Can Transformers 3 Help NASCAR Transform Its Image?

By Charles Krome

Frankly, I’m not much of a Transformers guy. I was a bit too old to watch the cartoons, and the acting skills of Megan Fox notwithstanding, I watched but didn’t get much out of the first Michael Bay movie. Needless to say, I passed on the second altogether.

On the other hand, I am an old-school NASCAR fan, who grew up cheering for the likes of Bobby Allison, Richard Petty and David Pearson back in the 1970s. True, my interest in the sport shrank as NASCAR itself grew to become a multi-billion-dollar spec-racing series in more recent years, but it never disappeared entirely.

The connection between these two fascinating insights into life in the Krome lane? Mr. Bay is filming the third installment of the Transformers trilogy in Chicago, and on-location photos from the production show the latest movie will have a distinctly NASCAR-oriented spin. The pictures show three different Impala-bots, heavily bestickered in the best NASCAR style, wearing three relatively recognizable numbers on their sides. There’s a number 88 (used by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Sprint Cup Series), a number 48 (ditto Jimmie Johnson) and a 42 (for Juan Montoya).

Juan Montoya? Well, he is an exceptional all-around driver who has won races in NASCAR, Formula 1 and Indy-style competitions, so certainly a case could be made that giving his car the Transformer treatment makes sense. But viewing this move through my cynicism-colored glasses, I can’t help thinking the Colombian native’s Hispanic-sounding name was a factor as well. After all, NASCAR has had some longstanding difficulties in attracting both a diverse audience and a diverse pool of drivers, and the ability to showcase Montoya, even in a second- or third-hand way, seems like too good of an opportunity for the sport to pass up.

That’s probably the thinking behind the whole NASCAR effort: The chance to get its brand in front of millions of sets of eyeballs, most of them inside the heads of young male fans ripe for conversion into members of the NASCAR flock, seems like a match made in heaven. And that’s despite—or perhaps because of—the onscreen roles the NASCAR Transformers will be playing.

The word from the fanboys is that the three cars will be “Stunticons,” a group of bad-guy Transformers described on Wikipedia as being “feared for their psychotic behavior.”

And really, what better way to attract young driving enthusiasts to your brand, whether it be NASCAR, Chevrolet or both, than by highlighting the “psychotic behavior” that said brand is representing on the big screen?

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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