Marketability Is Key In NASCAR Today, So Which Drivers Have It?

Tony Stewart (left) and Matt Kenseth are both successful drivers in NASCAR. However, the author feels Stewart is more of a character with, perhaps, increased marketability.

While on air this week (Drafting the Circuits, Wednesday nights 9 pm EST on my panel and I got into a discussion about sponsorship and the marketability of certain drivers at the NASCAR Sprint Cup level.

Matt Kenseth was the driver in question and he was being lauded as a “solid choice for JGR and Home Depot.”

And, whereas I didn’t disagree, I found myself blurting out that no matter how much respect I have for Kenseth – champion in 2003 and two-time Daytona 500 winner – he was not a driver I was interested in following or rooting for ever.

It is not that I dislike the man; it’s that I am apathetic about him.

This baffles me as I consider myself a fan of every driver on the track.

I can find good things to write about each and every one, including Kenseth, but still feel lackluster about the man’s personality.

I also know Kenseth has legions of adoring and loyal fans so he must incite some emotion, passion, and/or response from them.

The author's opinion is that the late Dale Earnhardt was the epitome of the rugged NASCAR driver whose personality could draw fans - and sponsors.

Some might say it’s simply that being on a team with the overly personable and charismatic Carl Edwards would make anyone seem like a dud, but I disagree.

I’m not wholly sold on Edwards either. And I’m definitely not against Roush Fenway Racing or even Ford. I genuinely like everyone and everything having to do with NASCAR. Kenseth, however, does not stir my passions.

I believe coming into to NASCAR as a fan at the end of the 1990 season and watching Dale Earnhardt beat Mark Martin for the championship when the odds seemed (to my inexperienced unlearned mind) against Earnhardt colored my vision of what a dynamic driver is.

The Earnhardt I witnessed in the years I was his fan was given to impressive unparalleled driving, larger-than-life personality and a heart of gold according to many whose lives he touched.

He was, in my opinion, a character and a real man all rolled into one.

Other characters have existed who were easily marketable in NASCAR. Fireball Roberts was probably NASCAR’s first superstar.

Handsome, physically fit, a natty dresser and a phenomenal driver, Roberts was on his way out of racing and trying his hand at advertising when he suffered the burns that eventually killed him.

Roberts surely had the star power in his era that I believe Earnhardt had in his.

Kenseth is a tremendously talented driver, a likable guy, and even rather handsome, but he just doesn’t “do it” for me.

Junior Johnson, Richard Petty, Harry Gant, Cale Yarborough, Davey Allison, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch all had or have a combination of immense talent coupled with something construed as marketability.

Some, like Roberts, Johnson, Petty, and Earnhardt were able to build lucrative careers based on their charisma at a time when that was new in the sport.

Nowadays, with the economy the way it’s been for lo these many years and with little relief in immediate sight, charisma and talent have to be stratospheric to get the almighty sponsorship dollar.

Clearly Joe Gibbs Racing and Home Depot/Dollar General feel Kenseth is bankable. Maybe in time I will alter my opinion.

Who were/are your favorite marketable NASCAR stars? Do you disagree with me about Kenseth?



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