The Daytona 500 is set for Sunday, and executives from Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota racing divisions say nothing fires up an automaker's fan base and boosts its image among consumers more than a NASCAR victory.
But even without victory at Daytona, a brand gets exposure on one of TV's biggest stages. NASCAR's reach is second only to the National Football League's, so NASCAR is a prime launchpad, said Jamie Allison, director of Ford North America Motorsports.
Last year's Daytona 500 drew 13.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. In 2012, Sprint Cup races on broadcast TV averaged 7.3 million viewers, Nielsen found.
"Those that are prepared to go out and win consistently and win championships are those that reap the benefits of the attention and appeal of the fans," Allison said this month during the Autoweek Racing Conference. "We have fans that are emotionally connected to what happens on the track."