Friday, 17 January 2020

NASCAR’s Biggest Trophy Needs A Better Name – Forbes

NASCAR’s Biggest Trophy Needs A Better Name – Forbes
23 Oct

Now that Monster Energy’s sponsorship with NASCAR is about to end, and its lurking “girls” will be leaving Victory Lane ASAP, the top series in stock-car racing will become just the NASCAR Cup Series. That beats Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, or, worse, MENCS.

But, come on now. The “NASCAR Cup Series” is dull. NASCAR apparently does not want a title sponsor, preferring a different model that will involve several top sponsors. If making money off the trophy is no longer a business objective, why not name it after a person, or a part of NASCAR’s rich history?

Of course, the most obvious candidate would be the late Big Bill France, the founder of NASCAR, or even his son, Bill Jr., but, as powerful and visionary as they were, neither would have wanted their name on a trophy. Besides, “France Cup” sounds almost . . . un-American. But Bill France Cup might work.

Three drivers have won seven top-series championships, but there would be a conniption among old-timers if the cup were named after the most recent seven-time champ of the three, Jimmie Johnson. Rioting would break out if Richard Petty got the call over Dale Earnhardt — or vice-versa.

And the Winston Cup days, as golden as they were, are long gone. The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., facing a ban on advertising of cigarettes on television, leased the naming rights of the top series from NASCAR and used the name of its top brand, Winston. It was a sweet deal.

You won’t get much of an argument from stock-car fans that the Winston Cup era was the most memorable run in the sport — more polished, organized, popular and financially successful than the Strictly Stock and Grand National eras that preceded it.

When R.J. Reynolds, facing losses, decided to back out of the title sponsorship in early 2003, Nextel, the telecommunications corporation, paid $700 million over 10 years so it could be called the Nextel Cup. After Sprint acquired Nextel, it was the Sprint Cup for eight years.

Monster Energy took over the series sponsorship in 2017, but the ultimate prize was still known as a cup, in part because the top level had been called “The Cup Series,” or just “Cup,” for decades. (No one seems to know why it was a cup and not another type of trophy.)

Simply naming NASCAR’s top series after Lt. Col. Joseph Winston, a Revolutionary War hero and U.S. Congressman after whom the R.J. Reynolds headquarters city of Winston-Salem was named, would be even more problematic. Winston, unfortunately, was a slave owner.

Without a guy named Louis Jerome “Red” Vogt, there might not even be a NASCAR, or at least a business known by that name.

Vogt was a mechanic who owned a shop in Atlanta where race cars were built. In December 1947, Vogt went to Daytona Beach, Fla., with a group of car owners and drivers from Atlanta for a meeting with Big Bill France, who wanted to start a racing series.

France at first sought to form the National Championship Stock Car Circuit, or NCSCC, but he thought a better name would be the National Stock Car Racing Association, or NSCRA. But that was taken by another organization. So in stepped Red Vogt.

Vogt owned the Georgia charter for the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing, or NASCAR, and he suggested that could be used for France’s new series. It was approved. And NASCAR became an internationally known brand name for a unique style of auto racing.

Red Vogt, who died in 1991 at the age of 87, probably would be disappointed to learn that NASCAR, as a brand name, no longer fits. It is a national association, yes, but these are not “stock cars” that you find in a showroom, or are even street legal (without modifications).

The Red Vogt Cup would be a tribute to many of the people outside the France family who made stock-car racing famous, but his name is pronounced “vote,” and too many people would not know how to pronounce it, anyway. So there goes that idea.

From 1950 to 1970, before the Winston Cup era, the top level of NASCAR racing was known as the Grand National Division, then the Winston Cup Grand National Series through 1985. The “national” was a little redundant, but it was a regal name that was not found anywhere else and suggested that these guys were really the best.

 Only recently did NASCAR really start tapping into one of its best attributes: nostalgia. The Grand National Cup would be a nod to the past — when people like Red Vogt helped make it big. Someone could design a cool retro logo (to be printed on $25 T-shirts). It might not matter who wins the Cup with the way it is decided now, but that is a project for later.

Have a good idea? Email it to NASCAR or call the switchboard in Daytona Beach, Fla. They love your suggestions! Tell the switchboard operator that “The NASCAR Cup” just does not the series justice.



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