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Fumes by Methanol Boy

Rave Ratings for NASCAR's "Racertainment."

Detroit. NASCAR delivered what all of the pundits expected with last Sunday's Daytona 500 - blockbuster TV ratings. The Fox telecast tied the 2002 Daytona 500 on NBC as the highest-rated broadcast in NASCAR history. Eight of the top-ten markets in the U.S. recorded double-digit ratings increases over last year, including Detroit, San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Chicago. The 10.9 rating overall (percentage of the 109.6 million TV homes in the U.S.) for Sunday's Daytona 500 edged that 10.6 rating recorded for last year's race on NBC by 3%. These ratings will further solidify the hard-core supporters of NASCAR who are cropping up throughout corporate America. As an entertainment vehicle, synergistic marketing tool, co-branding opportunity and just plain damn good bidness, NASCAR is the new darling of the media mavens on Madison Avenue and the next best thing to the National Football League.

But that doesn't change my assessment of the proceedings, with NASCAR "racertainment" continuing to place everything - the drivers, the sponsors, the various "stake holders" and even the broadcasting partners ahead of the automobile manufacturers who are participating to the tune of $125 million each annually. It was amusing to hear Jeff Gordon rattle off all of his sponsor names for his winner's circle interview, and lump in Chevrolet as just another cog in the Hendrick Motorsports sponsorship support structure. Gordon did mention Chevrolet twice, but if anyone down at "The Tubes" think they got their money's worth because a "Monte Carlo" facsimile won the race, they're continuing to delude themselves. They're orchestrating millions upon millions of dollars in order to preach to a choir made up of fans predisposed to owning domestic products. That's an awful expensive "buyer reaffirmation" marketing program. But maybe GM should count their blessings, because one of the few obvious mentions of an actual vehicle brand name during the race broadcast occurred when the Chrysler Group's Dodge "Charger" was consistently singled out for its poor fuel economy.

The Detroit automakers will forever be "Sideshow Bobs" in the NASCAR circus. It doesn't matter how high the ratings, how riveting the drama, how death-defying the action, Detroit will forever play fifth fiddle in the NASCAR money-making symphony. And they will continue to pay through the nose for the privilege apparently too.

Ah, well, it's all about "the show," right?
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