Automotive racing is big business in the U.S. and around the world.
Just look at the millions of fans who follow NASCAR and the thousands of Jeff Gordon and Walker Evans wannabes spinning their wheels learning to drive at grassroots racing venues.
Racing also is big business for tire manufacturers. Most of the majors are involved in the sport to varying degrees-whether it's supplying tires to Formula 1 or NASCAR teams or providing rubber for events such as rock crawling, drag racing, drifting, dirt track, Indy Car and others.
While motorsports seems to be a natural avenue for tire companies to promote and test their products, it's not so clear cut how tire dealers can cash in on racing's popularity and how it can rev up tire sales at the local level.
A recent un-scientific poll on the Tire Business Web site shed some light on this.
When asked whether their dealership was involved in motorsports, nearly 50 percent of the 57 respondents said ``no'' and had no plans to be, either.
Another 17.5 percent said they would like to but didn't know where to start. The remaining third said they either were directly involved in local racing activities or were involved through tire makers' programs.
Even motorsports professionals acknowledge the indirect correlation racing has with tire sales.
Al Speyer, executive director of motorsports for Bridgestone/Firestone, describes the importance of motorsports primarily as one of goodwill and brand exposure. His point is that if consumers aren't in the market for tires, ``just because a race comes to town doesn't mean they're going to go out and buy tires.''
That's not to say racing can't energize tire sales and boost store traffic, because it does. It's just not necessarily a direct cause and effect.
So what should dealers do to tap into the racing craze effectively? One suggestion is to challenge your tire supplier(s) to help you find the right approach for your dealership, whether that's joining in with a manufacturer's program or going it alone. They're the experts-consult with them.
Also understand that it takes more than throwing money at the effort. You've got to be involved, say dealers who have tapped into the racing scene successfully.
Like the advice given to dealers planning to enter the custom-wheel and high-performance tire business, find someone on staff who has a love of motorsports, doesn't mind spending weekends at the track and can convey that enthusiasm to customers as well as dealership employees. After all, just like racing, it has to be a team effort.
There's no doubt about racing's allure and its rabid fan base. The $64,000 question for dealers: Can you find a way to transfer that passion to the benefit of your business?