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History Channel on board to sponsor Nationwide Series race at Charlotte

By Tripp Mickle
Special to the Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

History Channel has signed on to title sponsor Charlotte Motor Speedway's spring Nationwide Series race, giving it a chance to show its car-centered, reality show Top Gear on the nation's largest video board.

The one-year agreement, which sources valued at slightly more than $1 million, means the race will be known as the Top Gear 300.

History Channel executives said the deal was driven by the demographic fit it saw between Top Gear and NASCAR, and the opportunity to show Top Gear and other History Channel programming on the speedway's new, 80-foot-tall by 200-foot-wide Panasonic LED board.

"We're a content company, and we love having our content on big-screen TV," said Chris Meador, History Channel's vice president of marketing. "Now we have the opportunity to be on the biggest screen in the world. We have a chance to create content that's not just a logo but an experience for consumers at the race."

The title sponsorship is the first significant deal the speedway has closed since announcing plans to construct the video board last September. The speedway and Panasonic, which is working with Wunderman Motorsports, are selling advertising on the board and sharing the resulting revenue. Dan Farrell, Charlotte Motor Speedway senior vice president of corporate sales, said they have sold a third of the inventory available this year. He declined to name the advertisers.

"With the biggest TV screen in the world going into the backstretch, that adds that much more excitement this year," said Charlotte Motor Speedway President Marcus Smith. "Things are continuing to look positive."

The Top Gear 300 won't be the first time History Channel has used NASCAR as a promotional platform. In 2007, the network did a series of track deals in order to promote the launch of its show Ice Road Truckers. When it decided last month to pick up a second season of Top Gear, which shows professional driver Tanner Foust and two other hosts undertaking a series of vehicular challenges, it looked to NASCAR again.

Meador said the network is still making its activation plans for the race. It will likely activate at track and also develop content for the video board.

With the History Channel deal, Charlotte Motor Speedway has sold out of its title sponsorship inventory for 2011.

Tripp Mickle is a reporter with SportsBusiness Journal.