The Frontstretch: Voices From the Heartland: Studies Have Shown, NASCAR Is ‘Full Of It’ by Jeff Meyer -- Thursday June 4, 2009

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Over the last couple of weeks, ever since the rumors started flying about the demise of Tony Eury, Jr. as Dale, Jr.’s crew chief, the ‘media’ has reported several times, in various ways, that “studies have shown that when Jr. isn’t running well, NASCAR’s ratings are down.”

NASCAR of course, actually likes to hear that because it shifts the blame from where it really lies; Brian France. As much as the media (with the exception of this media) and NASCAR would like you to believe their standard party line, I’ve done some ‘studies’ of my own which point to the fact that, believe it or not, NASCAR is full of it, and we all know what ‘it’ is. (For those more sheltered readers out there, here is a hint: it rhymes with ‘scoop’ which, oddly enough, is what you need to dig yourself out of ‘it’ whenever Brian France starts slinging ‘it’!)

First of all, NASCAR has always said that ‘no one man is bigger than the sport itself’ so why, all of a sudden, is the recent demise and the apparent future of NASCAR so dependant upon Dale, Jr.? The truth is it is NOT. Yes, Jr. is the ‘most popular’ driver and he has millions upon millions of followers, to the point that they have seceded from the Union and formed their own ‘nation’ but they are not culprits here. Let’s face it, most of this ‘nation’s’ populace would tune in to see their leader take a crap, which as fate would have it, is exactly what they have been seeing most Sunday afternoons anyway. No, the Jr. Nation is not the problem as NASCAR would like you to believe. Let’s look at some other cold, hard facts.

Brian France became the head of NASCAR in 2003. In 2004, he instituted his brilliant idea of The Chase ‘playoff’ system because well, other major sports had that type of system and he wanted to go head to head against the NFL on any given Sunday.

Instead of blaming Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for the dramatic drop in ratings, NASCAR should be thanking him; without the support of ‘Junior Nation’, the numbers would be much lower.

During the 2004 season two things happened that are purely coincidental and independent of one another. The first is NASCAR’s ratings did in fact rise, partly because fans wanted to see how this new system would work, and partly because they already had been rising at an almost exponential rate since the tragic season of 2001. The second thing that happened was that 2004 was Dale, Jr.’s ‘breakout’ season of his career where he scored 6 wins, 16 top 5s and 21 top 10s.

Technically speaking, I will say that 2004 was the zenith for both NASCAR and Dale, Jr. and that is probably where most of the recent ‘studies’ have stopped. My study does not. Let’s look a little deeper.

Up until the year 2000, television coverage of the races was brokered by deals between the networks and the owners of individual tracks. Despite this unruly, hodge-podge system, all the races were being televised and NASCAR’s popularity was growing. In December of 1999 however, NASCAR, sensing a dollar to be made, allowed their then head of marketing genius, Brian France, to negotiate a centralized, six year television deal between NASCAR, FOX Sports, FX, NBC and TNT, which he did to the tune of 2.4 BILLION dollars!

As we all know, since Brian successfully brokered that colossal deal, other major changes included naming Brian as the head of NASCAR and a Cup Series name change (from Winston to Nextel/Sprint) which resulted in yet even more BILLIONS pouring into the sanctioning body’s coffers.

As a result of that first ‘centralized’ TV deal, long time fans began to become disenfranchised from the sport mainly because of an increase in commercial breaks, emphasis on the more popular drivers and teams to the total and blatant exclusion of others, and the de-emphasis of actual racing coverage in exchange for an increase of hype, fluff and general BS!

Late in 2005, with first deal’s expiration looming and the announcement of NBC’s desire to ‘get the hell out’, France was able to fleece a whopping 4.8 BILLION dollar, eight year contract out of FOX, Speed Channel, ABC/ESPN and TNT! As one might expect and we all have had to endure, with a price like that to pay, the networks have relied on even more commercials, more fluff, more hype and all around bigger heapings of non-race related BS the likes of which would make a billy goat puke!

Other unpopular contributions that Brian has brought to the sport include (but are not limited to) the SPECtacular and hated Car of Tomorrow, the quest for the ‘casual fan’ and the insistance of two races a year in Fontana, CA! I could go on but I don’t think I have to. The point is that since its peak in 2004, NASCAR ratings and fan satisfaction have been dropping in almost the same exponential way they rose.

