Nissan’s LMP1 has already won the “buzz” game with Super Bowl launch

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Motorsports occasionally needs to discover new ways to be relevant, and Nissan premiering its new LMP1 car – the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO – during Super Bowl XLIX should be a hugely smart move in that quest.

Consider what the Nissan will be racing in, and the brand exposure from being part of the Super Bowl will likely be its biggest splash, motorsports-wise, in the U.S. market this year.

While both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Indianapolis 500 are marquee events, neither the FIA World Endurance Championship nor Verizon IndyCar Series are on the level of prominence or national awareness in this country as NASCAR is. It pains me to write as an unabashed fan and reporter of open-wheel and sports car racing, but it’s also the truth.

So from that standpoint, anything that exposes sports car racing to a wider market that hits tens of millions of potential viewers – rather than the tens of thousands of hardcore followers – is a massive achievement.

Meanwhile the story of Nissan’s LMP1 car coming to public view seems to have been a story in and of itself, almost more than the car specifications.

From stories out last night, it appears as though several insiders were able to see the car at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas last fall, but the car’s public identity itself remained a secret. Later on in 2014 Jalopnik released both a rendering of the car, then spy shots from COTA.

While those respective hits raised awareness and intrigue among the hardcore motorsports aficionados, they weren’t necessarily the target audience Nissan was seeking to reach with the Super Bowl ad.

So last night, just prior to 8 p.m. ET, the “With Dad” ad launched. There, the GT-R LM NISMO was revealed, a Nissan GT-R featuring several Pirelli World Challenge logos was also present, and COTA had its moment of Super Bowl glory to add to its resume along with hosting the U.S. Grand Prix the last three years as part of its annual schedule.

A record overnight rating of 49.7/72 would indicate the widespread popularity of the Super Bowl, and Nissan will hope to capture a good percentage of those fans and see if they tune in for the car’s actual racing program.

But from a racing “buzz” standpoint at the Super Bowl, nothing matched up to what Nissan pulled off last night.

The question now is, how the heck will this thing work on track?

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).