Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fighting to Be Noticed IMSA Seeking Place amid Racing Juggernauts

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fighting to Be Noticed IMSA Seeking Place amid Racing Juggernauts

Article excerpt

DAYTONA BEACH -- The joke about IMSA racing tells the story of

one of the nation's more underexposed and underrated sports.

NASCAR fans know who the drivers are. IMSA drivers know who the

fans are.

Jacksonville's Hurley Haywood, one of the most famous sports

car drivers in the world, will tell you he can't be seen in

Europe without fans hounding his every move. But he can walk

down the street in Jacksonville and not be noticed.

The problem, more than anything, is a lack of exposure. Going

into the start of today's Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona -- the

unofficial start of the IMSA season -- things may begin to turn

around.

New IMSA ownership has led to renewed optimism. Again.

"It has to get better," says IMSA star Wayne Taylor, who led

the winning team in last year's Rolex 24. "There's only one way

to go."

Roberto Muller and Andy Evans, IMSA's new owners, are taking a

different approach with an eye on a racing circuit that was once

in a similar position. NASCAR, which in the 1980s was seen as a

regional sport, turned the corner in the 1990s with creative

marketing and promotional ideas. That, Evans says, is the road

IMSA needs to follow.

Instead of appealing to a certain sports car racing fan,

they're trying to grab the casual racing fan and expand. They've

implemented an aggressive marketing plan and are in the process

of working out a national cable television deal.

The most important change may be the formation of an advisory

group of team owners and drivers -- something IMSA would never

have done in the past. The teams' input, from racing to

marketing, is part of the day-to-day process.

"These days, you can't sit around and hope things will happen,"

Evans said. "You've got to go out and make things happen. This

is one of the most exciting sports in the world, and it's our

job to show everyone. …

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