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From checkered flag to red carpet: Local angles to big weekend

Sunday’s double-header of the Daytona 500 and the 85th annual Academy Awards isn’t just for sports and showbiz writers; the big spectator events offer plenty of spin-off angles and scope for business journalists of all stripes.

BradJalina Oscars red carpet

Stars and drivers are off-to-the-races this weekend. Photo: Oscar.com

Even if you aren’t near Florida or Hollywood, you can tap in to some related action.  Obviously viewing parties related to the multi-hour shows are a popular focus for journalists; racing- and movie-themed party supplies and provisions may not be at Super Bowl level but hosts do tend to organize around the race, the awards show or both, and stores cater to them.  Bars, restaurants, even fundraising galas benefit from the 500, too.

But beyond partying, these two events celebrate industries that reach into just about every market, and you can have some fun finding local ties to the speeday or the sound stage.   Related to the Oscars, check into the movie theater and cinema industries and the local film-making scene, or even the local market and employment prospects (TV commericals and the like) for aspiring actors.  Acting scams (fake talent scouts and such) and even bogus film investment schemes are not unheard of it you like that angle.

For a little more octane, some racing-related ideas include:

How local racing fares.  Aside from superspeedways like those in Indianapolis and Daytona, local venues still abound.  From small country dragways to substantial regional ovals, chances are there are one or more tracks in your market.  The online National Speedway Directory can help you locate area facilities, from go-kart tracks on up, and it provides helpful background information about various forms of racing, as well.  You can check in with track operators and with officials at sanctioning bodies like the Sports Car Club of America about the state of local and amateur racing.   What sort of employment does it generate, and what sort of annual spending do local enthusiasts do on their vehicles, club activities and more?  Check with area academic and business economists or lenders and insurers, who might be able to ballpark the economic impact of the local racing scene.  Does it generate any tourism or other business for hospitality businesses, repair shops and the like?

Women and racing.  In light of Danica Patrick’s historic pole position (lead starting position) for the Daytona 500, the first time a woman has been fastest in qualifying attempts for the race, you might seek out women-owned and operated racing teams, vendors or other affiliated businesses.  Resources like Female Racing News and the Womens Motorsports Foundation for leads; your area’s branch of the federal Small Business Association and business incubators may also be able to point you to women-owned businesses serving the automotive and motorsports industries.

Performance driving schools.  Here’s an informal directory of high-performance and racing schools nationwide; if you find one located near you, a story about the business model, how the economy has affected demand, corporate spending on high-performance driving training and other business elements could be an interesting tie-in to race weekend.

Suppliers and vendors.  From oil filters to fire safety equipment, the professional and amateur motorsports industry consumes a lot of materials.  You might be surprised to find local companies that cater to far-away race teams and tracks; check out, for example, the exhibitor list of expos such as the Performance Racing Industry trade show, or contact the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association for pointers to members near you.

Here’s a story from National Defense about specialty machinists and other racing-industry suppliers eyeing the defense industry for more work  — a notion probably squelched by looming cuts from sequestration, but still worth a look from small-business and technology angles.


In Beats, Featured, Green | Sustainability, Media | Advertising, Retail | Lifestyle, Sports, Story ideas.

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