Meanwhile, what has Jr. been doing since his peak in ’04? In the last 5 years, he has amassed (to date) 3 wins, 35 top 5s and 61 top 10s. No, it’s not what I would call lighting the racing world on fire, but there are guys out there that never reach those numbers during their whole career.

When you lay it side by side, I defy anyone to logically tell me that Jr’s less than stellar performance is more responsible for the drop in ratings than the dealings of Brian France. If anything, NASCAR should be grateful for the fanatical tenacity of the Jr. Nation, without which the ratings would be even lower.

I have never personally heard a die hard 88 fan say that they are not going to watch the race because Jr. has been sucking as of late. I HAVE heard numerous once die hard NASCAR fans, myself included, say they don’t care if they see the race because NASCAR in general has been sucking (for various reasons) of late!

The truth of the matter is is that there IS one man bigger than the sport itself, but it is NOT Dale Earnhardt, Jr. That honor squarely belongs to the man that sits behind the CEO’s desk in Daytona, FL. A desk upon which you will NEVER see a ‘The buck stops here!’ sign!

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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don mei
06/04/2009 07:32 AM
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The Carl Long affair is an exercise in pure arrogance by a sanctioning body run amuck.I suspect it may become necessary for we fans to boycott Nascar at the tracks and the television broadcasts. It might be the only way to bring rational management back to our sport.

Johnboy60
06/04/2009 07:46 AM
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Don.we can only hope that will happen, but let’s NOT hold our breath!I have already quit attending races altogether and never watch the entire race if I watch at all….usually find out who won on the late news! I won’t buy anything that is a nascrap sponsor, but I must be in the minority.

Douglas
06/04/2009 07:58 AM
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As I stated in another column, please start writing/calling NA$CRAP sponsors and telling them you will no longer be buying or using their products/services as long as they continue to line King Brian’s pockets with the cash!

PLEASE?

AND! Send an e-mail to:

“ktharp@nascar.com”

explaining your disgust with the entire Mayfield/Long situation or any other complaint you might have!

MJR in Springfield VA
06/04/2009 08:24 AM
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“In December of 1999 however, NASCAR, sensing a dollar to be made, allowed their then head of marketing genius, Brian France, to negotiate a centralized, six year television deal between NASCAR, FOX Sports, FX, NBC and TNT, which he did to the tune of 2.4 BILLION dollars!”

There lies the first biggest problem with NA$CAR. A marketing man can only do so many things. They can package the product, sell the product to a buyer, tell the end user why he needs the product, and pretty much shove it down the throats of the general public. The one thing a marketing man CAN’T do is make the customer ENJOY the product. That my friend, is solely up to the customer. Once the customer decides he doesn’t care for the product, its then back up to the marketing folks to fix it or the customer moves on.

And therein lies the second largest problem with NA$CAR; THEY DON’T CARE! As long as they were making money hand over fist, NA$CAR was happy…”so screw the customer” (that’s a NA$CAR marketing phrase in case you missed it). And now that the cash cow is looking a little lean on the hoof I guess it’s time for the marketing folks to hop back on the problem. B. France got it this far as an old “marketing guy…” Can’t wait to see how he’s going to fix it this time now that he is fully entrenched as the CEO.

Last man out, turn off the lights and bring the flag.

Ken
06/04/2009 09:07 AM
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I don’t think it has much to do with Jr’s success or failure because many of us don’t care and those that do are dedicated fans already. You can’t keep switching the starting times for a 4 hour infomercial and expect people to watch. Also, when NA$CAR makes up the rules as they go, fans get frustrated with the obvious bias for certain Teams and drivers.

Kevin in SoCal
06/04/2009 12:44 PM
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Jeff said: “Yes, Jr. is the ‘most popular’ driver and he has millions upon millions of followers”

lemmings, sheep, disciples, hangers-on, zealots, etc.

Jeff said: “ tune in to see their leader take a crap”

You’ll say crap but you wont say poop?

Jeff said: “I have never personally heard a die hard 88 fan say that they are not going to watch the race because Jr. has been sucking as of late.”

I guess you havent seen the stands empty out when Dale Jr wrecks on lap 50, or how much the TV ratings decline after that point, then?

