Last week, new IndyCar sponsor United Fiber & Data announced the UFD Grid Girls. These 6 women will serve as the spokesmodels for James Hinchcliffe’s #27 UFD IndyCar for the 2014 season. Although the exact details of their involvement for UFD and at each race haven’t been detailed, it’s fairly safe to assume their duties. Having attractive women in tight clothing serving as models for a product at a race track is not a new concept.
My initial reaction is it is great to see a new sponsor getting involved with the series. For me, sponsorship should be more than logos on a car. Being a sponsor should mean having a presence at the track. It means being visible to fans. What’s more visible than attractive women? Not much. Of course I don’t care for their bits a pieces as I’m more of a nuts and bolts type of guy myself, but I recognize the instant benefit of these women.
Facing facts here, racing is still very male dominated in fandom. Men care more about fast cars than women. It’s one of those unexplainable facts like, why aren’t there more female engineers or more male nurses? For some reason, guys just tend to like racing more than women. Well, if you are catering to the audience at hand, beautiful women are the way to go. There’s a reason there are a lot of ladies in bikinis straddling low-riders on the cover of hot rod magazines. The two things just go together, right or wrong. Plus, as I’ve stated before in various posts, humans like looking at pretty things. Period. Pretty flowers. Pretty cars. Pretty houses. Pretty beaches. You name it. This includes pretty women.
However, there are some that expressed displeasure with the move. Some people think it’s sexiest. Others think it sends the wrong image to girls. There are a few that just think it’s tacky. I get it. I understand it. All of those points are valid in some facet. But, I don’t think 6 smart, professional, beautiful women should be panned for working what they have. Heck, if I had a killer rack and rocking body you can bet your sweet rear-end I’d be the ringleader of the crew. Pass the stilettos and the checkered flag because I would be strutting my stuff. I also think there is a belief that being attractive somehow makes your IQ drop, that in some way if you are attractive that you must be an idiot. Brains and beauty can be had. The valedictorian of my high school class was a drop dead gorgeous, tall blonde with a gigawatt smile. I don’t discount these 6 women because they are attractive just like I didn’t discount her. I also know that there are worse signals that can be sent to young girls than them seeing an attractive female in tight clothes working. Hello, look at Miley Cyrus twerking on stuffed animals with her tongue hanging out while wearing a weed emblazoned one-piece (that said, she’s been brilliant at marketing herself). You can’t shield your kid from that media frenzy.
Lots of people, including myself at times, have dinged Danica Patrick for using her body over her perceived talent at times. IndyCar fans complained that she stole the spotlight just because she could pose half-naked on the hood of a car, while she was often times uncompetitive on the track. She was vilified for being popular for the supposed wrong reason. However, it’s a fact that IndyCar television ratings have been down since Danica left IndyCar despite new cars, engine competition, and a vastly improved on-track product. The ratings dip can’t be fully pegged on Danica, but you can’t ignore the fact Danica was ridiculously popular regardless of reasoning behind the fandom. Did she draw fans to IndyCar because she was attractive? You betcha.
I know deep down we all want people to like IndyCar because the racing is great. We don’t want it to be a gimmick. Many people love IndyCar because it’s a fairly pure form of racing compared to the more WWE styling of NASCAR the last decade or so. We hate to admit it, but IndyCar is withering on the vine. We can all say that the racing is amazing, but that’s only a small portion of the equation for success. Right now, IndyCar is the awkward, overweight person that’s a bit of a sloppy mess you’re trying to help get a date and all you can say is, “But they have an amazing personality!” Furthermore, IndyCar has to be cool. You don’t want someone to show up at their first IndyCar race and it be filled with a bunch of grumpy 70 year olds complaining about the lack of horsepower. You want the event to seem cool, vibrant, fun, sexy, youthful…you need to appeal to the crowd you want to attract…or in IndyCar’s case, the crowd you HAVE to attract…for survival.
My point is, IndyCar has a new sponsor. YAY! That new sponsor is spending money on activation. YAY! They are using some damn fine young women to capture some attention and promote the sport, their driver, and their product. YAY! IndyCar desperately needs more UFD Girls. Heck, get all the girls together, the Miss Grand Prix’s, the Fuzzy’s Vodka girls and make a calendar. Promote the heck out of it. Make IndyCar sexy. Make IndyCar cool. Don’t look down on these young ladies and dig around for a negative. It’s 2014. I think we should all be comfortable enough in our own skin to either look past something we don’t like that much, or embrace the positives it could help bring to the sport.
That said, where can I audition to be a UFD Girl? I have killer legs.