State Department revs up NASCAR Diplomacy

November 12, 2010


Foggy Bottom, rev your engines.

The U.S. State Department, for the first time ever, is turning to NASCAR to help get America’s message across.

The department said 11 young motor enthusiasts from Bahrain and Qatar will participate in the inaugural “motorsports exchange” this month, including a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in North Carolina and a stop in Miami for races at the Homestead-Miami speedway.

The young delegates from the Gulf, who are all involved in auto racing as drivers, mechanics or car or track performance technicians, will receive briefings on “NASCAR research and development, track safety, crew diversity and community and family involvement,” the department said in a press note.

The initiative is part of the State Department’s “SportsUnited” program, which aims to show how success in athletics can translate into success in other aspects of life.

Along with sending U.S. sports stars overseas, SportsUnited brings foreign delegations ranging from Nepalese basketball players to Russian swimmers to the United States.

NASCAR, which stands for the National Association for Stock Car Racing, is one of the most popular U.S. sports with an estimated base of 75 million fans — although track attendance and TV ratings have fallen this year, spurring the group to seek more promotion and marketing deals.

The small, rich nations of the Gulf could provide receptive audiences. Abu Dhabi, one of the region’s oil-rich states, recently opened a Ferrari theme park right next to its new racing circuit, where the second Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is due to take place.

Photo credit: Reuters/Steve Crisp (Britain’s Mark Powell and Tim Ansell drive their Honda during the UAE Desert Challenge on the opening day of the final round of Cross Country Rally World Cup near Arjan, October 29, 2007)

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