The Princesses of NASCAR

Not all that long ago, NASCAR meant stock car racing, and NASCAR marketing was focused on cars, auto parts, tobacco products and soft drinks. But as tracks, sponsorships and Nielson ratings have multiplied, the "brand" has obviously opened up a bit.


The self-proclaimed "NASCAR princesses," left to right, Karen Carter, Holly Green and Hilary Dennis at the bar in the Fan Zone. (Mike Snyder - washingtonpost.com)


It now encompasses cologne and Harlequin romances, something I learned when I got to the track yesterday.

Free samples of "Daytona 500," the new men's cologne from cosmetics giant Elizabeth Arden, had been deposited everywhere in the media center. And waiting in my email inbox was the news that the partnership of NASCAR and Harlequin had produced its first offspring, a "racetrack romance" by Pamela Britton titled "In the Groove."

My feeling is that NASCAR's decision to get into the fragrance and romance business is part of a push to target women fans, and that makes perfect sense. There are after all tons of women fans -- nearly half of race audiences, I've read -- and they deserve as much NASCAR-licensed gear as the men. Still, I'm not sure the romance books are going to be a big hit, at least not with the female fans I've run into.

"We're not reading that crap," Holly "Green, Green" Green explained to me yesterday. "You gotta live it!"

I met Holly, a photographer from Fort Worth, Texas, in the course of conducting an informal "Daytona 500" sniff test along the front stretch of stands yesterday. I was traveling light -- note pad, camera, leaky jar of "Daytona 500." Reactions were strong, some pro, some con.

Pam Navey, who works with troubled youth in Statesville, N.C., (and also part-time security for
Dale Earnhardt Enterprises) loved it. "That smells good enough to eat," she said. Her "adopted" daughter Lindsey - one of the troubled teens she helped some years ago, liked it, too. She said she'd absolutely buy some for her boyfriend, Chris.

Samantha Owens, from Wisconsin, went the other way. "It smells like an old man," she said.

Karen Carter, of Little Rock, Ark., was more analytical in her assessment. It smelled "spicy" to her, "with hints of cedar and musk - manly."

Hilary Dennis, who was here with Karen, trashed the scent: "It smells cheap, like soap, like something you'd buy at K-Mart."

"You probably can," chimed in Karen.

"Or Wal-Mart," laughed Hilary. "'Hi I'm Garth Brooks, buy 'Daytona 500.' It doesn't activate my pheremones."

Clearly, I had stumbled on a couple of the funnier race fans and as we rode the tram back to the infield Fan Zone to continue the sniff test, it was clear that they had much more information to give me.

It turned out this was their first time at Daytona, but they've been to several other tracks. Karen's favorite is Talladega - she's highly recommending that washingtonpost.com send me down there for the October race. Karen's also been to short tracks, most notably Bristol, but she likes the superspeedways the best. "Bigger is better," she says.

Karen's an Earnhardt Jr. fan because, and Budweiser will love hearing this, she wanted to rout for a driver who was sponsored by "a product I can get behind." Karen loves her Bud, confessing that she consumes "buckets and buckets" of it. "It's the nectar of the gods - goddesses in this case."

Hilary and Karen are self-proclaimed "NASCAR princesses." Karen showed off her princess T-shirt to prove it. When I met them, they were on their way to meet their "queen," they said, who turned out to be the aforementioned Holly Green. ("But we're all queens," Karen clarified.)

They wanted to know if I had a green M&M, which struck me as a pretty strange question until they explained that they do NASCAR-themed treasure hunts whenever they go racing. When they met up with Holly in the Fan Zone, she taunted her friends with a Speed TV business card. It was on the scavenger hunt list.

The rest of the items on the list: A "hot" garage pass (which I actually have with my press credentials, but sorry, ladies, that could get me fired), a Busch beer can (from which you've consumed the contents), a Bud Lite label (again, you must have drunk the beer), duct tape, a caution flag, a Wal-Mart bag and a condom.

Holly really is the queen, and was wearing a little tiara to prove it. She's actually a photographer who sometimes shoots for NASCAR. She showed me her Texas speedway photo credentials.

Holly says her ultimate dream would be to have a TV talk show called "Let's Talk Track" with women hosts only. These three could probably pull that off. In the meantime, they're about to launch two Web sites on e-bay: girlfan, which will feature "toys for the true girl race fans" as Karen puts it, and girlfan2, which is for women rodeo fans.

I hung out with the ladies a short while longer. They made quite a splash at the bar in the infield. Lots of male admirers, naturally, but lots of other women were hanging out, too. One woman, whose name I didn't catch because she was in a rush, was thrilled when Mike Wallace squeaked into the 500 with his finish in the second duel of the day. Now that's a true fan.

On the whole, not a very scientific market sample for the cologne. But you have to hop a tram with the princesses of NASCAR when you can.

By Mike Snyder |  February 17, 2006; 8:43 AM ET  | Category:  Daytona Scene , Fans , Miscellaneous
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Hey, you forgot pain relievers in that first pgph, man.

Here's to women who root for beer.
Skoal!

I like a packet of Goody's mixed with every 3rd Bud.

bc

Posted by: bc | February 17, 2006 11:49 AM

It's your stomach, bc.

Posted by: Mike | February 17, 2006 03:09 PM

Indeed it is, Mike.

Couldn't keep my girlish figure and 175 lb weight if I didn't run hard enough to get rub the letters off the right side tires and get some Darlington stripes once in a while.

bc

Posted by: bc | February 17, 2006 03:45 PM

I agree that there are a lot more women into nascar than just a few years ago.
I think it all started when Tide came on the scene.

My girlfriend, a Harvick fan, loves nascar but wasn't into it until about '01.

BC,I take my BUD staight no Goodys neeeded.
A shot of Jim Beam or Crown works too.

BUD

Posted by: BUD | February 17, 2006 04:31 PM

BUD, I find the Goody's helps when I'm having more than 6.

bc

Posted by: bc | February 17, 2006 09:01 PM

I am a former KGB official...now I like America. I know how to massage women very well. I need Amerikan Love. Ladies send me email, please.
Deka

Posted by: Deka Malikovsky (DEKASON00@YAHOO.COM) | February 18, 2006 08:51 PM

How dare they call it STOCK CAR Racing it is NO way stock cars.To take care of restrictor plate problem make them go back to a template that matches the STOCK Car they are running.If running a ford must have ford engine and match the Ford template and so on.

Posted by: Mike | February 21, 2006 10:08 PM

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