Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday March 12, 2009
For the last two weekends, I have been in Las Vegas. The first weekend, I was there with my girlfriend and a couple of friends to take in the wonders of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The second weekend, I was there for bowling — but that is a horror story for another publication. The good news is, the sunburn that I started at LVMS (and finished poolside during a short trip to the Los Angeles area) is turning into a nice tan, _and _I managed to make it home with a couple of Ben Franklins still in my pocket! In short, life has been good.
This was my first time to visit Bruton Smith’s track in the Nevada desert and, I must say, it was a wonderful experience. The whole “Neon Garage” experience is well worth the money (for one day anyway) and offers the average fan many views and opportunities to get close to the action that they may not get to experience at other tracks. Of course, being Vegas, it also offers you the opportunity to meet other new and wonderful NASCAR fans as well — in a style that only Vegas can offer!
The track produces races that are as exciting as any of the other so called “best” on the circuit, and surprisingly, in my opinion, was 10 times better than the race this past weekend at Atlanta — a track that usually produces exciting finishes but kinda failed in that respect on Sunday. All in all, LVMS is definitely deserving of a second date. Simply take one from Fontana and give it to Vegas. It is close enough to NASCAR’s coveted “second largest market” and, being Vegas, the fan doesn’t have to worry about hotel prices being jacked to unreasonable rates.
All that being said, LVMS is still not immune from spouting the same propaganda made famous by NASCAR and their track in Fontana when it comes to explaining empty seats. Apparently, it is now considered a “sellout” just as long as a track “distributes” all of its tickets.
“I had my doubts a couple of months ago that we’d get so close to a full house, but now it looks realistic,” said LVMS president, Chris Powell, just before the race. “We’re aware of some fans who, probably because of the downturn in the economy, have purchased tickets and will not be able to travel to Las Vegas for this weekend’s racing activities, so that should explain any empty seats that are visible. Except for a couple of hundred singles that we have available, all of our tickets have been distributed.”
No further word was available as to the definition of “distributed.” I can assure you, though, that anyone who wanted to venture from their original seats to try and find a better vantage point at LVMS had no problems in obtaining their goal!
When you think about it, and if you possess enough self-control not to gamble away your money (a trait I am still working on), attending a race at Las Vegas is probably one of the cheapest on the circuit. Airfare to Vegas is usually always a good deal and, as I mentioned before, it is the one place on the planet that hotel rates are not jacked during a race weekend. As far as Las Vegas is concerned, unlike other cities, NASCAR’s presence there on any given weekend is no big deal. It’s just another “show” to be seen. Sorry to bust your bubble, Brian France!
On a different note, but yet still concerning LVMS owner Bruton Smith (and others), I want to throw in my two cents’ worth on some recent statements made in regards to our government’s responsibility to save the U.S. automakers.
“It’s an abomination,” Smith said recently on the issue. “This country owes them. They saved this country during World War II. What if we get in another major, major war? Who’s going to build things? We need to do whatever we can to save those companies.”
Now I realize that this is a touchy situation that can quickly become politically charged, but really, let’s take a moment to reflect on this. Yes, there is no doubt that the automakers did play a huge part during WWII but, does our country “owe” them for running themselves into the ground for the last 60 years? When it comes to a “major, major war,” this country will do just fine with or without the “Big 3” as we know them now.
You see, a country’s ability to win a war hinges, in part, on just that — its ABILITY to manufacture. We still have the facilities, the workers, and the resources to do that no matter what name is on the company door… or even if that company is still in business. Not to mention the facilities of the so called “foreign” automakers that build their cars much more efficiently here in our own country!
Now, imagine for a moment that we are involved in a major war where Japan is once again our enemy. Do you think that for one minute we are going to allow them to use their facilities here in the U.S. against us? Of course not! We are going to take over their U.S. operations, thank them for showing us how to do it efficiently, and then proceed to kick their ass. So to say that we “owe” Ford, GM or any other company for their contribution during WWII is ludicrous. Yes, there may be other legitimate reasons that a bailout is beneficial — but that debt has been paid. Where is the company’s responsibility to run their operation efficiently and not end up being a burden to the common taxpayer? It’s business. You run it right… or you don’t and you go down. Simple as that.
And while we are on the subject, Tony Stewart had a few comments to add. According to Stewart, he, too, thinks it is “our” fault because we haven’t been acting like “Americans” and are not buying the Big 3’s inferior products.
“The biggest thing is we’ve got to get people to not be afraid to spend money again,” said Stewart. “GM is doing their part. The Chevy brand is building cars that are affordable and economic and efficient. From a manufacturer’s side, that’s all you can ask for. I think they’ve really responded and done a good job in that respect. We have to take an active role ourselves. I’m not saying as drivers or NASCAR. I’m saying our country together. We’ve got to get off our wallets and go back being Americans again and living life the way we used to.”
Well, I’m no economist, but common sense tells me that “being Americans again and living life the way we used to” also includes RUNNING a business the way we used to. That entails NOT expecting someone to save your business if you post millions and millions is losses every QUARTER for years on end.
Now, here is a novel idea…why not let the oil companies, with their billions of PROFIT every quarter, bail out the businesses that make cars that use THEIR product! Don’t call me “un-American” because I spend my money wisely and buy the best product on the market. It’s all part of a uniquely American concept called “capitalism.” Supply and demand, baby. Build a product that I WANT to buy, and you’ve got no problem in the first place.
Now, on to another hot topic in recent days with the media… “start and park” and its effect on NASCAR as we know it.
First of all, as a fan, I have to say, “Who cares?!” It’s simply not the big issue that some in the media have recently blown it up to be. I know that that position is in direct opposition to some of my colleagues here on this site… but give me a break! With all the other major problems that plague NASCAR nowadays, “start and park” should be the least of its worries. Especially when it is NASCAR itself that has helped create the phenomenon and, if reports are true, even actively encourages it.
The problem here is simple corporate greed. NASCAR implemented the insane Top 35 rule to simply insure that certain corporate sponsors are seen every Sunday. NASCAR also encourages the “start and parks” so that they get their “bonus” from the networks!
So, who cares if some little guy has found a way to ride on the coattails and make a little money? That is nothing compared to the myriad of scams that NASCAR has going in order to line its pockets every week! It certainly is not “threatening racing as we know it.”
How about this: if you want to save the “integrity” of racing, do away with the top 35 rule and replace it with say, a top 15 rule to placate the “super sponsors,” while make everyone else “time in” for a race! In that way, you still have some of the “greed” that will never go away, and at the same time, you get a start on the road to restoring a bit of integrity, too.
But using the argument that a “start and park” team can focus simply on qualifying and possibly prohibiting a better known and well-funded team from racing is BS! If you are well-funded and have a talented driver, you should have no problem beating a “start and park” operation during qualifying. It’s not like a “start and park” as a superior “super engine.” Those things are so closely monitored by NASCAR that it is a very weak argument at this point. But if I had my way, EVERYONE — no matter what your name is or who your sponsor is — would have to time in!
Imagine that… a race with the 43 fastest cars on Sunday, not the 35 best sponsors! What a concept!
Stay off the wall (and out of the casinos!),
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