Could Sponsor Drive for Josh Wise Redefine Driver-Fan Relationship for NASCAR?

Joseph SheltonContributor IIIMarch 27, 2014

Josh Wise will pilot the Dogecoin Chevy at Talladega on May 4.
Josh Wise will pilot the Dogecoin Chevy at Talladega on May 4.Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Thanks to the recent campaign held by subreddits r/dogecoin and r/NASCAR, Phil Parsons Racing driver Josh Wise will be driving a unique entry at Talladega this spring.

To reiterate, Dogecoin is an online cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin, worth a fraction of a cent in USD. Although a popular use of the Dogecoin is tipping your peers on the internet, Dogecoin has actually been used for such things as sending the Jamaican bobsled team to Sochi, donating pizza to homeless shelters and sending $50,000 of clean water to Kenya

The recent donation to Phil Parsons Racing is one of the highest profile contributions by the Dogecoin community, and it is one of the first crowd-sourcing events of its kind, having raised 67.8 million Doge in eight days. Fans were more than willing to contribute to wrapping a Sprint Cup car with a large image of a Shiba Inu, the face of the Dogecoin community.

One has to wonder, what does this do to the driver-fan relationship in the garage?

It's no secret that Phil Parsons Racing is one of the biggest underdog (or Underdoge, from the Dogecoin community's standpoint) organizations in the garage. With their biggest highlight being a ninth-place run in the 2013 Daytona 500, the No. 98 has had little to celebrate during their time in the Sprint Cup Series. 

With that being said, teams like PPR usually have to scrabble for funding and press, and they usually have a small but loyal following among the fans. Drivers for those teams usually try to make themselves more accessible for the fans and are usually considered to be some of the friendliest guys in the garage, namely because the demand for them isn't as high as a demand for a Gibbs driver or a Hendrick driver.

A contest is going on for the Dogecoin design that will be used to adorn the No. 98 Phil Parsons Racing Chevy at Talladega.
A contest is going on for the Dogecoin design that will be used to adorn the No. 98 Phil Parsons Racing Chevy at Talladega.Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Due to the Dogecoin drive, Wise has been one of the most talked about drivers in the NASCAR community. He's already well-known as a fan favorite, and the fact that this was a fan-based drive for Wise shows the level of commitment that a lot of fans have to a fan-oriented, friendly driver.

A lot of drivers face hectic schedules due to their team and sponsor obligations. When they do meet with their fans through an event, it sometimes has a corporate feel to it. Sometimes, fans are shunned by their favorite drivers. 

It's an uneven arrangement. Some of the hottest drivers on the tour may go through an entire race weekend without meeting a fan, while some of the lesser teams work hard to build a fanbase. 

On top of that, the drive was a true opportunity for fans to actually give back and participate in the sport they love. It's an active process, far different from going through the motions of buying apparel or buying tickets to a meet-and-greet. Fans were able to directly affect a team's chances of racing, which would understandably be a more gratifying experience.

So, as a result of the drive, Wise has an increased fanbase rooting for him come Talladega, not to mention a growing presence in the press. Both of those are manna to an underfunded team like PPR, and the fans are to thank for that. The fans are an integral part to the sport, and this drive proves it.

Plenty of the larger organizations in the sport who are known for not having fan-friendly drivers could stand to learn a thing or to from this drive because this was the sort of press NASCAR needed. This wasn't about negativity or controversy. Instead, this was something that could honestly be conceived as a thank you to and from the fans. 

If more teams allowed fans to participate in the same manner as the r/NASCAR and r/dogecoin community, their fanbases would grow as well, and that's a given. As for their drivers, that may be another matter entirely. But the most important asset in NASCAR is the fans. The fans are what make this sport what it is, and they deserve the best in the sport.

Besides, considering that Talladega is a major wild card on the tour, Wise stands every chance of winning or finishing well as every other driver. It would be a much-talked about win if Wise followed the Shiba Inu on the hood of his Chevy "to the moon," or in this case, Victory Lane.

Follow Joseph on Twitter: @ThatSheltonGuy, and be sure to follow his blog, The Shelton 500.