Last week was the beginning of the new season for NASCAR at Daytona Beach, Fla.
As always, it was a weeklong festival of speed and American iron. The week concludes with the running of the Daytona 500, a race that is filled with all the folklore of American heroes and Detroit automobiles.
Anyone who follows NASCAR realizes that they will be running Fords and Chevys and Dodges at the track.
Although those race cars look like stock cars and belong to the companies they represent, they definitely are not "stock."
They are fascinating, high-tech, state-of-the-art race cars. The engineering that goes into them probably could put a man back on the moon.
The cars are covered with names and logos of sponsoring companies that have spent millions of dollars to be part of the sport of stock car racing.
Today's sponsor is a smart, marketing-savvy company that has looked at the sport's demographics and realized that NASCAR reaches the right audience for its product or service, in the stands and on radio and TV.
But this year there have been two big changes.
The biggest is that after many years of being the primary sponsor of the series, the Winston Cup wisely has been retired. Although the effectiveness of promoting cigarettes and stock cars at the same time may be questionable, it was long past time to replace this primary sponsor.
Nextel is now the series sponsor, and it will take a while to get used to this new name.
Also this year, Toyota has some entries in stock car racing.
Today, Toyota is racing specially built trucks in the NASCAR truck series, but there is no doubt that before too long we will see Toyota automobiles racing against Fords and Chevys and Dodges in the Daytona 500. Nextel and Toyota are now a natural part of the American scene.
Still, stock car racing is pure Detroit.
Someone once said that the first race in America was 10 minutes after the second car was built.
It is a uniquely American sport that is as popular as can be.