Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Gaytona Speedway: One of the Fastest-Growing Spectator Sports in America, NASCAR Racing Also Counts Many Gay Fans in Its Stands. (Pride 2003)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Gaytona Speedway: One of the Fastest-Growing Spectator Sports in America, NASCAR Racing Also Counts Many Gay Fans in Its Stands. (Pride 2003)

Article excerpt

The speed. The cars. The drivers. The crashes. The pit crew. The competition. The drams. Herein lies the appeal of NASCAR races for fans everywhere. But this is no longer your redneck cousin's lowbrow entertainment. "Perception of the sport is based on the reality of 25 years ago," says Bill Doyle, vice president of Performance Research, a Newport, R.I.-based marketing research firm that focuses on corporate sponsorship. Today, Doyle says, more and more people, including gay men and lesbians, are embracing NASCAR--an acronym for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing--as a sport to follow.

Doyle, who grew up in a family of NASCAR fans in New Jersey, now tracks the moods and tastes of sports fans for corporate sponsors. According to statistics compiled by his company from industry experts, NASCAR's Winston Cup division has the second-largest fan base in the country, after the National Football League. In 2000, NASCAR merchandise revenues topped $1.26 billion. And, Doyle adds, each year about three times more fans flock to the Daytona 500 than to the Super Bowl.

Furthermore, Nielsen ratings show that Winston Cup races draw larger viewing audiences than most professional hockey, basketball, and baseball games. The nearly 40 races every year, which are broadcast on Fox and NBC as well as cable's TNT, draw a rating of over 5 on average, representing about 6 million households.

But NASCAR as a gay sport? What's the appeal?

"The drama," Doyle says. "It's just like a soap opera. There are great stories and there are fascinating characters who reappear each week to continue the conflict and change the story line. People tune in each week to see what's going to happen to their favorite driver."

And speaking of the drivers, have you seen them recently? In the past 15 years, the average age of NASCAR drivers has dropped considerably, from middle-aged grease monkeys to polished men in their 20s. Think Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder. Think Dale Earnhardt Jr. Think Jeff Gordon.

Gordon is a regular on the "DeVine 9 1/2," a fantasy team of the sexiest NASCAR drivers featured on the Web site Gaytona.com, which receives more than 9,000 hits a month. "He's a real cutie," says drag queen and Atlanta public-access TV personality Betty Jack DeVine, who runs the site and whose real name is David Goldman. …

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