The Frontstretch: In France's World, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and His Fans Are To Blame by Jeff Meyer -- Wednesday December 5, 2007

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In France's World, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and His Fans Are To Blame

Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Wednesday December 5, 2007


As longtime readers of this column have come to know, I hate “stupid.” If someone in the world of NASCAR says or does something that is extremely stupid, I have no qualms whatsoever about pointing it out, no matter who they are or what position they may be in. Just ask my editors!

(By the way, is that somewhat related to the fact I have yet to get my invitation to the Christmas party? But I digress…)

Over the years, my pursuit to expose those that are stupid has led some readers to think that I hate NASCAR. People email me and say I should write about something else; or, that I do something I think is anatomically impossible – at least for me, anyway. At any rate, I assure you that that is not the case. I love stock car racing – and if you are one of those that think otherwise, well, if you were worth a page of copy, I'd expose you, too!

However, in the world of NASCAR there is one person that, over the last few years, has been the subject of many of my columns. That person is NASCAR CEO Brian France.

It’s not that I particularly enjoy writing about Brian; it’s just that some of the things he says – with increasing frequency, I might add – are so mind-bogglingly stupid that I feel it is my duty to point it out, so that not one single fan may catch whatever it is that he suffers from.

At a recent Reuters Media Summit in New York, France uttered the following comments that once again make my job very easy.

Here’s the scenario: NASCAR’s CEO was commenting on continued falling TV ratings that are plaguing the sport as of late. In need of an explanation, none other than Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s name came up – unprovoked.

"It would have helped if he would have been competitive,” said France. “He didn’t win an event, and he certainly didn’t make our playoffs. And that’s unhelpful if you’re trying to build ratings.”

Junior’s chances for the Chase went up in smoke early and often this season – but is that the real reason TV ratings dipped?

So, there it is. Laid out as plain as day from the mouth of the man who can do no wrong! You, Junior fans, are the reason television ratings were down 13% from 2006. Shame on you! But wait! There’s more. What was that that Junior didn't make… “Our Playoffs?”

Flashback to a January 2004 NASCAR press release explaining the new points format…

MIKE HELTON: This is not a Playoff. Every one of our events will continue to be Super Bowl-type races, with all 43 drivers competing against each other at the same track to win a race.

BRIAN FRANCE: The seeding process is how you finish after the 26 events. That’s the seeding process. You did see that we did reward if you finish first, you have got a 45-point lead over the 10th place competitor after 26, and five points for every position in sequence – so we have, we won’t call that a seeding – because what we’re not going to call this is a Playoff. It’s not a Playoff. It’s not a single elimination. It’s not a win or lose and you are out. Not a best three out of five. It’s better than all that, because it still has consistency; still has 10 tracks over two and a half months to compete. We think we have got something that’s better than the Playoffs.

I must have missed the press release that announced that Brian has decided that it is a playoff in the last 4 years – my apologies, and I will try to pay better attention in the future. However, there was one thing that Brian said last week that proves – even though he is not bright enough to realize it – that he has no clue as to what he is doing.

"The margin of error for all the sports to manage their business smarter is more narrow," France said.

Now, let’s see…double digit ratings drop for multiple years…two failed attempts to build tracks in places where NASCAR was not wanted…two longtime Series sponsors (Winston/Busch) bailing, soon to be three (Craftsman), not to mention a massive scaleback of Budweiser sponsorship dollars…multiple lawsuits, some settled out of court, some not…yada, yada, yada.

Yep, Brian France is right. There is a narrow margin – and his head is too big and thick to get through it!

Stay off the wall (and too much Egg Nog!),

Jeff Meyer

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 Jeff Meyer and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Joe Roux
12/06/2007 08:11 AM

Thanks for a thought provoking article. Here’s my thoughts on it that I sent to my friends. Joe Roux

More and more of those who are around this sport each and every day come over to my way of thinking (which came to me late 2005 if you recall). I will now accept apologies.

In my opinion, this is what brought NASCAR up to its level previous to 2005. ESPN.

