low and in the center.

The 6,000-horsepower cars are raced two at a time over a quarter-mile strip, reaching speeds of over 300 miles per hour in less than six seconds. A parachute is released at the finish line to aid in deceleration. Top Fuel cars must weigh at least 2,150 pounds (including the driver) and have a wheelbase of 180 to 300 inches. In addition to the Top Fuel class, the NHRA also offers the Funny Car class, which features a wide variety of cars that started out as everyday sedans or coupes that were then wildly modified for racing, and the Pro Stock class, in which the cars must be a two-door sedan or two-door coupe with stock headlights and parking lights that is no more than five years old (National Hot Rod Association). Although there are many other types of racing cars, those described in this section are perhaps the most recognizable to Americans due to television broadcasts, marketing, and advertising.

Participation of Auto Manufacturers in Racing

In addition to designing street vehicles, automakers design cars and car parts for Nextel Cup, IRL, CART, and Formula 1 cars, as well as for lower levels of racing. In the early 2000s, open-wheel cars were built by a combination of foreign and domestic automakers. For years, Nextel Cup stock cars were made entirely by domestic manufacturers Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford, and Dodge, but in 2004, Toyota began racing that circuit for the first time.

Indy cars were originally made in the United States; however, in the early 2000s, the chassis used in the IRL were either Italian (Dallara) or British (G-Force). American manufactures still dominated IRL car engines (Chevrolet and Infiniti) and tires (Firestone).

CART car chassis were also made in Britain (Lola and Reynard) and were noted for their lightweight, yet strong composite materials. Engines were either Japanese (Toyota and Honda) or American (Ford). Firestone made the tires for all CART cars.

All Formula 1 chassis, engines, and tires were foreign made. Some manufacturers built both the engine and chassis for the same car. Hybrid cars obtained parts from several makers. Participating auto manufacturers in Formula 1 included, but were not limited to, Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault, BMW, Porsche, and Honda. Several manufacturers who specialized in race cars were Benetton, Williams, and McLaren. F1 cars used tires made by Michelin (France) or Bridgestone (United States).

Track Development

Early auto racing took place on road courses, converted harness tracks, and dirt tracks. When Carl Fisher built the closed-circuit track known as the Indianapolis Speedway in 1909, he envisioned its use for testing new automobiles as well as for competition. The original track surface, made of crushed stones and tar, was not very durable and resulted in potholes and serious accidents, so it was repaved entirely with bricks. Asphalting of portions of the track began between 1936 and 1937; by 1939, only one yard of bricks remained at both the start and finish lines, and it remained that way into the 2000s. The famous nickname for the track—"the Brickyard"—came from the more than 3 million bricks used to replace the original stone and tar surface.

Tracks in the United States continue to expand in size (track length) and seating capacity. Condominiums, luxury boxes, and suites are fast becoming standard features at racetracks. At some tracks, lighting has increased the number of night races. Traffic flow to, from, and around racetracks has been under constant improvement especially due to the growing popularity of NASCAR racing. Other attractions at or near racetracks include museums, gift shops, and even driving schools for those interested in driving a race car.

Race ovals range in length from less than 1 mile to 2.5 miles and have three general shapes: oval, tri-oval, or D-shaped. The degree of banking in the turns and length of the straightaways varies widely from track to track. Bristol Motor Speedway has the highest banks in Nextel Cup racing at 36 degrees, compared to the turns at Indianapolis, which are banked at only 12 degrees (Buchanan). As a rule, stock cars are associated with higher banked turns than open wheel cars. Wide tracks or "grooves" allow for side-by-side racing by as many as three cars. Narrow, or single-groove tracks, offer less side-by-side racing. Road courses like the one at Watkins Glen, New York, have many turns, producing slower racing speeds as drivers maneuver the curves.

According to the NHRA, there are twenty official drag strips in the United States. The strips are a quartermile in length and are located as separate venues or within other auto racing venues, such as super speedways. Near the drag strip is the pit area, where final car adjustments are made before the race. From the pit area, drivers move to a staging area, where they await the start of their race. Within this area and near the starting line is the box where drivers warm up their tires (also known as "slicks") just prior to the race.

At the drag-strip starting gate, in the middle of the strip, is the Chrondek Timer, which is more commonly known as the "Christmas tree" because of the series of colored lights that adorn each side of the timer. The lights signify a countdown to the start of the race, beginning with red lights at the top, then amber in the middle, and, finally, the green light at the bottom. Once the two cars race over the quarter-mile strip, they enter a half-mile-long shutdown strip to decelerate after the race. The fastest cars use parachutes that deploy out of the back of the car for deceleration. The dragster leaves the strip via a turnout road near the end of the drag strip.

Technological Developments

"Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday" has been a common slogan for auto manufacturers, suggesting that first-place finishers help promote sales the next business day. Automakers use the racetrack as an automotive proving ground before innovations are incorporated into passenger models. Ford, for example, in collaboration with CART and Sensor Technologies, has designed a crash sensor box that evaluates crashes, much like a black box in airliners. Eventually the data will be used create safer cars through the use of computer simulations of crash impacts.

Computers inside race cars send chassis and engine information to pit crews. Also, instrument panels display information to the driver, such as water temperature, laps times, and engine speed. NASCAR fans could purchase scanners and heavy-duty earphones to follow all the conversations between their favorite driver and pit crew for a complete, uncensored race perspective (For fans who prefered to watch races on television, such in-car commentary was also made available on some satellite and digital cable television systems on a pay-per-view basis.)

The concern for safety has been the impetus for many technological developments in auto racing. Starting with the driver, protective fire suits and helmets are standard in all forms of professional racing. Drag racing drivers also must wear full-face breather masks. A special head and neck protection unit called the HANS device is used by NASCAR and CART drivers to reduce serious injuries associated with the violent head and helmet movements that happen during auto racing accidents. The device, made of Kevlar and carbon fiber, is connected to the helmet in a manner that restricts extreme head and neck movements.

