Racing & Rock 'N' Roll:I think I know what it feels like to be an American. Standing in the fourth row of an Allman Brothers concert drives home the sensation. And I do mean standing. Chairs are everywhere, but no one is sitting. To sit would be pointless and practically impossible anyway. Butts are not meant to be seated at a time like this. They are meant to be swinging and swaying like a tree in a monsoon. And with the music and energy in the room that night, it felt as if a red, white, and blue monsoon rolled through The Joint in Las Vegas.
The NASCAR Rocks tour was about two thirds of the way through its 30-city tour. Good ol' loud rock 'n' roll combined with NASCAR racing is about as American as it gets, and that is one of the reasons why the NASCAR Rocks tour was formed. Another was to help carry on the enormous momentum last year's 50th anniversary media campaign created.
"We had the 50th anniversary of NASCAR last year, and that was the first real marketing platform NASCAR has ever had," says Kelly Crouch of NASCAR Special Projects Division. "It ended up being one of the most successful marketing initiatives in sports."
NASCAR RocksSince it didn't make much sense to do a "NASCAR 51st anniversary celebration," something else needed to be done to help carry on the energy of last year's marketing campaign. That's when NASCAR got together with CBS and TNN and talked about joint projects.
"With the success of the music festivals in the summertime (Lilith Fair, Lollapalooza, and so on) a sort of natural tie in of cars and rock 'n' roll just made sense," Crouch says. "And that is how NASCAR Rocks was born."
It's a unique idea that appears to be working. In fact, according to Keith Ritter, senior vice president of marketing for CBS Sports, "This is the first time a sports franchise is attaching its name to a music festival of this magnitude."
The enthusiastic throngs attending the concerts are a testament to the success of the tour. Headlined by the classic blues rock artists, the Allman Brothers Band, and supported on selected dates by Lucinda Williams, Susan Tedeschi, and Mary Cutrufello, the NASCAR Rocks tour, well, rocked.
"The Allman Brothers Band was a perfect choice for this tour because they have maintained their core heritage and their core values," Crouch says. "They have been really true to their original fan base but have been very successful at growing and marketing to new segments and new generations."
Sounds a lot like NASCAR. Hmmm. Another part of the appeal of the NASCAR Rocks program was the opportunity to reach out to new fans and new markets in a different and exciting way.
"When you're trying to grow, you don't want to play into your stereotypes," Crouch says. "And while we never want to alienate our core fans, we also want to appeal to new fans."
It was incredibly obvious that hard-core NASCAR fans elbowed up to new NASCAR fans on every stop on the tour. And even though I didn't exactly see a lovefest between racing fans and potential racing fans, I did see plenty of stereotypical people gelling together at one event. Like 20-something college types mixed in with aging hippies. Like "rednecks" standing next to the Silicon Valley geeks. Like grunge guys and gals and yuppies buying each other beers. It was a beautiful thing.
Although my experience on the tour, which included stops in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, was not exactly Woodstock, it did, once again, prove to me that racing fans are unique.
"Our fans are our fans no matter what the event. If they have an opportunity to experience NASCAR in any way, they seem to want to support it," Crouch says. "We treasure that relationship with our fans. We are very fortunate to have that relationship."
Undoubtedly, NASCAR will continue to find new and exciting ways to promote the fastest-growing spectator sport in America. Who knows, maybe Grandpa Gordon will come out of retirement to run a couple of races during NASCAR's 100th anniversary season. If he does, you'll read it here first.
The NASCAR ExperienceTraveling with the 30-city music tour was the NASCAR Rocks festi-val. The interactive festival included a place to test your race car tire-changing skills, special show cars, video games, and more. The NASCAR Experience served as the pace lap for fans to get geared before the concert.
The NASCAR Rocks sponsors, which include CBS Sports, TNN, Westwood One, True Value, Wrenchhead.com, Budweiser, EA Sports, Gatorade, Hot Wheels, and Penske all contributed to the flavor and excitement of each event. Leave it to NASCAR to turn a rock concert into a full-on extravaganza for the entire family.
Have A Little Faith In MeMusic & racing go together: Part IIFor some reason, many of the same people that record music like to record seat time in a race car as well. John Hiatt is no exception. Hiatt flat out kicks ass. The same award-winning singer/songwriter who has been knocking out hit after hit for nearly 25 years has also been logging wins in a Legends car at racetracks in Tennessee.
In Memphis and Nashville, where music is king, Hiatt has been acting more like Richard Petty (the King) than Elvis (the King).
About five years ago, Hiatt was bitten by the bug. That's when Legends racing first came to Nashville.
"Brooks & Dunn brought the Legends cars here," Hiatt says. "I was one of the first in line to buy one."
That first year, Hiatt split driving duties with a friend in his red '37 Chevy sedan and has since been involved with multicar teams, driving with fellow racers Greg Taylor, Eddie Cashon (who has worked with Winston Cup driver Kenny Wallace), and Coleman Coley.
"I didn't even break in the motor properly, but it held up all year, miraculously," Hiatt says. "I was afraid to even turn a wrench. Now I can tear the entire car down myself...all the way to the chassis."
So how does a famous singer become a race car driver? It helps if you grow up near Indianapolis.
"My heroes were Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Mario Andretti, and A.J. Foyt," Hiatt says. "I went to a few 500s as a kid, but mainly my family went to the time trials because that's all we could afford."
And from that early age, Hiatt, who has made a living out of making music, became infatuated with a different kind of noise.
"I fell in love with the sound of racing. I fell in love with the idea of racing."
A regular reader of Circle Track, it seems as if racing has always been in Hiatt's blood. It wasn't until the Legends showed up in his backyard, though, before he really had a chance to strap in and feel what it's truly all about. Now with five seasons under his belt, Hiatt says he didn't start getting the hang of racing until his fourth year.
"Legends cars are overpowered and under-tired," Hiatt says. "You really learn how to drive a race car. You learn how to be smooth."
Despite the fact that Hiatt is a big-time music star, the smooth-driving, soulful singer definitely shares a couple things in common with every other racer who straps on a helmet: He admits that there is no better feeling than doing laps in a car that is hooked up just right. And, he is always on the lookout for a good sponsor.
Yep. That makes Hiatt a legitimate Saturday-night warrior in our book.