2002 Winston Cup 'MUPPET' Schemes
The Action Performance Press Release
In celebration of The Muppet Show's 25th Anniversary, Action Performance Companies, Inc. and The Jim Henson Company have partnered to design special Muppet paint scheme racecars. The 15 different cars from NASCARâ, NHRA, and World of Outlaws series feature Muppet favorites including Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, Animal, and newcomer Pepe the King Prawn. Through a collaborative effort among The Jim Henson Company, the drivers, their teams and sponsors, Action Performance created the special Muppet cars to be raced on the track, the drivers' uniforms and helmets, and the die-cast collectibles that are scale replicas of the actual cars.
The Muppets paint schemes were first unveiled on Action's website, Tuesday, March 5, 2002 at 7:00pm/et.
The Muppets will make their NASCAR racing debut on Saturday, July 14, 2002 at Chicago's Chicagoland Speedway. Young NASCAR stars Jeremy Mayfield and Casey Atwood along with seasoned veterans Ricky Rudd, Johnny Benson, Jimmy Spencer, and NASCAR Winston Cup Champions Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, and Bill Elliott will race with Muppet sidekicks. Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog, along with the rest of the Muppet gang will also ride on a Dodge event car.
NHRA drivers will join the Muppets for their second race appearance on July 18, 2002. The Muppets will ride aboard top fuel dragsters, funny cars, and a pro stock bike. In Denver, Colorado NHRA aces Whit Bazemore, Craig Treble, Tony Pedregon, and Andrew Cowin will each race with their Muppet characters. In this race, Tony Pedregon will team up with Animal to race a funny car owned by 11-time Funny Car Champion John Force. Top fuel dragster Champion Shirley Muldowney and Pepe the King Prawn will burn up the track in Indianapolis on August 28, 2002.
Defending World of Outlaws series champion Danny Lasoski will feature Animal on his sprint car.
"The appeal of Jim Henson's Muppets crosses all boundaries. People of all backgrounds and ages can identify with the Muppets, because there is such a range of characters and personalities. Similarly, motorsports appeals to a very broad range of people. The two complement one another wonderfully," said Fred Wagenhals, CEO of Action Performance.
"We couldn't be more excited to work with Action Performance to bring the Muppets to NASCAR, NHRA, and World of Outlaws race series," said Michael R. Polis, Senior Vice President of Marketing Worldwide for The Jim Henson Company. "Action Performance has added a fun and creative flair to motorsports, and we know that the character cars will fully convey all of the magic and mayhem of the Muppets."
The Muppets respond to the Muppet racecars:
Kermit the Frog: "Most people don't know this, but frogs are huge fans of NASCAR. We're very impressed at the number of bugs these guys can catch on their windshields and with how few laps it takes them to provide a full eight course dinner!"
Miss Piggy: "Moi is most appreciative of the attempt to glamorize the racing cars of today with moi's likeness. It's almost as exciting as
being on the cover of Vogue...almost. Either way, I look forward to using moi's car and driver for my shopping trips as I find traffic too
slow for my power shopping excursions around the world."
The Jim Henson Company, an established leader in family entertainment for more than 40 years, is an independent multimedia production company; one of the top character licensors in the industry; a leading publisher of children's books; and home to Jim Henson Television, Jim Henson Pictures, Jim Henson Interactive and Jim Henson's Creature Shop. With headquarters in Los Angeles and offices and production facilities in New York and London, the company is a wholly owned subsidiary of EM.TV & Merchandising AG based in Munich, Germany. The Jim Henson Company website is located at: www.henson.com.(Action Performance PR)(3-5-2002)
The Muppets will be leading the pack on July 14, 2002 at the Chicgoland Speedway. The Muppets Parade event car is one of the 15 cars designed by Action Performance as part of the Muppets Show 25th Anniversary program. Casey Atwood, Jeremy Mayfield, Ricky Rudd, Johnny Benson, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, and Bill Elliott, all racing along with Muppet characters, will be paced by the Muppets Parade event car in Chicago. The purple and green Dodge Intrepid R/T features Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, along with the rest of the Muppet gang. In addition to appearing at the race, the Muppets Parade Event Car is available as a die-cast replica through Action Performance’s distribution network.
- 4/27/2002: The Muppets Take Motorsports Action Performance Companies Inc. and The Jim Henson Company Host Muppet RaceMania
- No Muppets at the track? UPDATE 2 Muppetgate: now this makes no sense, seems there is some battle going on between ISC (who owns ChicagoLand Speedway) and the Muppet people and characters not being allowed on speedway property. ?? Tony Stewart mentioned during an interview how ridiculous it is after having the paint schemes on the track, selling the diecasts and making folks buy tickets for all the races. Dale Jarrett said the same thing and feels they are being 'jerks' about it.
UPDATE: FSN's Totally NASCAR reports that the muppets were not allowed in the track due to 'licensing issues'.(7-12-2002)
UPDATE 2: When Elliott came into the media center at Chicagoland Speedway to talk about his third-place qualifying run, he turned the tables and asked the media a question. "Isn't someone going to ask me about the Muppets being in jail?" Elliott asked. "Muppetgate" was on the minds of nearly everyone at the track Friday, and several teams put signs up in the garage that read "Free the
Muppets." Images of the characters who first appeared on the children's show "Sesame Street" are on eight Winston Cup cars this week, but track officials wouldn't let the characters participate in the pre-race festivities. Track spokesman Brian Crichton said "Chicagoland Speedway is not part of the Muppet program," and therefore the characters won't be allowed inside the track. "We're not a partner in the program that has been put together with the Muppets," said Crichton, who was unable to say whether the Muppets were asked to pay a fee to be a part of the festivities.(Atlanta Journal Constitution)(7-13-2002)
- More on Muppet-Gate: When executives from motorsports merchandise company Action Performance Cos. Inc. saw the Muppets pop up in a tease for ESPN's "SportsCenter" recently, they halted dinner to trade high fives. On the TV screen, were the Muppet's, gathered in a cornfield across from Chicagoland, holding up "We Need Tickets" signs. The plan had been for the characters to spend the Tropicana 400 race weekend within the gates of the speedway, promoting a special Muppet paint scheme featured on eight Cup cars, a standard gimmick the merchandise company uses to sell die-cast cars and apparel. When Chicagoland executives refused to let the characters in, Phoenix-based Action Performance and The Jim Henson Co. quickly crafted a backup strategy. They took the Muppets to a farm across the street, set them up with " We Need Tickets" signs, and started shooting video. Then, they sent the video up via satellite for use on news feeds. ESPN grabbed it. On July 1, Chicagoland Speedway sent The Jim Henson Co. notification that the Muppets would not be allowed on speedway property because neither the track nor race sponsor Tropicana had been included in the planning of the promotion. Action Performance executives said they didn't expect access to be an issue because it had not been one at other tracks when they staged similar events. Executives from Action Performance, Chicagoland Speedway and Tropicana said they are in discussions about a similar promotion that could run at the track next year.(Phoenix Business Journal/Sports Business Journal)(7-30-2002)