Amateur and Professional Racing Organizations

Generally, within each racing sanctioning body are several levels of racing, culminating in a top level that features the best, most well-known drivers. NASCAR's top series is the Nextel Cup, while the IRL offers the IndyCar Series, CART has the FedEx Championship Series, the FIA (Formula 1) has the Grand Prix, and the NHRA offers the POWERade Drag Racing Series. Below those top-level circuits are lower-levels that offer drivers and owners a means of breaking into their sport, although some teams are content to remain at the lower levels and have no desire to move up to the highest tier. Others enter the lower levels with the expressed intent of one day racing at their sport's highest level. Figure 3 shows the names of each of the racing circuits offered by the sports' major sanctioning bodies.

It used to be that race car drivers aspired to be Indy car drivers and win the Indy 500; however, in the late 1990s, Nextel Cup and Formula 1 attracted many promising drivers. Part of the allure to race on the Nextel Cup circuit is that it could be a lucrative option for stock car drivers due to its increased popularity and the number of races in a season (thirty-nine compared to sixteen in the IRL in 2003).

A plethora of racing opportunities around the country awaits amateur motor sports enthusiasts in all racing forms and skill levels. Central to the mission of both professional and amateur racing organizations is a commitment to safety. Many top-level professional drivers begin their racing careers by moving up from amateur racing to the professional ranks.

The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) has membership levels for professionals and amateurs. The professional-level Trans-Am Series of the SCCA is the oldest road-racing series in North America that is open to sedans and sports cars. Many top-level drivers in the IRL, Formula 1, or NASCAR get their start in places like the Trans-Am Series. The amateur section of SCCA has every kind of racing, from open-wheel to modified street cars and sports cars.

The FIA supports the organization of both amateur and professional motor sport events through member clubs in participating countries. FIA is most noted for the establishment of racing regulations covering a wide range of racing series including Formula 1, Formula 3, European Touring Car, Sports Car, and World Rally, to name a few.

The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) also provides racing opportunities for aspiring as well as accomplished racers. NASA establishes rules and regulations for series such as the American Stock Car Challenge, the

Racing series by sanctioning bodies
NASCAR IRL CART Formula 1 NHRA
Nextel Cup Infiniti Pro Series FedEx Grand Prix PowerAde Series
Busch   Toyota   Lucas Oil
Series   Atlantic   Series
Craftsman   Barber   Summit
Truck   Dodge Pro   Sport
        Compact
        Series
    Formula   Pro
    Dodge   Bonus
        Series

Camaro/Mustang Challenge, and the Classic Roadster. The Race Car Club of America is for beginning Formula-style drivers and races on both ovals and road courses. Located mostly in the Northeast, the group's of providing race opportunities at a "reasonable cost" is popular among members.

Increasing Numbers of Spectators

Auto racing is a popular spectator sport in the United States. U.S. Census figures from 1999 indicated that auto racing events had the second highest monthly attendance by adults, 9,272,000, which was surpassed only by baseball, with 20,022,000. Research by Simmons Market Research Bureau, Inc. and Performance Research (in Champion Marketing) reported that motor sports were the fastest-growing spectator sport in the United States. Spectatorship continued to rise due to television coverage, suitability of auto racing as a spectator sport, and brand loyalty of fans. As a result, Champion Marketing claimed that hundreds of major corporations were using motor sports in their marketing tactics.

Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company estimated that 17,079,004 people attended twelve North American racing series in 1998. This figure was up 21 percent from 13,123,706 estimated attendees in 1992 (Goodyear Racing). Goodyear's general manager of worldwide racing, Stu Grant, indicated that the annual attendance reports would no longer be published after 1998 because it was felt that individual sanctioning bodies were better prepared to monitor racing attendance. The Goodyear race attendance figures from 1998 indicated that the most popular racing series was NASCAR with 37 percent of the total attendance. Attendance at CART Champ cars and NHRA events followed in second and third place with 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

NASCAR's Popularity

As of 1999, between 15 and 17 million people watched NASCAR every year (Weissman). Bell South, 3M, and Lycos joined the sponsorship ranks, along with the more traditional tobacco, alcohol, and car parts companies; and they were experiencing tremendous success in doing so. Half of NASCAR fans were shown to have annual incomes over $50,000, and 64 percent were married. Women made up almost 40 percent of NASCAR fans. Twenty-two percent had college degrees, and another 24 percent had some college.

Fan loyalty in NASCAR was largely responsible for the financial success of sponsorship, as fans supported their sponsor's products. Another reason for NASCAR's growing popularity was the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN). ESPN brought NASCAR racing to the forefront by using well-designed graphics, erudite announcers, and camera technology in the cars (Buchanan). While ESPN no longer carried NASCAR (as of 2003, NASCAR had moved to Fox and NBC, as well as other cable networks) Buchanan argued that ESPN built the foundation.

Conclusion

From the early races with just six entrants to 2004's plethora of high-tech racing cars, series, and venues, auto racing has become a part of the American psyche. Race car drivers range from the weekend amateur stock car drivers at local dirt tracks to highly paid professionals. Auto manufacturers use racing to test technological innovations that result in passenger cars that are safer, more efficient, and of higher quality. Americans' love affair with racing is growing and parallels its love affair with the automobile. As long as one does well, so will the other. Perhaps it is just a matter of time before auto racing becomes the number one spectator sport in the United States.

See also: Auto Shows, Automobiles and Leisure, Drag Racing, Hot Rodding, Open Wheel Racing, Sports Car Racing, Stock Car Racing

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