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The Nascar Blame Game

The Nascar Blame Game

NASCAR (and let’s cut to the Chase, no, not that Chase, when I say NASCAR, I mean Brian France) has been looking for scapegoats to explain the nosedive the sport has been experiencing, both in attendance, and TV ratings wise. When he finally acknowledged that the sport had a problem, it was laid to the economy. Fair enough, no denying that it’s been a big factor, but it’s hard to reconcile this with the declining TV numbers, and the loss of the younger demographics that advertisers crave.

At various times the blame has fallen on the slender shoulders of it’s most popular driver. Of course I’m referring to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Brian has publicly laid the blame for the current decline, to his lack of on track success.

His latest foray into scapegoating has been to blame it on Jimmie Johnson.Damn, this guy and the rest of the “48” team have done nothing but gone out and win an unprecedented four consecutive (and counting) championships under the Chase format that Brian has thrust upon us. Granted, this domination has not been popular with a large segment of the fans that NASCAR has left, but he is your champion. To publicly diss him like this seems pretty low rent to me.

All this attempted blame shifting makes me wonder if he shaves with an electric razor? After all, you don’t have to look in the mirror, to use one of them.

Let’s take a look at Brian’s stewardship of NASCAR so far. One of the things that he’s credited with is negotiating the unified, by far, the highest dollar TV contract in the sport’s history. So far so good.The problem I have with this, is that I never really felt this was shared fairly with the owners. If you want a good illustration of this, just compare the payout between your average PGA event, and a Cup race.Then factor in the expenses involved for the competitors, Cup vs. the PGA.

Now with the declining TV numbers, all the TV partners are upside down in their contracts. The number of commercials in a typical broadcast, that fans are complaining about are the TV partners attempt to limit their losses. NASCAR gets to “double dip” in this

financial bonanza through ISC. The well known plumbing adage is not the only thing that runs downhill, and as fans, we seem to always be at the bottom of the hill.

NASCAR was founded in 1948 by Big Bill, otherwise known in the France family as the guy who planted the money tree. It’s 62 years are rich in history and tradition. None of this seems to mean much to Brian. The fledgling series got it’s first paved superspeedway ND first 500 mile race when Darlington held it’s first Southern 500 in 1950. This was NASCAR’s biggest, and most prestigious race, until Daytona opened in ‘59. Probably the reason that Daytona became bigger was that it was built and owned by Big Bill. I understand this, but the Southern 500 continued to be it’s longest running and second most prestigious race. That is before Brian tried to kill

the venerable old girl off in 2004, by taking its date, and race and moving it to California.

Darlington was given the Mothers Day date as a replacement. This, after Easter, was considered the least desirable date to have, and until then had always been an open date. The consensus thinking at the time was that date would fail, and allow them to close the place. Well we all know how that turned out. Darlington went from being the track too tough too tame, to the track too tough to kill.

No thanks to NASCAR, but thanks to the fans who rallied to save this historic old track. If I had to pick just one track to see a race,

I wouldn’t even have to think about it. Darlington would win hands down. It’s about as “anti-cookie cutter” as it gets.

His second swipe at tradition, and history, also in 2004, was the Chase. I’ve written enough about this that I really have nothing to add. Brian is stubbornly standing behind this idea, while the TV numbers continue to tank. Nero didn’t have anything on Brian.

One fact is unassailable, when Dale Earnhardt was killed at Daytona in 2001, NASCAR was changed forever. His death brought much needed, and long overdue safety improvements. Improvements that a rash of prior drivers deaths and serious, career-ending injuries had failed to bring. These safety improvements are the best changes that I’ve seen in the time I’ve been following this sport.

That having been said, I’ve hated to see Cup turned into a spec series. I think those making the decisions, and ultimately

that goes back to Brian, failed to appreciate the impact that the “one size fits all” COT would, and has had on the sport.

Both of these changes seem to demonstrate a total disconnect with the fans, due to all the afore mentioned reasons, owners in both of NASCAR’s top series are struggling financially. Race purses have been cut, and at least the Nationwide series, is in for another 20 percent cut for next year. Fair enough, race purses have always been pegged to gate receipts. As I said, I just don’t think the payouts were ever big enough in the first place.

