Students race to win NASCAR All-Star prize

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You might think one of the fastest growing sports in the United States wouldn’t need any more promotion. You might think the sport with the second-highest viewership in the country wouldn’t need to be “sold.” You might think a sport that has venues that accommodate up to 250,000 people wouldn’t need any more publicity.

Well, you would be wrong.

At least according to the brain trust of NASCAR, which introduced the NASCAR Kinetics program to five schools in the spring of 2009.

“It’s pretty much a national competition between select schools across the country, and we’re given case studies that NASCAR wants to try out to help with their marketing, to help expand their brand, not just with the NASCAR fans, but strengthen [it] throughout the rest of their other demographics,” said senior Matt Small, one of the five members of the first NASCAR Kinetics team at UM. “The viewing party, which we’ll be hosting on Saturday, is the action plan to see how well we can actually market and help bring in people to come to enjoy NASCAR together.”

Small and his four partners, Justin Leiser, Alex Bryant, Ethan Lapern and Luke Schutt, are joined by their passion for sports and marketing and have their sights set high, especially for their official “Most Colorful Fans of NASCAR” viewing party.

“They have done it previous semesters at other schools, and most of the time they’re getting like 40 to 50 people out there and I think our goal is to at least double that,” Bryant said. “So if we don’t hit triple digits, I’d say we haven’t met our goal.”

The viewing party at Smoke’t across campus at 6:30 p.m. is one of the last stages in the competition. So far the team has fared well, finishing first in the first case study and netting perfect marks for its event action plan.

As far as the actual venue is concerned, the team is on the right track as well.

“There’s a great atmosphere at that place,” Lapern said. “It’s really close; anybody who lives on campus doesn’t have to drive to get there. It’s just really the perfect place to have it.”

The group agrees that you don’t have to be a fan to enjoy the watch party.

“People shouldn’t be afraid that it’s too much NASCAR, because it’ll still be just a good time watching a sporting event with a lot of games, prizes [and] good food,” Small said.

If it was up to Leiser, there probably couldn’t be “too much NASCAR.” Leiser, the most avid racing fan on the team, hopes to score a job with NASCAR.
Others look at the project as a stepping stone to a different career path.

“I think no matter what industry you’re in, the skills we’ve learned in this competition- the marketing, the planning, the selling of just NASCAR itself- are all valuable skills that you can use in any field,” Lapern said.

No matter what their individual motivations are, the students have their eye on the top prize, an all expense-paid trip to Charlotte, NC for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, where they could enjoy behind the scenes tours and meet NASCAR marketing representatives.

Patrick Riley may be contacted at