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Thanks, but no thanks

NASCAR's efforts to win Gotham fails to excite many

Posted: Thursday November 30, 2006 11:48AM; Updated: Thursday November 30, 2006 1:34PM
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To many New Yorkers, NASCAR's promotional drive in Times Square was little more than another cause for traffic.
To many New Yorkers, NASCAR's promotional drive in Times Square was little more than another cause for traffic.
Nick Laham/Getty Images for NASCAR
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NASCAR keeps trying to race its way into the hearts of New Yorkers, putting on one magnificent show after another. Unfortunately, the busy citizens of the city that never sleeps can only muster a collective yawn.

In sort of a reverse from the 1960s Green Acres television show, NASCAR decided almost three decades ago that the best way to sell its product was on Madison Avenue. Well, close to Madison Avenue. And pretty close to Broadway, too, which is part of the problem. NASCAR's acts are too staged.

Whether it's because New Yorkers are too jaded, too busy or too much of a blue state in a predominately red-state sport, NASCAR -- despite its best efforts -- has yet to make much of an impact in the country's biggest city.

NASCAR holds its biggest party each year in Manhattan. The sanctioning body has held its annual awards banquet in Gotham City 25 times, with this Friday's event being NASCAR's 26th visit to the ritzy Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

Over the years, as NASCAR has grown, so has the season-ending event. In fact, it's now a multi-day affair called Champions Week filled with a plethora of NASCAR-created traditions. And while these events and their national exposure have helped NASCAR grow beyond its southern roots, they seem just another sideshow in the hectic circus that is New York City.

Part of Champions Week is the Pit Stop Tour, where NASCAR's show cars are on display at many popular New York locations throughout the week.

"Victory Lap" has been part of the annual affair since the Chase for the Championship format was introduced three years ago. Held around Times Square, the promotion begins with a live television appearance on ABC's Good Morning America. The 10 drivers that qualified for the Chase, and thus finished in the top-10 for the season, drive their show cars from the GMA studios to the ESPN Zone restaurant. There, they meet with sponsors and media.

Afterwards, the champion poses for photos in Times Square, with his image and car up on the famous big screen that dominates one side of the square. This tradition started long before the Chase, and seems to be a favorite among the champions, an honest thrill. This year, of course, Jimmie Johnson got the honor.

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