One thing I’d have to give Brian an A+ for is sucking up every last dollar available. I found one list of “Official Products of NASCAR.”

It listed 84 products. Some of these are relatively obscure, but some are companies that used to be primary and secondary car sponsors. With teams continuing to fold, and being replaced with the blood sucking start and park teams, this aggressive scrambling for every last dollar seems short-sighted, and counter-productive.

I’m not even sure that all these products get their money’s worth.

For example, one of these official products is New Pig Wipes.

These are super absorbent shop wipes (and yes, I had to look it up). I’ll bet you didn’t know about their shelling out to NASCAR until now, right? Come on Pig guys, pick a car, and get on it! You’re sure to be mentioned on TV. Look what it’s done for Boudreaux’s Butt Paste and the Tire Monkey.

Another thing on his resume, is opening NASCAR offices in New York and L.A. Big whup, we’ve seen what both of these markets think of NASCAR. Cheer up, Brian. California didn’t think much of the Clampetts either. In fact, I expect they class NASCAR, and its fans about the same.

NASCAR reminds me of the geek in high school. Can’t get the girls he wants, and don’t want the ones he can get.

I know they say you can’t go home again, but it looks like some of the places you outgrew are becoming a better fit again. I expect that the TV cameras could show the grandstands at The Rock, without embarrassment. Of course, I’m just pipe dreaming, for NASCAR to return to The Rock, would require eating a heaping helping of crow, a meal NASCAR hasn’t developed a taste for.

Another line item on Mr. France’s resume is the NASCAR Diversity program. As a fan, what exactly does this mean to me? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for diversity, but I believe in the most qualified person having the position, be it a high profile driver, any other position on race teams, or NASCAR itself, for that matter, Wendell Scott managed to make his mark on the sport without any help from Big Bill. In fact, if reports are to be believed, he faced and overcame obstacles from NASCAR itself, as well as promoters and other competitors.

Big kudus to Ned Jarrett for his help of Wendell. My impression of Ned is of a gentleman, both on, and off the track, and this fits right in. When the Mauricia Grant debacle first surfaced, NASCAR’s response was to circle the wagons agen sbobet. This showed just how much work NASCAR has to do in house.

A buzz word in the ’80’s used to be “corporate culture.” The recent flap over recent “secret” driver fines shows me what the corporate culture of NASCAR is from day one, owners were deemed to be “Independent Contractors”. The muzzling of owners and drivers seems to belie that. All criticism could be construed as “constructive”…. if it’s true. Expecting something like this to stay “secret” shows a childlike naivety.

The sight of eager fans lining up to spend their money at the teams merchandise trailers must have been more than NASCAR could take. Remember, they already made revenue from these sales through licensing the NASCAR logo, as well as space rental at ISC tracks. That wasn’t enough. So together with Bruton Smith, they formed Motorsports Authentics, which they promptly managed into bankruptcy, costing ISC, SMI, and the teams many millions.

No one single reason for this, but management, or the lack of

it has to be high on anyone’s list. Just plain greed has to be another big reason. The fans aren’t as stupid as some people seem to think. $100-dollar plus die casts, with a one-off paint job seemingly every third race or so. $250 leather jackets, $35 hats. All this stuff, with no secondary market. We just got tired of being ripped off, and quit buying.

I could go on, but what’s the point? The last group to get the finger pointed at them was the media (this was from Tony Stewart, but I wonder if someone pointed him?) I don’t consider myself as media, but as I’m lucky enough to be able to climb on the soapbox

from time to time, let me address this. I want to write “puppy dog and roses pieces,” but first, I’ve got to smell the roses, and see the puppy dogs. However, roses have thorns, and puppy dogs spot the carpet.

My advice to NASCAR, is to quit playing the blame game, and look a little closer to home. Most company’s troubles can be traced to poor management decisions. To fix a problem, first you have to recognize what the problems, and the causes are. As a fan, I’m behind you all the way. I want to see the ship righted as much

as anyone. I’m just having trouble working up to much optimism that current management will ever get it right.

If NASCAR really expects to get back on the right side of this, it’s time to man up.