We all knew what racing was about in and before the 90’s, ESPN brought it to a much broader audience. The thing at the time was that the personalities and the racing hadn’t really changed all that much. Good hard racing, punching each other out along the backstretch, etc. ESPN only brought it out to a nationwide audience. As I said, we all knew what it was and had.

Now it’s glitzy, commercialized (how much more commercialization do you need other that a car sponsored by a bra manufacturer?) sterile and antiseptic. Personalities??? HA! Forget about it. If they can make Tony meek and mild, what the hell is left??

As I recall, WWWAAAAAAYYYYYY back in the 70’s, the one race that put the sport on the radar was the Allison Bros. vs. Yarborough in the backstretch. I’m not looking for a race to breakout at a fight but these were people whom I cheered and jeered for. The best thing you can hope for now is for Spiderman to climb up to the flag stand after he wins the race (and he’s been chastised for that too!).

For Christmas, I think I’m going to send each of the heads of NASCAR a crowbar. They can use it on each other to pry eacv others heads out.

J Furjanic
12/06/2007 08:40 AM

How can one average (at best) driver make or break a sport that is being driven into the ground by the sanctioning body? One again, Prince Brian (the all kowning) shows us why he should be subject to the NA$CAR substance abuse/testing program.

How about less pop culture and more good ‘ol traditional hard nosed racing by men with personalities?

How about stock cars that look like what I can buy on Monday? How about the fastest 43 cars make the race?

What’s next? My prediction:

44 car field filled by 11 four car franchise owners, with Brittney Spears as the official voice of NA$CAR.

Ok, maybe only the first part of that. Anyone care to bet against me?

12/06/2007 09:34 AM

Sooooo…is Brian trying to say that most NASCAR fans are Jr. fans? If so, it would appear that NASCAR would go under if something happened to Jr. You know, maybe he is right. Maybe Jr. is the only driver that appeals to a large number of fans. Maybe that’s why the sport is failing. If he doesn’t do well at Hendrick’s and there is a chance that he won’t, then the sport will fall further into the abyss. Nah, that might make sense and we all know that Prince Brian has never made sense of anything.

True Fan
12/06/2007 10:22 AM

After carefully digesting this article and viewing it from every possible angle I personally conceed that N.A.S.C.A.R equally is being damaged by too many modifications and too many fair-weather fans!

12/06/2007 10:39 AM

It seems to me that nascar won’t be able to weather the storm of sub par performing “super star” and if that be the case then popularity will be an ironic demise for a orginazation fueled by it.NO PUN INTENDED!

Southern Rebel88
12/06/2007 10:59 AM

Well, as we in the JR Nation found out: Just because you’re CEO of an organization, you aren’t necessarily the sharpest tool in the shed.

12/06/2007 11:28 AM

Well, from what I’ve seen, Brian might have a point. Damn, that hurt. Have you ever seen a race where Jr dropped out early? Not hard to miss, there were several. The swarm of red leaving the stands was overwhelming. There are Jr fans, and there are race fans. Real race fans stay thru the end even if their driver drops out. I’ve dealt with it. Of course, I also attend local short track races. I bet most Jr fans don’t, because he won’t be there. In closing, Brian, get you head out of your A** and step down and let someone you haven’t corrupted take over. Your ideas haven’t worked. Am I the only one who misses Bill Jr.

12/06/2007 12:04 PM

The real problem, which Brian France is obviously to stupid to realize, is that the reason the Jr. fans leave or quit watching is because after he is out of the race there is nothing left that is exciting to watch! You can’t turn this into a “spec” car racing series and then actually have the nerve to sound confused when people quit watching. If people wanted to watch IROC racing then it would still be around.
It’s plain and simple folk’s, you can’t take the racing out of racing and expect people to want to watch it, because you have stripped out all the reason’s that they began watching it in the first place. To Brian it is all about money and who will pay him the most regardless of what is left of the sport when he is gone. Speaking of which, thank god he is leaving, because if I’m not mistaken he is going to run the Grand Am Series, god help them.
Get someone in there that will let these driver’s have their personalities back and make this sport interesting again and not some watered down, over commercialized sport with nothing but a bunch of robot’s driving the cars. You would think that someone in the upper rank’s would want to make the changes, but maybe that would affect their paycheck’s! Idiot’s!