Denis
06/04/2009 01:41 PM
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If Junior Nation were actual race fans, it wouldn’t be so bad right? They are junior fans and that’s it.
We need more race fans in the stands. Well, we need actual racing on track too, but that’s another story.

sue
06/04/2009 02:31 PM
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i initially became interested in nascar watching a dale jr show on mtv, but the actual racing is what grabbed me and never let go. when jr made the switch, so did i, to another driver, but i was still very much interested in nascar. i completely agree with your article. dale jr got alot of people interested in nascar, and then brian france screwed it up. too many changes in too short a time. my interest is waning from all the changes and i hate that car!

bobobobobo
06/04/2009 02:38 PM
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I remember sitting with my dad and watching #43 racing in a car with a wing on the back but I have finally had enough. No more NA$CRAP no more endless commercials and absolutely no more of that idiot DW and his freaking gopher and booger booger booger at the start of every race.I will head to Dubuque County Fairgrounds on Sat.and enjoy real racing by real racers, you know,the folks that do it for the love of racing-something NA$CRAP forgot a long time ago.

P on U
06/04/2009 03:33 PM
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Jeff Meyer – you sir are my hero!!!

P on U Brainle$$ France!

P.S. – Please bring back the old cars and point system Na$crap D bags. I know you’re reading this (or one of your grundles is and will report back to you)!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Robert Eastman
06/04/2009 05:27 PM
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Could it be that one of the problems is… everyone (including himself) thinks that Brian France was/is the “marketing brains” when in fact George Payne, (who left NASCAR for IMG) was the real genius? It seems to me that NASCAR has been on the skids ever since he left! Great leaders understand their own weaknesses, and then proceed to hire the best and the brightest to fill the gaps. (Roger Penske’s strength) It is the fool who believes his own press and wallows in “unearned glory!”

Phyllis
06/04/2009 08:12 PM
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NASCAR has lost a loyal fan….probably forever.
What an “tangled web” it has woven for itself…
practicing to deceive.

I’m out. It’s over. All done.

This fan has awakened from the “bad dream” !

darlene
06/04/2009 08:37 PM
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You can take a pile of compost, tie it up in a very pretty package with a beautiful bow, but it’s still compost. That’s what Brian France has tried to do with Nascar. I defy any of the big wigs to look me in the eye and say that if it were Jr’s car, or Jimmie’s car that was in violation the same as Carl Long, that they would have gotten a 12 race suspension. No way on God’s green earth. I can back this comment up by pointing to Nascar’s favorite rule, the Corporate Welfare System, aka, the Top 35. Helton and France have all said numerous times that they cannot get rid of the Top 35 rule because they have a duty to make sure that the stars and their sponsors are in the race each week. So does anyone honestly think that Jr would be suspended for the same violation as Long? Only the little guy with no sponsors are going to get hit that hard.

Bobbie
06/04/2009 09:59 PM
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More proof that “Nasacar” doesnt have a clue….last year they issued that infamous statement “Shut up and drive”. This year they toss a meeting out there asking for driver/owner input.

So what do they want from the drivers? Run Nascar or shut up and drive?”

Marc
06/04/2009 11:49 PM
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I didn’t watch Dover last week, I seem to be completely disinterested this year. It is all foolishness and a freak show. Brain Fart and company have completely killed it. I thought years ago that NASCAR would get better when the fad crowd started following other things, but boy was I wrong. Everybody is leaving in huge droves, probably never to return. We just don’t care anymore. There is no driver to root for, no make of auto to root for, no little guy, no nothing. It’s an hours drive from here to Whynot Motorsports Park, some of the best dirt tracking in the country, but worth the drive on Saturday night. See ya’ll at the dirt track.

LE
06/05/2009 01:39 PM
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>>>As a result of that first ‘centralized’ TV deal, long time fans began to become disenfranchised from the sport mainly because of an increase in commercial breaks, emphasis on the more popular drivers and teams to the total and blatant exclusion of others, and the de-emphasis of actual racing coverage in exchange for an increase of hype, fluff and general BS! >>>>

That pretty much nails it right there. The only thing I would add is that fans have finally had it with the blatant favoritism towards certain teams/drivers when it comes to enforcing rules (such as the yellow line rule-one example) and others. NASCRAP must think the average fan it too stupid to figure out that it all depends on who you are in this sport. Fair play and true sportsmanship have died a horrible death. It’s all about how to artificially create excitement. That’s how the stinking Chase was born. Phoney debris cautions, different rule books for different drivers — fake, fake, fake, just like WWE. No wonder Nascar fans are laughed at.

 

Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
BSNews! Bruton’s Plans Extend Beyond Bristol’s Track
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