Thursday, June 22, 2006

Infineon Point

Charlotte is Charlotte. It is not "Lowe's Motor Speedway." One of the great things about NASCAR is that despite its obvious inclusiveness to corporate sponsors, it has managed to avoid many of the trappings of other sports. An annoying trend in the sports world is the constant renaming of old historic sites and stadiums with names that resonate with fans and the local community into giant billboards for some company that usually has nothing to do with the sport at hand. People don't mind billboards at the tracks. They understand the need for cars to have sponsors. And hell, the Coca-Cola 600 is now as traditional a name for a race as the World 600 ever was. But when you take a place and rename it after the highest bidder, it cheapens the memory of it for anyone who's ever been there.

I grew up relatively close to Sears Point raceway. My father raced there. I saw multiple races there. I even met my hero there. Our family trips to Sears Point are some of my fondest and earliest memories. I remember how we actually spent one Halloween there, and a bunch of the race crews involved in whatever racing series my dad was participating in got together for all the kids who had come along and did a trick or treat thing for us all in the pits. (Nothing better than the smell of burning rubber, race car fuel, and sugar to a 6 year old.) The place holds a special significance for me, and I'm sure countless others who enjoyed it.

Naturally, I was annoyed to learn it was renamed "Infineon Raceway" a couple years back. It's like some company comes along and tries to associate itself with something it has absolutely nothing to do with. Maybe I'm somewhat a traditionalist, but I still crack a smile whenever the announcers during a race screw up and call it by its old name.

Or maybe I'm just wrong. I mean, I suppose I would prefer a name change if it meant saving the track from a fate worse than Riverside. But Sears Point is a relatively minor track. How would people feel if the big name tracks were renamed? How would people feel if Indianapolis Motor Speedway became Starbucks Motor Speedway? Or if Daytona Superspeedway became Disney Superspeedway? I don't think people would stand for that. But I also know it'll probably be tried sooner or later.

As Sterling Marlin might be apt to say, "That's jus' bisness."

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