Races & rocks

About the author

Michael Iaconelli

Michael Iaconelli

Michael Iaconelli is the only angler to have won the Bassmaster Classic, Bassmaster Angler of the Year and B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.

I’m back from the Toyota and NASCAR experience, and what an experience it was. I’ve never seen or done anything like it. Cool doesn’t even come close to describing it. Before we talk about that, however, I want to say something about the storm.

Becky and I were worried, but it turned out that it was for no reason. When we got home last night, everything was fine. It was mostly wind and heavy rain. We only lost power for about an hour and a half. The sump pumps were able to handle everything. They haven’t shut off in 18 hours, though.

I said everything was fine and it is — not counting the big rocks in the backyard. I’m picking them up today. They’re heavy as the devil. I’ll not complain, though. It could be a lot worse. Becky’s family in Richmond, Va., has been out of power for well over a day now, and her brother has a yard full of huge trees. That’s not good but at least no one was hurt. That’s the most important thing.

Anyway, my weekend at Bristol was about as good as life can get. Becky, Vegas and I all got to run around the place, meet fans and just generally have a good time. (OK, Vegas didn’t run but you get the point.) One of the neatest parts was when they let us go into the pit area and see the drivers just before the race started. They’re pretty cool in their suits, helmets and stuff.

But what impressed me the most was the way Toyota and NASCAR handle the fans. It’s not just a race. It’s a total experience, of which the race is only one part. They have a place where there are simulators, all sorts of cars and trucks and an off road track for those fans who are a little more adventurous.

You can spend the day wandering around, taking it all in and then watch the race as a finish to the day. What they’re doing is integrating the fans into what’s going on with Toyota and NASCAR. The fan loyalty and enthusiasm they build that way is awesome.

That’s a marketing lesson for us all. It’s not enough to have people watch you perform. You want them to feel they’re a part of what you’re doing. It’s like singing along with the performer at a concert. It gets the crowd going.

Another thing that impressed me was how many people recognized me and wanted my autograph. It’d be nice to think that was all about Mike, but it wasn’t. If they know who I am, that means they follow professional bass fishing. Our fan base is bigger than a lot of people think.

Finally, I want to say thanks to Marc Spiegel. He’s with Toyota and his job was to look after us last weekend. He’s good at what he does. We didn’t lack for a thing.

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