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Why Honda Should Race In NASCAR

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NASCAR is America’s motorsport. Honda is an extremely American company and one of the biggest brands in the United States by sales. Honda, also, is a company with a long and proud motorsports tradition, but it isn’t in NASCAR and this makes no sense to me. Let’s rectify this.

If you look at the biggest brands by sales in the United States you’ll see Toyota at the top, followed by Ford and Chevrolet. Behind the three of them, but quickly catching up, is Honda. It makes sense. Hondas are attractive, affordable, and reliable, and the brand is offering more of the hybrid vehicles that Americans seem to crave these days.

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And when I say Honda is “extremely American” I mean literally that. Honda makes about two-thirds of its cars in the United States, which makes it one of the most American carmakers by production. It was also one of the first foreign automakers, and the first Japanese automaker, to build in America after opening up its Marysville, Ohio facility in 1982.

Sure, F1 is making inroads in the U.S. market, but on almost any weekend it isn’t that close to NASCAR in ratings. So pairing this extremely American company with an extremely American sport only seems logical, right?

There are many logical reasons why NASCAR and Honda make sense and I will make those arguments below. Also, I’m a fan of both NASCAR and Honda and it would make me happy, and I think I deserve to be happy. Right Honda? Why do you want to make me sad, American Honda Motor Company? That feels very unHonda.

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Argument #1: Honda Is A Motorsports Brand And It’s Weird That Honda Isn’t In NASCAR

Honda Indy Car
IndyCar has the best fans! All twelve of them. Photo: Honda

I once produced/directed a TV show about motorsports for NBC Sports, and almost every shoot I was on there’d be a Honda in the mix. Not only were Honda vehicles and drivers there, they were also usually out front.

IndyCar? Last year’s champion was Alex Palou, a Honda driver for Chip Ganassi Racing. You probably didn’t know that because you don’t watch IndyCar because, sadly, many people treat IndyCar like they do church, showing up one day a year with everyone else.

Jett Lwarence
Dude can’t stop winning. Photo: Honda

The most dominant motorcross/supercross racer in the world is Australian Jett Lawrence, having walked away with the 2022 250cc championship before winning a bunch of the 450cc races last year. His bike? A Honda. The company’s luxury brand Acura won three manufacturer championships in IMSA in the last five years and the Civic Type R has long been competitive in American touring car racing.

Do I need to tell you how good Max Verstappen and his Honda-powered Red Bull car have been? That’s a ‘Honda’ engine besting Mercedes, Ferrari, and Renault.

Verstappen Miami
One of the few races Max didn’t win. Photo: Honda

Honda wins. It’s what the brand does. Everywhere. In its home market of Japan, the company has been a longtime participant in SUPER GT, which is as close to a Japanese equivalent of NASCAR as you’ll find.

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With all this excellence, why the hell isn’t Honda in NASCAR? Sure, it’s expensive, but Honda seems fine spending money on IndyCar for a questionable return.

Argument #2: NASCAR Is Extremely Popular

While NASCAR, like most modern sports, is off from its heyday when the only way to watch TV was to glide through the channels on your giant Time Warner Cable box, it’s still proportionally the biggest racing series in the United States.

Here are the most-watched auto racing events in the U.S. by television viewers through the middle of November last year:

Notice something? With the exception of the Indy 500, you have to get to F1’s Miami broadcast in place #39 before you hit a non-NASCAR event. Hell, an Xfinity race beat all F1 broadcasts last year.

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With F1 making a huge push to get (and keep) an American audience, this will likely change a little over time. This weekend marked the first time that an F1 race beat a NASCAR race in ratings, but that required a rain delay that was perfectly timed to let the Miami race slip in between the NASCAR race’s intended start and finish, as well as a basketball lead-in.

Sure, NASCAR viewership isn’t what it was back when SportsCenter was must-watch TV, but already this season multiple races have seen significant year-over-year growth.

Why is this? NASCAR is kinda cool again.

Argument #3: NASCAR Is Cool Again

NASCAR 48 Camaro
Did I mention that Parker’s car was sponsored by Motley Crue that weekend?

The sport is offering a better mix of tracks that appeal to both long-time fans and the motorsports-curious. The drivers and team owners are finally starting to be interesting again after the boring, Hendrick-dominated corporate years.

To test this theory I brought a couple of buddies with me to the NASCAR Xfinity race at Dover Motor Speedway earlier this year.

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Neither of these dads had ever been to a NASCAR race. Neither of them is what you’d call your traditional NASCAR fan–one is a professor of physics at a college in New York and the other one works for the United Nations.

And yet, they had a great time. It didn’t hurt, of course, that Parker got us VIP passes and we had the chance to sit on the box during a pitstop. The close access was great, but after watching Cup qualifying and the first part of the Xfinity race from inside the track both of them just wanted to sit in the grandstands and feel the cars go around the track.

Civic Type-R At Dover
The bright red really pops amid all these neutral-toned Toyotas.

I drove us up in a bright red Civic Type R and, rather than feel out-of-place, the car felt like it fit right in. I even noticed a few people checking out the CTR. I don’t blame them! It’s finally a great-looking car.

