Following a successful one-week trial launch in August 2016, NASCAR is rolling out the next generation of its Kids Drive NASCAR initiative that will pit kids against three NASCAR drivers through a series of social media challenges. The challenges will take place over three consecutive weeks beginning at Pocono Raceway and Iowa Speedway on July 29 and continuing at Watkins Glen International and Michigan International Speedway.
The intent of the Kids Drive NASCAR program is to engage the sport’s youngest fans on and off the track. Last year’s program announced that beginning in 2017, all tracks would offer free admission to kids 12 and under for all NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races.
Said Peter Jung, NASCAR’s managing director of brand and consumer marketing, “Attracting more families and kids to the sport and getting them to tracks is such a common priority with everyone involved in the sport—the tracks and the sponsors and the teams and certainly NASCAR as the governing body.”
Jung went on to explain that while there are many different ways to engage young fans and families, incorporating drivers is at the top of the list. “If you ask [our drivers] to do anything with kids, whether it’s signing autographs or partnering with us at different events at schools, it’s the easiest thing to get drivers to be on board with because they love interacting with kids.”
This year NASCAR has turned to three drivers—Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Joey Logano—to serve as the faces of the Kids Drive NASCAR initiative. Each will host a timed challenge during which kids can upload videos of themselves on social media attempting to break the drivers’ records. Drivers will then share the best of these fan videos on their own media channels such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
For example, Busch will have 18 seconds (he drives the number 18 car) to throw objects into three weighted cups situated at arm’s length. Larson’s challenge is to stack 10 cups in a pyramid and take them down. Finally, Logano will have 35 seconds—representing his fastest qualifying time at Michigan International Speedway—to flip and land as many bottles upright as possible. When asked how he did, Logano admitted, “[I] quickly learned it is harder than it looks! I think the kids are going to beat me!”
Logano reminisced about the time he met a superstar driver as a kid at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which was the closest track to Logano’s childhood home in Connecticut. “That’s probably the most fun, is getting to talk to the kids, because I always remember back to the time when I met Jeff Gordon when I was seven, and how cool that was. So I guess in my mind I always think about what that meant to me and [assume] that it’s that cool to other kids when they get to meet their childhood hero or racecar driver.”
In addition to the social media challenges, kids who attend races at the three tracks will be able to go on behind-the-scenes garage tours, be featured guests at crew chief meetings, and pose for photos with drivers. There will also be different on-site kids vs. drivers contests, such as stacking the lug nuts that hold the tires onto the cars.
Whether kids participate at the track or at home, NASCAR is hoping this new three-week initiative shows a different side of the sport to young fans. “It’s just a fun way for kids anywhere to compete with drivers and for the drivers to have a little bit of fun with young fans,” said Jung.
To check out these three challenges and compete against the drivers, go here and upload your video. Or post to social media with #KidsDriveNASCAR and #Promotion.
Photographs by (from top) Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR/Getty Images; Michael Nichols