WTF?! lecture focuses on connection between NASCAR and communication


Not only is NASCAR a widely popular southern sport, it’s also a tool for learning about business and communication practices.

Angie Jerome, associate professor of communications, explained the correlation between stock cars and communication in Potter College’s third installment of the “WTF?!” lecture series.

Jerome’s discussion, titled “From Moonshine to Millions: The Communicative Evolution of Stock Car Racing,” took place in the TV lounge of McCormack Hall at 3 p.m. Thursday. There were about 20 attendees for the discussion.

Jerome’s passion for racing started at a child. Her father raced cars in smaller circuits in the Louisville area, and she remembers watching the first nationally fully televised NASCAR race in 1979.

“I’m sure it looks odd that a woman with her doctorate would love NASCAR,” Jerome said.

She loved racing so much that she wrote and published a paper about image reconstruction of her favorite NASCAR driver, Tony Stewart.

“It was after the paper was published that I realized there wasn’t much public academic scholarship about NASCAR or sports in general,” Jerome said.

She then showed a video clip of NASCAR hall-of-fame racer Junior Johnson, who learned how to drive by running moonshine to customers for his dad.

“I made more money runnin’ shine than I did racing,” Johnson recalled in the clip.

Johnson later became a popular racer and eventually one of the most successful car owners in racing history.

From there, Jerome transitioned to where NASCAR and its racing affiliates are today. Jerome discussed the cost of sponsoring a racecar, linking car sponsorship to the national economic standing.

“Drivers are now getting multiple corporations to sponsor them because corporations can’t afford to sponsor one driver for the season,” Jerome said.

She also spoke about the importance of marketing in racing, citing that NASCAR fans are three times more brand loyal to sponsors than a brand’s competitor.

“There are about 15 million people who watch the Daytona 500 each year,” Jerome said. “There are several million tuning into each race. That’s just as competitive as the NFL.”

She closed the discussion by talking about her latest projects — image repair studies for famous athletes, namely NASCAR drivers.

“What I’ve come to find out is that most people either don’t care or don’t remember when an athlete messes up, as long as he’s winning,” Jerome said.

Lia Madias, a senior communications major, came to the discussion because she was interested in furthering hearing about a class topic with Jerome.

“I’ve had her for two or three classes,” Madias said. “I love Dr. Jerome. She’s so funny and you always learn something.”

NASCAR fan and WKU student Cain Alvey came for the discussion’s topic.

“I thought it was very good, especially for someone who wasn’t introduced to NASCAR like I am,” he said. “I like NASCAR, so I really enjoyed hearing what all she had to say.”

The next “WTF?!” installment is “Happiness Isn’t True Happiness Unless There is a Violin Playing Goat” with the music department’s Dr. Ching-Yi Lin. It’s next Thursday, Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. in McCormack Hall. Jennifer Markin, “WTF?!” coordinator with Potter College Dean’s Office, said Dr. Lin will bring around 20 violins so participants can experiment with them.