Mark Rubley
12/06/2007 12:18 PM

Desperate men do desperate things. To place blame (of any kind) for the current condition of NA$CAR on a single driver is utterly ridiculous. This is really the begining of the end for NA$CAR. When the man in charge is finding fall-guys that aren’t even employeed by the company tells me that something is very wrong inside their organization. What next, will he say that the reason the seats are empty is because there aren’t any fans showing up…… “Gee, I can’t understand why… we dropped the ticket price to $200.00 a seat, where is everyone…..”

Remember what NA$CAR stand for:

Now All we $eriously Car About is Revenue

12/06/2007 12:36 PM

Brian may have a point. I’m not a NASCAR fan, I’m an Earnhardt, Jr. fan. When he’s out of a race, I couldn’t care less what the others do.

Isn’t that the whole idea? Root for your driver? If not, maybe “you’ve” missed something. What brings the crowd to the races? NASCAR? NO, the drivers do. So, when my guy’s out, I’m done, gone to the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc.

Sorry, but that’s just the way it is!

12/06/2007 12:47 PM

You do realize that Nascar didn’t stop with blaming Junior for the ratings drop. Earlier this year when ISC announced there would be a several million dollar shortfall in predicted revenue from souvenir sales, it was mostly blamed on Junior changing teams/numbers. Hasn’t Nascar always contended that the sport was bigger than one single driver? Guess that has changed, too. But I guess, when you are the self proclaimed ‘genius’ of Nascar, you better find any source for the problems other than those who make the decisions. Again reminds me of the old saying about staying quiet and letting people think you a fool than opening your mouth and prove it!

MBeard fan
12/06/2007 12:50 PM

I agree totally with the MBeard comment!!!

12/06/2007 01:11 PM

The FS has a Christmas party? Must be nice. Where I work we have a “Holiday” party. PC blows chunks.

Brian’s an idiot. And he really is stupid.

The Charlotte Observer
12/06/2007 01:33 PM

NASCAR has out grown the south and some fans can’t accept it. It’s sad!

Mark Rubley
12/06/2007 01:51 PM

That is sad. But I wonder what will happen when the Big Cruel Real-World that they have migrated too snaps them in half. Will NA$CAR coming whimpering back home…tail tucked between its legs. And like the people of the good ole South usually are, we’ll take ‘em back….. but only after a good tongue lashing don’t you think?

12/06/2007 02:22 PM

We also tend to flip channels when Jr goes out or down several laps. After that the last 10 laps is all we need to see. And we have been tempted (only tempted) to actually leave a race when he goes out. Reason for that is long drives home head start on the traffic.

TV broadcast are to blame for the turnoff. They show only the leader for 3-4 laps with no one challenging them and then go to commercial and when they get back they show us the same exact thing. Somewhere within the field has to be someone fighting for a position but we’ll never see it. No wonder sponsors are hard to find, their cars may never end up on the screen unless they crash then they’ll get some air time. We have yelled at the TV “come on show us someone besides the leader and commercials.”
We get to see 7 laps and break again for commercial – not showing the restarts. Another thing many many people do not have cable nor satellite and the races are broadcasted on TV you have to pay for. The NFL is starting that up now also. If you want viewers cater to their needs.

12/06/2007 03:10 PM

Ratings decline top 10
1. commericials every 90 seconds.
2. Gushing over openwheel has beens.
3. Muted personalities
4. manufactured endings.
5. forgoing the tradition and history of the sport while pushing non racing celebrities.
5-A Fontana is not hollywood and niether is nascar.
4. Pushing forgieners-car or driver.
3. taking the manufacturer out of the car.
2.Brian France
1. The official femininne hygene product of nascar

Just a Fan
12/06/2007 03:25 PM

Mr France: If Junior fans are so all powerful…
Then may I suggest you stop acting like a twit and ticking us off!

