Most of today’s racing fans are too young to remember the days when moonshiners souped up their Chevys and Fords to outrun the cops, their hot pursuits on the back roads giving birth to Nascar in 1948. But there is one thing that fans miss about the old days: Those Chevys and Fords actually looked like Chevys and Fords. In a standardization process culminating in 2007’s “Car of Tomorrow,” Nascar’s cars had evolved to all look the same.
Which is why fans stood up and cheered in November when Nascar, popping the clutch in reverse, announced a return to brand-specific body styles. Come the 2013 Sprint Cup Series, the “Gen-6” cars—the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry and Chevy SS—will look like the models you can buy in showrooms. Says Nascar CMO Steve Phelps: “The idea is to put the ‘stock’ back into stock-car racing.”
But the idea goes deeper than that. Nascar’s hoping that the Gen-6 cars will rev up both viewers and sponsors. Internal research shows that 80 percent of fans have a favorite auto brand that competes in the races. Now that they can actually see the difference among the cars, “we’re confident it’ll strengthen the emotional connection,” Phelps says.
There’s just as much riding on the auto-partner and team-sponsor side, too. Phelps believes fans will be more likely to go out and buy the victorious car brands—what he calls the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” effect. Meanwhile, on the sponsor side, the Gen-6 body style and paint scheme has opened up new real estate for all those brand names and logos whose money puts gas in the tank. Decals will now be allowed to creep past the front edge of the B-post, and for the first time in the racing league’s history, the roof is available, too. “Teams now have the opportunity to offer sponsors more prominent placement on the car,” Phelps says.
Which leads us to the sporty Ford Fusion on the right. How much will a brand sponsor get for its money on the new Gen-6 car?* Well, first, it depends on whether the brand wants a primary or associate sponsorship. After that, here’s the breakdown:
Infographic by Ricardo Santos and Carlos Monteiro