In a motorsport that has millions of television viewers every week in the USA – NASCAR is undoubtedly an incredibly popular spectator sport. It boasts cars that can reach speeds in excess of 200mph, some very close and talented driving, and plenty of off-track action. It’s no secret that Brits are more clued up about motorsports such as Formula 1 and MotoGP. However, how does the American founded Stock Car racing translate across the pond to the UK?
CLICKON’s NASCAR editor Lucy Atkinson sat down with the founder of the “UK NASCAR Fan” group on Facebook Kevin Gravenell, to get a better idea of how the renowned American motorsport translates to British fans.
How did you get into NASCAR?
It was a combination of “Days of Thunder” video games, the odd Daytona 500 race shown on TV back in the day, and a Ricky Rudd “Tide” diecast that my dad brought me when we had a family weekend away in Great Yarmouth. Talk about random places to get your first NASCAR diecast! So, Ricky Rudd naturally became my first favourite driver in NASCAR because of that, and the rest was history.
What inspired you to start the NASCAR Fans UK group on Facebook?
I have had the group for 8 years now and took it over from someone else who started it. When I took it over, it only had 47 members. Now it has grown to over 4000! My pure love for NASCAR and passion keeps me going and inspires me to do what I do with it today. I have had a lot of help from Premier Sports too. Premier Sports is a channel in the UK that shows the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races and a TV programme called “NASCAR America.” I also made a sponsorship deal with them, and in return they made a TV advert for the group which gets played during the races. That’s also helped a lot of people to find the group – so some of the credit goes to Premier as well!
Did you ever think that you’d reach the number of members that you’ve obtained?
You know… I never really knew how many I could get. I mean I’m the sort of guy that – now I’ve reached 4000 members – I want 5000 members! That’s just how I do things. Obviously, I had my part to play, but some of the credit goes to Premier Sports. Not only that, but certain race teams carry the group’s logo, and members also share the group on their timelines. That all helps to get members as well, so it’s not all me. I know and like to give credit where credit is due.
What can new members of the group expect to see from the group (For example: news, race chats, etc) and what promotions are there for the UK NASCAR scene?
A lot of members who join often say things like “wow I didn’t realise there were this many UK fans!” People from the UK often think that they are the only ones, so straight away they have the comfort of knowing they are with like-minded people. In terms of what members can expect, there are: Race chats for each race – often exceeding 1000 comments on the post, race pictures, news, videos, and information about where to watch it (e.g. Premier Sports). Finally, a lot of us met up at the American Speedfest Weekend at Brands Hatch every year for the Whelen Euro NASCAR series races, so we are very friendly.
Has there been an increase in the UK NASCAR following that you’ve noticed? If so, why do you think that is?
I personally think there has, and I think it’s down to UK-based events like the Euro NASCAR Series which meets people’s curiosity about the original NASCAR in America. Having a dedicated group like ours helps, and having a channel like Premier also helps. No disrespect to the series but I think people are finally waking up and realising that there is more out there than just Formula 1 and it’s often a lot more exciting too!
What would you say has been the biggest success that the group has achieved?
There have been many successes. Such as: Getting the attention of Premier Sports, sponsoring race teams including Euro NASCAR’s UK pickup trucks and late models Clio cup cars, doing promotions for game developers in the group, having great merchandise partners like Road2race Models and Race gear UK, having articles written such as this one, and even having my own merchandise for the group. I’m lucky to have done all those things and achieving 4000 awesome members who make the group what it is. I just do the “donkey work” so to speak.
Many people in the UK make the point that NASCAR is just “drivers turning left around an oval track” or that “F1 makes more sense.” What would you say to contradict that?
I would say NASCAR does road courses as well and that every series in the world goes round in a circle to an extent – it’s called a lap! There’s an unbelievably large amount of people who have only watched Formula 1, but then I show them NASCAR and they go ‘wow, this is way more exciting.’ They’re literally hooked from then on.
What do you think are the biggest reasons that NASCAR isn’t flourishing quite as well here in the UK?
We have a lack of oval tracks in this part of the world, so that doesn’t help, but people are waking up to it. As I mentioned before in an earlier question, people are realising that there is more than just Formula 1 out there. I don’t even mean just NASCAR either because there are numerous series. I also think Euro NASCAR needs to go to Rockingham here in the UK because it could be promoted as the “European Daytona 500.” I reckon that it has the potential to be big if it happened.
Lots of people aren’t aware that there’s the Euro NASCAR Whelen Series. Will the group promote that and will we see the Facebook group being represented in Brands Hatch in June?
Yes, yes and yes. We always have done, and every year we have sponsored a Euro NASCAR, or one of the pickup trucks that are racing there. We even have members who own NASCAR’s and who take take them as show cars so that the fans can see and sit in them. So all of that gets promoted in the group and people often post their own pictures too
Finally – what’s next for the group?
More of the same! If it ain’t broke, why fix it – right?
So there we have it. For such a comparatively small country, the UK does have a fan base. Thanks to the likes of social media and the internet, that fanbase now has the ability to continue growing with help from groups like Kevin’s group and the sense of community it offers. It seems like there’s plenty more to come from the group as it continues to provide everything that a UK NASCAR Fan could possibly want in order to quench their need for a NASCAR fix. Now, UK fans have the freedom and means to perhaps experience their NASCAR fandom from a little bit closer to home.