Two years ago we were all told that the sport was bigger than a couple of drivers. That having Dale Jr & Jeff Gordon not in the Chase was OK! You still had 10 great drivers in the Chase.

MAKE UP YOUR MIND! You don’t get to have it both ways. You want to know what is wrong with the NASCAR ratings…look in the mirror dude! It is YOU!

Your decisions are hurting this sport. You can say all you want that the racing is better. Here is one simple little fact…what you think really doesn’t matter much! If WE don’t like it, it isn’t good! Simple, WE are the ones you need to please.

Do you remember us? We are the fans, fans of ALL the drivers. Fans that buy the overpriced tickets, and fans that watch the rotten coverage on TV. WE need to be pleased with YOUR product…WE AREN’T. That is why the ratings are down.

This really isn’t rocket science, I would think that even the powers that be in NASCAR could figure it out……but, as always, lets just take the easy way out, and blame our mistakes on someone else.

12/06/2007 04:06 PM

My point exactly. Jr fans aren’t race fans. So stop trying to attract them.

Dot Jones
12/06/2007 04:09 PM

@ Connie & Just A Fan:
I agree with you guys. Now I don’t have to type it all out. Thanks.

12/06/2007 05:35 PM

What kills NASCAR is inconsistency, caring more for the $ than the fans, Allowing frequently caught cheaters continue to work and cheat, not allowing drivers to have emotions (speak they’re mind with no holds barred), Always messing with the car (let’s be honest the C.O.T is just a way for France to pad his pocket and can anyone tell the difference between cars w/out looking for an emblem), changing the rules for no reason (they all fall under the “detrimental to NASCAR” rule) not allowing drivers to beat and bang to the finish, they’ve watered it all down to a Hollywood dream because NASCAR is afraid of being called a redneck!

I watched VERY little NASCAR this year, way before Jr didn’t make the playoffs. After 10 years of faithful watching it’s just become to bland to give up 5 hrs

12/06/2007 05:46 PM

I think the opposite of MBeard. While I have a favorite driver and I do hope he does well,(not that I’d actually see any of it as he’s not Jeff, Dale Jr. or a few other over coveraged drivers), its really the racing that is, (or should be), the excitement for me. Hearing 43 race tuned engines coming to life is music to my ears. Brent’s post is the one that really nails it though..NASCAR has really become IROC and its only going to get worse…there is a reason that IROC races never really took off, the only reason that people tolerated them was that there were only so many a year and it pitted drivers from various racing arenas so it had that going for it. Connie raises some good points as well with the only correction I would make is its not just Jr. fans that are flipping the stations…even with my driver still in the race I flip channels as I know he will barely get a mention or a camera on his car and more importantly I tire pretty fast of watching the same guys all the time, the same small group of drivers. I think Jr. is a pretty good guy and all but if he is not in the silly chase and is running in the bottom of the pack is there a reason that we are still heavily covering him? I would think even Jr. fans would have to admit that the coverage just prior to the chase was a tad over the top as it would’ve taken quite a few miracles to happen for Jr. to make the chase but the way the media potrayed it on TV you would’ve wondered if there was anyone else racing that day. I think that’s my point..alot of fans I would think are pretty tired of watching and hearing about just a few drivers. Connie is right..I know I’ve found myself talking to the tv as well asking if anyone but the top-5 and/or chase drivers are going to get any coverage. I think Truefan is right in regards to modifications being an issue as well..the COT goes right back to what has been said in regards to the IROC series and if/when they go to spec engines..well, heck, we’re just about there. On the issue of fair-weathered fans I can see your point Truefan but I look towards NASCAR as to why there may be fair-weathered fans. Perhaps if NASCAR didn’t worry so much about concerts, TV stars, selling product after product and actually worried about what NASCAR’s product is,(or perhaps “was”), which is something called “racing” then I think you wouldn’t see a drop in ratings and empty seats at the any other company out there..if your product is good then it will sell..if your product is bad, and even with all the bells and whistles you add to it,(concerts, etc), it still won’t sell..Tell Brian to go to his local community college, he can learn that in chapter 1 of “Business 101”.

