NASCAR: Trackside shopping set to change as part of new Fanatics deal (UPDATED)

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The familiar merchandise haulers at NASCAR tracks will be reduced in favor of a central superstore made up of climate-controlled tents. Credit: NASCAR

“Souvenir Row” is soon going to look a lot different.

For many years at NASCAR tracks, fans have flocked to groups of merchandise haulers to pick up T-shirts, jackets, hats, and other nick-nacks that represent their favorite drivers.

But the trackside shopping experience will soon change.

Sports merchandise company Fanatics has signed a 10-year agreement with NASCAR and NASCAR Team Properties to become the primary retailer of series, team, and driver gear at all Sprint Cup events.

As part of that, the familiar haulers will be gradually reduced in favor of a central superstore made up of climate-controlled tents as well as, in some instances, smaller retail areas around the track.

Fanatics’ apparel division will also produce its own NASCAR merchandise to complement the current lines from other authorized licensees.

The company has already partnered with many other sports leagues, teams, schools, and organizations including NBC Sports.

“Fanatics is extremely excited to partner with NASCAR and NASCAR Team Properties to greatly expand their at-track retail presence,” said company president Ross Tannenbaum in a release.

“We have taken the time to listen to what the fans, teams, drivers and NASCAR were asking for and look forward to using our market-leading scale, technology and production capabilities to deliver an improved and entertaining shopping experience for years to come.”

While things will, more or less, remain as they are now at Daytona Speedweeks next month, noticeable changes should be in place by mid-season. The new model is expected to be fully implemented by 2016.

In an interview with MotorSportsTalk this afternoon, NASCAR executive vice president/chief marketing officer Steve Phelps said that placement of the superstore and its satellite areas during a race weekend will depend on the tracks themselves.

“If you’ve got 150,000 fans going to Daytona, that may look different than a track that serves a smaller number of fans both from a footprint standpoint as well as the number of fans that are attending, as obviously some facilities hold more than others,” he explained. “We’re working through all of that with the people at Fanatics as well as with the race tracks.”

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Within the central superstore at the track, fans can expect unique merchandise areas for each driver. Credit: NASCAR

The superstore will feature unique merchandise areas for each driver. Phelps said that this ‘store-within-a-store’ concept will allow for more merchandise per driver on hand, a more diverse array of product, and more pricing points.

And while fan favorites such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick, and Tony Stewart are likely to have bigger merchandise areas, drivers not as popular will also have spaces for their own gear.

“There will be opportunities for drivers who, frankly, are not selling merchandise at the race track to have an opportunity to have merchandise sold and have their fans be able to show their colors and their driver with pride,” Phelps said.

“What we wanted to make sure we did is that every driver had product out there. We’re servicing drivers who are 30th in the points, not just [first through fifth]. We think that’s a very important thing for the sport.”

If fans are unable to find a specific item in stock, they’ll be able to order from Fanatics’ online NASCAR shop. Phelps also mentioned that, ultimately, fans will have the chance to buy gear from their grandstand seat and be able to either pick it up at the superstore before they leave the track or have it shipped to their homes.

It’s shaping up to be quite a change from the current model of trackside shopping.

Phelps admitted that he expects to see some initial backlash from fans that look at visiting the haulers as a race-weekend tradition – one that enables them not just to buy gear, but to congregate with fellow fans of their driver.

However, he also expects they’ll be able to do that just as well in the specific merchandise areas within the superstore. Throw in a special area for driver appearances and autograph sessions, and the complex stands to be more than a shopping space but a major social hub altogether.

“We think it will create an entirely new way for fans to interact,” he says. “The haulers have been around for 20-25 years. This is the new evolution, and ultimately, we believe that the bulk of the fans are gonna embrace this and really be excited about it.”

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

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“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).