NASCAR wins Latino fans
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 23, 2005
Outreach working gradually
Christine L. Romero
Eduardo Roa's love of fast cars means NASCAR has found a new fan.
"I like the speed," says Mesa's Roa, 24, who drives a souped-up Honda Civic.
And Roa's Latino background makes him exactly the type of fan that the National
Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is trying to cultivate. Roa has watched
NASCAR only on TV, but he might eventually spend money to see a stock-car race
The outreach to the burgeoning Hispanic market eventually could bring more
people like Roa to events such as this weekend's NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Subway
Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Like marketers nationwide, NASCAR is courting the exploding Latino population, a
coveted group of more than 35 million with a swelling economic influence. In
just five years, U.S. Hispanics will control $670 billion, according to national
NASCAR's push to reach a broader audience, including women and
African-Americans, has been trickling down from its top executives for a few
years now. But building a new fan base takes time. Latino fans like Roa still
account for only a small slice of the pie for NASCAR, whose fan base and drivers
are overwhelmingly Anglo males.
"If they had a Mexican driver, I would like it even more," Roa says.
NASCAR's outreach effort includes creating bilingual fan guides at certain
events, although they won't be at this weekend's races.
The organization also has set up an office in Mexico, where it will eventually
run races and likely groom Mexican drivers. Just last month, NASCAR held a Busch
series race in Mexico that generated a lot of excitement and displayed the
sport's commitment to expanding its demographics.
The number of Latinos and Blacks calling themselves NASCAR fans is on the
upswing, but they account for fewer than a quarter of fans overall. Even
compared with golf and tennis - where Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters are
top competitors - NASCAR remains one of the least racially integrated sports.
"It's something that doesn't happen overnight," says NASCAR spokesman Ramsey
Poston. "It's getting more diverse as it grows."
NASCAR executives want to see more Hispanics among the ranks of fans. But there
were no local efforts to advertise in Spanish for this weekend's race, according
to Mike Pursinski, spokesman for Phoenix International Raceway.
"It's not just tickets to us," Pursinski says. "We are trying to leave an
PIR recently hired somebody to handle Latino outreach and plans in the next year
to add such services as signs in Spanish.
"We hope a year from now that we can welcome people to our event so they can
enjoy the event and not feel handicapped," Pursinski says. "We want to make sure
we are doing this right."
That lack of Spanish advertising creates a gap and leaves some out of the loop.
Spanish-speaking Roa said he hadn't even heard of this weekend's race, even
though he considers himself a NASCAR fan.
English-dominant Hispanics, like Richard Quiñones, likely have been caught up in
NASCAR's overall rising popularity.
"I just started watching the race and it got interesting to me," says Quiñones,
a 21-year-old Phoenix resident. "I love all sports. I'm a sports guy. My
favorite is baseball, football and then NASCAR."
He started watching racing with his cousin and admits that it's hard to pique
interest in NASCAR among other Latinos, especially his family.
"Everybody says, 'It's boring. It's just cars going in circles,' " Quiñones
says. "There's so much more to it. But it's definitely still a White sport."
NASCAR officials say the Hispanic fan base has steadily increased and accounts
for about eight out of every 100 fans. A consumer survey taken last year by
Simmons, an Experian Company,indicates that about five out every 100 NASCAR fans
are of Hispanic descent, while 10 out every 100 Hispanics have some interest in
About 40 percent of NASCAR's overall fan base is female; Latinos have more
interest in NASCAR than their Latina counterparts, Simmons' research indicates.
Phoenix's Dan Cortez, 39, believes there will be an upward spike of Latino fans
as NASCAR fever continues growing. The lack of direct advertising to Latinos
could be part of the problem; Cortez believes that young Latinos who like
low-riders and fast cars easily could find a new love and fall into NASCAR's
"There are young kids out there with race fever, souping up their cars," Cortez
says. "Some young Latinos are very much into their cars. . . . There's an
affinity and a connection (with NASCAR), but I don't think it's been completed."
It's probably easier for English speakers like himself to get into NASCAR, but
Spanish speakers will need to be specifically targeted, Cortez says.
"I'm a hard-core football, basketball and baseball fan, but NASCAR is creeping
up on me without me even realizing it," he says. "They are smart to go after
Latino fans, but it's not a quick hit."
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