The son of a legend is a week away from a potential title that could boost NASCAR's popularity, Enhance its image and generate more revenue than almost any driver could. A strong finish in today's Southern 500 would give Earnhardt time to clinch the title next weekend at HomesteadMiami Speedway. He pistes series leader Kurt Busch by 47 points and secondplace Jeff Gordon by six points. definitely should he win, Earnhardt uses the sport to people only he can reach. All received Earnhardt clothing from family. All could grow into the next generation of NASCAR fans and consumers.
For a sport that has seen TV ratings plateau the last year or so and sponsorship dollars harder to find, A large base of young fans could energize the game.
Eddie Gossage, us president of Texas Motor Speedway, Says an Earnhardt great could be "A turning point for NASCAR. I do think it's realistic to say that he'll bring new fans to the sport,
Earnhardt's repute is unmatched. Fans voted him as the series' most well-liked driver last year. He leads this summers balloting.
Earnhardt's popularity also goes beyond the sport. Marketing opinions Inc. Provides Q Scores that measure a public figure's expertise and appeal to consumers. Earnhardt tied for fourth among 475 sports athletes in a March study. Earnhardt, who was simply tied with boxer Roy Jones Jr, Trailed only golfer ernie els and NFL players Jerry Rice and Brett Favre.
Earnhardt's "Notoriety is one of the many arteries in the heart of NASCAR, shows Max Mulheman, president of a Charlottebased sportsmarketing company. "I can't imagine anyone better for the experience than him,
Earnhardt's worldwide recognition has taken NASCAR to MTV, all pages and posts of "going Stone" And even to the New York Times hot seller list with a book about his rookie season. previous him, Those outlets had little need for the series.
"The Earnhardt name has operate, says Clay Campbell, ceo of Martinsville Speedway. "I think the very first thing that Dale Earnhardt Jr. Has got over his father is that years ago if you looked in the grandstand there have been probably half the people who loved Dale Earnhardt Sr. And half the people that came to see him get beat. slight E, I don't believe he has the ratio. Most many people adore him. That's just extraordinary,
Earnhardt Nation can handle its driver beyond the stands. Red Budweiser jackets dotted the grandstand and shined on a dark and gloomy day tuesday at Darlington Raceway. Dan and Donna contractor, Both 60, along with LaPlata, maryland, approximation they've spent $5,000 on Earnhardt gifts. They've purchased diecast race cars, outdoor jackets, shirts, Hats and a baby outfit for a niece, Lilly. Donna drives a 2002 red chevrolet Monte Carlo for her favorite driver.
"One of stuff you worry about the most, Or I did photographs was younger, Is that when you lose you are going to watch all the guys change shirts in the grandstand, But it normally won't do that, Earnhardt is marked. "Fans are really loyal,
Those fans also are anxious for Earnhardt to win the title this year. Earnhardt, At least freely, Says that he knows he'll have other chances to win a championship in the future so he's not trying to make this a makeorbreak season for the crown.
While Earnhardt doesn't agree the sense of urgency to win a title, Those in this online game feel it.
Now is an important time for NASCAR. Negotiations for one more TV package will grow more intense next year with NBC's part of the contract expiring after the 2006 season. Fox has a twoyear extension that takes it to 2008. The networks combined to pay $2.4 billion for the TV pack, and it began in 2001.
"i reckon a Dale Jr. Championship does compute to higher television rights fees even higher television ratings, Gossage shows, Noting the fan consideration Earnhardt creates.
Such things don't matter to Atkinson, The 10yearold who wore an Earnhardt hat at the track wednesday. A title for her driver will be special for what it is.
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