Jerry Venne
12/06/2007 06:41 PM

Not sure where all your readers are getting this misinformation but it was Ken Squire, CBS, Diamond P Sports and TNN that brought this sport into it’s accepted adulthood with the with the fans. Certainly not ESPN!

12/06/2007 07:33 PM

I am a motor race fan. I have sat through hours of curling to see 5 minutes of racing on Wide World of Sports.I get up early to watch F1. I now mostly sleep through NA$CAR Cup.
Blob cars, blah personalities, slow cars race, fast cars go home, gear rules, COT. NA$CAR didn’t have to print a rule book because there were only a couple…you race this size motor, you weigh this much, you have a wheelbase of X and you have a car body that you can buy in the showroom. That was pretty much it. All other race series if you fail tech, you go home. If you qualify fast enough you race, if not you go home.
I am there for the smell of hot oil, burning tires and hot under the collar drivers. The loud enough to shiver your timbers race motors. I don’t care if it is Joe and Susie Blow that are racing…if they are racing I wanna watch. Too bad NA$CAR isn’t about racing any more.

12/06/2007 08:03 PM

I agree, why does the south regress while everyone else seeks to progress? It is indeed sad!

12/06/2007 08:09 PM

Couldn’t have been said better Sleepy…

True Fan
12/06/2007 10:09 PM

You can lead horses to water but you can’t make them drink it and we all know who the horses are.

12/06/2007 10:09 PM

I agree with Chris2’s comments. People watching the races need to be race fans of the overall sport. That includes some knowledge of the sport which includes knowing who all the drivers are and actually attending some of these races to get the complete fan experience. While its fine to just follow one driver, doing so can block out the fact that a lot of other things are going on during the race. Personally, I think better coverage of the “rest” of the field and better announcing from the “booth” and “pit road” would do wonders for keeping our attention so we watch the entire race longer. The timing of commercials are another set of big problems as well! How often this year did we miss the action on the track during a commercial? Personally, I think a bunch of people writing in these forums would do a better job than the idiots in the booth this year! Where’s Ned Jarrett when you need him?

12/06/2007 10:25 PM

NASCAR has out grown the south and some fans can’t accept it. It’s sad!” ——— WHAT A JOKE! THE MORE NASCAR HAS TRIED TO HEAD NORTH, THE WORST IT HAS DONE!!!

12/06/2007 11:23 PM

True Fan – do you mean horses? or horses ass?

12/06/2007 11:26 PM

There are at least 8 directions to grow so the anti north statements suggest obvious disdain for a particular area, sounds like someone is still pissed about the civil war.It seems nascar is nothing more than a cover for unsettled “yankee” hate by people who are living vicariously through regional drivers hence Dale Earnhardt and the like.

cindy feldman
12/07/2007 07:24 AM

I am a Dale Jr fan. After he’s out of the race( and that happened way too many times this year)it’s over for me. Nascar has too many stupid rules,penalties and, that really dumb Chase format. I was at Homestead and you should have seen all the people leaving when Dale Jr was down 5 laps. The race was over, as far as I was concerned.

Steve Thornton
12/08/2007 08:02 AM

While I too miss the days of Ned Jarrett, Buddy Baker, & Neil Bonnett calling the races, two are retired and Neil is gone. Having said that, ESPN needs to get rid of morons like Kuselias and let Jerry Punch and Allen Bestwick call races. Not the idiots they have in there now. The only series I watch anymore are the trucks. Those guys are not afraid to let it all hang out. The other thing that needs to go is Bill Weber and TNT. That idiot wants to be Howie Cosell so badly….somebody needs to kick his sorry a** over to football coverage. Then he can go gush over the thugs there. Jim France, Please kick your stupid nephew out of the chair and bring some common sense back to NASCAR


Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

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