I’ll start by stating the obvious, Daniel Suarez being a Mexican and winning the NASCAR Xfinity series championship is a good thing for Daniel Suarez and NASCAR in Mexico. Now I’ll start with the less obvious. It isn’t just good for NASCAR in Mexico, this is the fundamental next step NASCAR needed to take if it wishes to continue to evolve.
Daniel Suarez and NASCAR in Mexico – NASCAR Goes Global
A look to the Past
Rewind your mind back to the 1950s and think about NASCAR at that time. It was a regional sport centered in the southeast of America. To cement this fact in your mind, reflect on this tidbit: The ‘79 Daytona 500 was the first race broadcast live on TV nationally, and Big Bill France was completely intent on blacking it out in the southeast. It didn’t happen, but just chew on the fact that it almost did.
Next, think about the 90s. NASCAR grows and is thought of as a national sport. The drivers, and, more importantly, the champions, stop having southern accents, and start appearing on New York based late night talk shows. The sport had evolved, and it had reached record crowds, record TV ratings, and record sponsorship contracts doing it.
Now it’s 2016, almost 2017. Crowds are smaller, TV ratings are shrinking, and Brian France is having to fend off claims that Monster Energy is sponsoring the main series for a paltry $20 million a year. One could speculate to the point of being boring about why this is, but the fact remains that it is happening. Moving on, the question becomes where does NASCAR go from here? Why is Suarez winning the XFINITY championship more important for NASCAR than it is for Suarez?
Momentum is everything, and Suarez’s championship is the only indicator NASCAR currently has of positive momentum. It comes in the form of evolving to international relevance. As in, starting to claim something that Formula 1 has always had, and NASCAR has never had.
For many Americans, the only time to watch women’s basketball is during the olympics. The ratings show that the numbers during the Olympics are much, much bigger than the WNBA. Why is this the case? It would appear that the event being about national pride makes the stakes high enough for many casual fans to notice and pay attention. The Olympics are also the only time many Americans watch curling. This is true for a number of other sports. The nationalistic aspect of the event drives ratings.
Capturing a Mexican Audience
In this way NASCAR can, hopefully, use the momentum of Suarez’s championship to “go global”, and not just in some lip service paying way. Can you imagine the idea of AN ENTIRE COUNTRY caring about a NASCAR race? Can you imagine 10 years from now (or sooner) Mercedes and Volvo exploring options to race in NASCAR.
Maybe you couldn’t last year, but now you can, because Suarez won. He’s captured the attention of a country that has rarely paid much attention to NASCAR. We can see it in this tweet from the President of Mexico.
— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) November 20, 2016
The president of an entire country tweeted about NASCAR, congratulating a driver for his remarkable season. Let that sink in for a moment.
This is not to say that NASCAR will have the international appeal of Formula 1 tomorrow. That would be ridiculous, but one can reasonably foresee a race in Mexico soon. There’s absolutely no news saying that will happen, but it would not be that surprising. Considering the falling crowds, ratings, and general numbers in NASCAR, this could be a new market to explore. In any event, it is something positive to think about going into the holidays.
Main Photo: HOMESTEAD, FL – NOVEMBER 19: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #19 ARRIS Toyota, celebrates with the NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 and the NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19, 2016 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)