Formula 1 rocked the racing world last week, and the aftershocks might soon be coming to a racetrack near you. Namely, Daytona International Speedway. Formula 1 announced it was getting rid of “grid girls,” the models who hang around the pits in various states of undress.
They’ve been doing it for decades, then along came Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo movement and the further realization of an old point:
Parading women around as sex objects might not be the ideal way to promote respectful behavior toward them.
So now we turn our leering eyes toward Daytona, home of NASCAR and the Feb. 18 Great American Race.
The speedway is a safe space for grid girls, though they are repackaged over here as Monster Energy Girls. They are a promotional arm (and legs and abs – heavy on the abs) of NASCAR’s title sponsor.
Should they be forced to strut the plank?
I understand the concerns over toxic masculinity and all that. But I also get the headline that blared from one of England’s biggest newspapers after the Formula 1 decision.
“Now the killjoys ban Grand Prix grid girls.”
That was from The Sun, the paper that made Page 3 girls famous.
Call me old-fashioned, but packaging news around photos of topless women always seemed a bit tacky. Promoting auto racing through eye candy isn’t as bad, but it’s increasingly hard to justify.
NASCAR doesn’t care what I think, of course. What matters is what NASCAR’s thinking, and precedent says we shouldn’t have the Monster Girls around to gape at much longer.
Despite its good-old-boy image, NASCAR has largely followed the politically correct playbook. It has separate entities like NASCAR Green to help clean up and nurture Mother Earth.
NASCAR Diversity recruits and promotes minority drivers. It hasn’t exactly banned Confederate flags, but NASCAR has done just about everything it can to make them disappear from infields.
As far back 2004, it wouldn’t let Derrike Cope drive a car sponsored by RedneckJunk.com.
NASCAR almost always errs on the side of PC caution when it comes to cultural issues. If rednecks are offensive to the enlightened masses, what about scantily-clad babes?
The most viral moment of last year’s Daytona 500 wasn’t Kurt Busch taking the checkered flag. It was Rob Gronkowski’s sexually suggestive interview of a Monster Energy Girl before the race.
You could hear the snickering all the way to The Weinstein Company headquarters.
The scandal at that workplace has triggered widespread re-evaluation of how women are perceived and treated. It’s swept up politicians, movie stars, business titans and an NFL owner.
Employing leather-clad hotties doesn’t make you Matt Lauer, but it’s not the kind of thing Formula 1 sees much future in.
“Sometimes it is better to take preventative medicine and that is what Formula One is doing,” Grand Prix legend Jackie Stewart told Press Association Sport. “Every day I read about a different scandal. F1’s blue-chip partners do not need to be involved with that.”
That puts NASCAR in a ticklish position since its bluest-chip partner is all about gonzo behavior. The high-caf energy drink pictures Gronkowski as the model American male.
“Get Your Gronk On,” is one of its catchphrases.
What’s ticklish is Monster Energy’s two-year deal with NASCAR is up after this season. Negotiations over an extension have been going on for months.
Given how hard it was for NASCAR to find a title sponsor after Sprint left, it’s hard to imagine it would tell Monster Energy how to market itself. By its own culturally-progressive standards, however, NASCAR doesn’t have much choice.
It has to tell the Monster Energy Girls to hit the road.