If they are not, they are asleep at the wheel and will one day run into Formula 1 in this country.
If you don’t believe me, consider that billionaire Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross – whose subsidiary, South Florida Motorsports, on Sunday funded the hugely popular Miami Grand Prix – is poised to make a lot of money in ticket sales for the inaugural Miami F1 event. Made over an entire season in Dolphins home matches. Indeed, business insiders say the economic impact of Super Bowl-like proportions is being created this weekend with an estimated 300,000 fans, celebrities, tourists and corporate executives converging in South Florida to drink, party and watch sleek Mercedes and Ferraris around the 3.4-track mile near Hard Rock Stadium at over 200 mph.
I’m not saying the Miami Grand Prix will have higher ratings than NASCAR’s Throwback Weekend in Darlington on Sunday when the Racing League races on network television (NASCAR was on Fox Sports 1; Formula 1 was on ABC), but that day could come more quickly than we can. NASCAR thought it was possible.
F1’s rise in America can be directly attributed to the popular Netflix series: Formula 1: Drive to Survive – a show that has been described as a “soap opera documentary series” that gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at Formula 1 drivers, teams, cars and racing.
Quite frankly, F1 has become great globally while NASCAR, although it is evolving and trying hard to change its image, is still considered by many to be the good boy sport of the South.
The last F1 race in Austin attracted a record 400,000 fans, nearly 70% of whom were first-time attendees. Meanwhile, the Miami Grand Prix suite and pre-sale tickets sold out in less than a day with the cheapest ticket at $600 and the most expensive tickets fetching $30,000 on the secondary market.
The Miami Grand Prix has become a huge moneymaker that has transcended the sport and is now covered in trade publications. According to Sports Business Journal, SeatGeek – a popular online ticket buying and selling site – reports that the Miami Grand Prix is the most sought-after auto race ever tracked, with an average resale price of $2,414 per ticket as of last week. .
If NASCAR’s Daytona 500 is the “Great American Race,” the Miami Grand Prix is the “Great American Phenomena.”
According to another trade site, CNBC, the best hotels in Miami charge more than $100,000 per night for their best suites. Chefs serve special dinners for $3,000 a plate, while nightclubs bring in top DJs with tables for $100,000 a night.
“This is going to be the biggest week in Miami history,” said Jeff Zalznick, managing partner of Major Food Group, which sold its Miami Beach dinner for $3,000 per person. “We have never seen a request like this. It will be a very interesting experience.”
The thing is that F1 not only attracts wealthy airline passengers and beautiful people, but also attracts the attention of ordinary sports fans. Case in point: Two of my best friends in Orlando became Formula 1 fans because of Netflix.
Pat Lynch, a rock ‘n’ roll celebrity at WJRR in Orlando, may be the biggest sports fan I know. This guy watches every sport you can imagine on TV and has always been a huge fan of NASCAR. But when I put him on the spot two days ago and asked him if he was a bigger fan of NASCAR or F1, his response was clear.
“I have to be honest, I tend to be in Formula One,” Lynch replied. “The Netflix series has pushed me to the top. I was just a regular fan of F1 before, but now I know the names of the drivers and the teams and what goes into all of this. It’s intriguing. It really is.”
Mark Daniels, longtime voice of UCF Radio, tells a similar story.
“My wife and I have become huge fans,” Daniels told me that day during our radio show. “During the pandemic, my wife and I flipped on Drive to Survive and got totally hooked. Now, we’re huge fans. We both have our favorite team, our favorite driver, I’ve bought her F1 merchandise and now we’re looking forward to taking a trip to Europe and doing it around being able to go to F1 racing. We were looking forward to going to Miami this weekend, but the tickets we were looking for were like $3,000 apiece. I was like, “Honey, I love you, but we don’t!”
It should come as no surprise that NASCAR recently revealed its own Netflix documentary series – Race: Bubba Wallace – about Wallace’s journey as the sport’s only black driver during the racially charged 2020-21 seasons.
Just keep in mind that this is the start of NASCAR’s special survival drive as the sport puts the pedal on metal, races into the future and tries to block F1’s master plan to become the number one choice in meeting America’s need for speed.