After the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, every driver who qualified for the second-tier series’ “Dash for Cash” races came into the media center and said almost the exact same thing: “I just really appreciate Xfinity and Comcast for giving us the chance to race for $100,000.”
That happened again, and again, and again, as each person who qualified to try for $100,000 over the next four “Dash for Cash” races—Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, Daniel Hemric and Ryan Preece—walked in. It felt like watching four robots beeping and booping at a crowd of people recording their every word.
After the race, my husband and I were talking about how bad that part of the press conference was. It was really bad! Even worse was the fact that reporters in the room were encouraging it, asking questions about the prize money and giving the drivers a chance to, again, thank the sponsors for being so nice as to give them the opportunity to win $100,000—a huge sum of money to the people asking the questions, but probably not so much to the drivers.
That’s when we came up with a new approach.
“Tomorrow, I should ask all of the [Monster Energy NASCAR] Cup Series drivers if they wish they could run for $100,000 thanks to Xfinity and Comcast,” I said. The Cup Series doesn’t have a Dash for Cash, so that question would be terrible and irrelevant—kind of like the question was in the Xfinity Series anyway.
Then, we made up our favorite hypothetical NASCAR press conference for the Cup Series, based solely on sponsorship topics and the idea that Kevin Harvick would probably win the race. He finished second.
Here’s how our fake conversation went. Again, it was completely made up.
Alanis King: Kevin, what’s your favorite beer that doesn’t sponsor your car?
Harvick, who drives a Busch Beer car: Natural, because they’re owned by the same company.
King: No, no, no, Kevin. If you were stuck on an island with every kind of beer but the ones from Anheuser-Busch Beer, which would you choose?
Harvick: I’d have a jet fly some Anheuser-Busch brands in.
King: Kevin! Planes don’t exist in this hypothetical world.
Harvick: Then I’ll call a boat.
That hypothetical loop would likely go on forever if uninterrupted, but surely someone moderating the press conference would have taken the microphone away from me at this point.
Our other ideas included asking Harvick what he would eat if he could only eat pizza from brands other than Hunt Brothers, asking Joey Logano what he would do if he and his family had to go to the bathroom on a road trip and there were no Shell stations around, asking Denny Hamlin what he would do if he needed to overnight something on Christmas Eve when Fedex is closed and UPS is open, and starting some kind of battle of the home-improvement stores with Lowe’s driver Jimmie Johnson and Menards’ Paul Menard. (Yes, related.)
I didn’t actually ask any of that stuff, as it would’ve wasted more time than the typical sponsor speeches. But I sure did want to.
That being said, sponsors aren’t bad. They’re great, when you think about the fact that they allow events people want to watch to happen in the first place.
But the sponsors are all over the banners, signs, cars, fire suits, commercials, trophies and any other available surface area. Press conferences shouldn’t sound like prerecorded sponsor messages—instead, they should give good, memorable quotes relating to the sport those sponsors take the time to dump money into.
The people in there are mostly writers, not the television crew broadcasting a sponsor message directly to viewers at home, so it doesn’t really use the time well to go through those motions. We’re not going to publish that so-and-so said they’d “really like to thank” a sponsor of a cash prize.
Of course, I can’t end this blog without thanking Xfinity and Comcast for letting already wealthy NASCAR drivers race for $100,000. It’s all very exciting.