(ED--We took a whole lot of photos at the Can-Am 500 and rather than load them all into one story, we are breaking it up in to three separate entries. The first couple of entries are pre-race photos and the last one during and after the race.)
Side-by-side and ATV manufacturers have long been making concerted efforts to match man and machine … you know put their marketing efforts in the right arena, so to speak, to attract folks to their products.
Kawasaki does it with its support of the Professional Bull Riders circuit, Polaris has supported the American Farm Bureau Federation and Arctic Cat has sponsored Tony Stewart’s sprint car racing series. And the list goes on. All those off-road companies think their potential buyers are the fans of those circuits and races and organizations.
But perhaps no powersports company (or at least very, very few) has made the commitment to put its marketing might (and off-road vehicles) in front of the right audience as has Can-Am in its sponsorship of NASCAR’s race at the Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, AZ, a suburb of Phoenix in the west side of the Valley of the Sun.
The Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway is definitely a big splash in a big market for BRP and its off-road division. Not only does Can-Am have title sponsorship of what is dubbed the semi-finals in the NASCAR race schedule, the company also sponsors the Go FAS Racing team and its racer Matt DiBenedetto, the driver of the Go FAS Racing No. 32 Can-Am/Kappa Ford Fusion team.
Additionally, Can-Am also sponsors the Go FAS Racing Canada team, which just had its best season ever in 2017 with Alex Labbé, driver of the No. 32 Ford Fusion in the Canadian NASCAR series being crowned 2017 NASCAR Pinty’s champion.
Just how big is this sponsorship? Officials claim the Can-Am 500 had more than 2.2 million viewers, which is in addition to the 51,000 fans (a sell-out at PIR) onsite who took in the racing action that saw No. 20 Matt Kenseth break a 51-event winless streak for the 39th victory of his career. Go FAS Racing’s DiBenedetto finished in the No. 27 spot, up from his No. 30 qualifying position. The races results and story can be found here: www.nascar.com.
The reason for focusing their energy and money on NASCAR is fairly simple, according to Can-Am. “NASCAR has a large fan base in the USA and we believe there is an important overlap with the powersports fan base,” the company said. “This is an efficient way to reach existing and potential customers.”
The company added, “Our overarching goal is to increase awareness about the Can-Am brand and its products, mostly in the USA and Canada. We do this with the naming rights which gives visibility to our brand throughout North America and beyond, signage at the race track, the presence of several of our dealers onsite, our booth showcasing our products at the Can-Am 500, the Can-Am Duel at Daytona in February and many other NASCAR races during the year.”
Dirt Toys Magazine was invited to attend this year’s Can-Am 500, our second time attending a NASCAR event with BRP. It was certainly a weekend to remember.
Our pre-race festivities were nearly as exciting as the race itself, although it would be hard to top the last several dozen laps when Chase Elliott was working hard to finish in the top spot so he could qualify for the series championship next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Our pre-race festivities included a couple of laps in the pace car around the 1-mile track (we put a video of our ride up on the Dirt Toys Facebook page) and following that we got to walk along the track and see all the racers’ set ups at trackside in the pits. We don’t know many off-roaders who wouldn’t give their eye teeth for a tool box set up like NASCAR teams have. Of course, they have a few more bucks than the rest of us do.
We also got to tour the garage area prior to the race. That was also an eye-opening experience although all the race cars were on the track by the time we toured the garage area. We did get within arm’s length of a handful of cars as the race teams were pushing them out to the pit area while we were waiting for our pace car ride. That was a lot of money rolling by us.
After our garage area tour we hung around on the track with a few thousand other race fans during the racer introduction.
By the time the start of the race rolled around, the stage was set for a race that would determine who would—and wouldn’t—qualify for the championship in Miami. As the race wore on, the excitement grew as Kenseth fought of a challenge by Chase Elliott, who needed to win to qualify for the Miami race. Elliott and Denny Hamlin rubbed some paint, continuing a feud the two have been fanning this race season. Hamlin, who led 193 laps of the race, blew a tire and crashed against the Turn 3 wall after the bumping, which got the crowd even more into the race.
NASCAR races are an exciting atmosphere as it is, but being a special guest of Can-Am allowed us to get behind the scenes and experience this 312-lap race in a way not many folks get to. That included being able to sit in the Bobby Allison Grandstand Suites between Turn 1 and Turn Two. That gave us a bird’s eye view of the track and provided a clear view of all the racing.
BRP, parent company of Can-Am, announced in August, 2016, it was renewing its NASCAR sponsorship for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. So maybe we’ll get another chance to visit Phoenix and take it all in again.
In announcing the renewed sponsorship, the agreement includes collaboration with the Go FAS No.32 NASCAR Sprint Cup series racing team, in association with the Kappa and Cyclops Gear brands. The agreement provides BRP’s Can-Am brand with the opportunity to sponsor 36 races, 13 as primary sponsor.
The sponsorship includes four title races—the Can-Am Duel at Daytona and the Can-Am 500 in Phoenix for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series in the U.S., and the Can-Am 200 in Toronto and Les 50 tours Can-Am in Trois-Rivières on the NASCAR Pinty’s circuit in Canada.