The Family Sport
Editor's Notebook, December 1996
I don't know how it looks from the rest of America (or the rest of the world), but motor racing in the Chicago area seems to have caught the public's attention in a big way. There are two new multi-purpose speedways being designed and built within a short drive from Chicago's Loop, making a total of four new auto racing tracks under construction in Illinois. Racing is now big business, partly, at least, because it is family-oriented entertainment.
New sponsors have come into the market as well. There is increased evidence that they are just the beginning of a transformation of racing sponsorships away from products of interest primarily to men. The M&M Mars Skittles Team is the latest sponsorship on behalf of a consumer product that targets female purchasers.
The growing interest in auto racing among women and girls is a phenomenon that is being watched and analyzed by market researchers, sociologists, and other professional numbers crunchers. Certainly ESPN, ESPN2, and, now SpeedVision have something to do with it. Probably the increase in girls participation in sports at all levels has something to do with it. Most likely the need that mothers feel to provide new and different role models for their children has something to do with it.
In any case, auto racing is no longer a good-old Southern boy sport or a playground for the wealthy international set. The skill, courage, excitement and power of the sport has been embraced by the family all across America. (Judging by the success of the first NASCAR race held in Japan, racing has been embraced by families world wide.)
Early this Spring, we will see more women drivers at Daytona then ever before and I see a movement that will bring ever more women drivers into the professional ranks in all motor racing series. The increase in the number of women fans is creating a vacuum of appropriate role models that is now being filled by women drivers.
Christine Karns, our Driver of the Month, is working the Pennsylvania tracks in her 800 horsepower Sprint Car. She handles that extreme power on the short track dirt ovals like the professional she is. Christine is just one of the many women who are transforming the sport. Wish her well.