NASCAR’s two most exciting new team owners are Pitbull and freakin’ Micheal Jordan, both of whom have increasingly successful programs with young and interesting drivers like Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez. The sport is attracting global talent like Aussie Supercar champ Shane Van Gisbergen, who is running his first full season in the sport.

The sport is becoming, in the words of Pitbull… WORLDWIDE.

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Argument #4: NASCAR Needs Honda

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This, but at Watkins Glen. Photo: Honda

The more brands you have represented in a series the healthier it is. That’s just math. Since Dodge bowed out a few years ago, it’s been less than ideal that there are only three manufacturers in NASCAR.

On that basis alone, NASCAR needs Honda, though you could make the same argument for Hyundai joining the sport (which, hey, neat, please do that Hyundai).

I think there’s a bigger reason why the sport would benefit from Honda in particular. NASCAR, like every major motorsport, has a cost problem. It’s expensive. The sport has been trying to make it cheaper and more modern while maintaining the appeal, but it’s still millions of dollars a year to be competitive in the lower-level truck series.

This means a lot of the drivers who end up in the sport are, like F1 drivers, the ones who have the means to do it. There are talented drivers who make it through the sheer force of wheel and ability, but for every Kyle Larson there are probably four rich kids whose parents can sponsor a team.

Imsa Serbing Acura
Honda (and Acura) wins. Photo: Acura

And that’s fine. Rich kids fuel the sport and have been a part of basically every racing series going back to the Paris-to-Peking Rally at the turn of last century.

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Honda could bring with it new money and new energy and help resurrect old teams and, better yet, help form new teams like Pitbull’s Trackhouse, Jordan’s 23XI, and Kaulig Racing. New programs that can give young, talented drivers more room to shine.

Historically, Honda has been a great platform for new talent to enter motorsports and that’s what NASCAR needs more of these days.

Argument #5: I Just Want It To Happen

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Right at home.

This isn’t logical, it’s emotional.

It would be cool. A Honda Ridgeline would look great in the truck series, a Honda Civic Type R would look awesome as a loud V8 Xfinity car, and why not toss an Accord (or Integra Type R) in Cup. A modern Cup car looks way more like a Honda Accord than it does a Chevy Camaro.

Toyota already did all the hard work of making sure a Japanese brand would be welcome in NASCAR and, lo and behold, no one seems to care anymore. In the parking lot of the NASCAR race there were plenty of Hondas because many people drive Hondas.

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I think Honda would be a welcome addition and, even better, if they start making the cars in one of the series hybrids.

Again, this doesn’t make logical sense, but neither does watching any sport. In theory, all of us should be playing sports on the weekends instead of watching them. That’s not what happens. Instead, we gather with friends and get worked up over someone else doing something we wish we could do.

Why shouldn’t Honda fans have someone to root for on Sundays?

Am I Crazy?

I don’t think I’m crazy. Here’s a tidbit form Adam Stern in Sports Business Journal from earlier this week:

Car companies play outsized roles in racing relative to other sponsors. For example, Toyota was the biggest national TV advertiser during NASCAR races in 2023 at $3.8 million, according to iSpot.tv. NASCAR has been in discussions with Honda to persuade the Japanese giant to become its fourth manufacturer, joining Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford, and Laukes mentioned Hyundai as another brand that could see NASCAR as a viable marketing platform.

Prospective car companies have told NASCAR they will join only if NASCAR can offer a compelling narrative for consumers with hybrid cars or sustainable fuels, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Why not have a hybrid system in the Next Gen cars for getting on and off pit road? It works in IMSA and could make the sport more interesting for fans.

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See, I’m not crazy.

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Parsko
Parsko
18 days ago

s
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Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
18 days ago

Here’s a question. What will Chevy be running? They no longer make the Camaro or the Malibu, the Corvette doesn’t work for NASCAR, so is the plan to throw a Trax on the track or what? I know the cars in NASCAR have no real world similarity to the cars rolling out of the factory, but they always share the name and it seems Chevy no longer has a car to run there.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
19 days ago

When Honda makes a US full sized, body-on-frame pickup truck and SUV, Honda should join NASCAR.

Until then, they won’t get full value from their investment, so it’s a waste of money.

David Hoskins
David Hoskins
19 days ago

Honda pretty much was IndyCar for a number of years. If they exit or pull back from that commitment then I’m fairly certain they’ll wind up in NASCAR. I don’t know if I am necessarily in favor of that or not. As boring as Indy can be i don’t want it to die.

Hyundai makes more sense. There only racing exposure in the US is ARA. I wager a good number of people had to use Google to find out what ARA racing is…

There have been noises about Nissan sniffing about for years but it never seems to come to anything.

Any of those manufacturers could whip up a pushrod V8 without breaking a sweat so I don’t see that as an impediment. The only sticking point I can see is getting a top tier team on board. Hendrick will always be with Chevy, Gibbs isn’t leaving Toyota, and Penske is married to Ford.

SHR is being broken up or acquired (not that they are top tier anymore), RFK isn’t going to leave Ford.

If you look to 1A teams Trackhouse and 23XI aren’t going to leave Chevy or Toyota. Front Row maybe, but calling them 1A feels a bit generous.

NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
17 days ago
Reply to  David Hoskins

“ The only sticking point I can see is getting a top tier team on board.”.

Does Andretti still have SPAC money laying around?

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