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Jeff Meyer · Friday August 16, 2013
If you haven’t watched the video of Humpy Wheeler’s public epiphany yet, I implore you to take a scant 18 minutes of your time and do so. After all, it’s not often that you see and hear someone of his stature and economic status, actually talk common sense.
Finally someone, with a little bit of a bigger audience than me, has the balls to come right out and say what needs to be said (and with almost every major point that I have been saying for the last ten years). If Humpy was still associated with NASCAR in any official capacity, I would expect monetary fines for speaking the truth to have already been levied against him.
Having said that, I want to touch on a few points that Humpy failed to mention or perhaps just didn’t ‘epiphanize’ enough to realize.
When talking about why fans have left in droves, one would be remiss not to mention the very integrity of the France family. When Granddad and Dad France ran the show, there was never any doubt about where they stood on any given issue. You either did it their way or you didn’t play. Whatever the issue may have been, it was resolved in a finite matter but yet, at the end of the day, you knew, or at least it seemed like you thought you knew, that stockcar racing was still the foremost reason for their ‘being’. After all they built it from the ground up and they were still proud of their achievement. They were, as Humpy referred to past legendary racers, working men. Brian France has been a whole different story.
When Brian took over, it was obvious from the very start that ‘working’ is not something he has done a whole lot of. Not in the sense that you and the millions of ‘I’s out there know work. He has been a bumbling, stuttering, incoherent transparency to a fan base that traditionally easily spots and has no use for, such people. It became clear, almost from day one, that Brian wanted only to make money. And that he did, mostly on the grave of Dale Earnhardt.
Yes, it had to be said (again!). While NASCAR did surge in the 90’s as Humpy alluded, it was Dale’s death that shot it to the next upper level, bearing rise of the ‘casual fan,’ a term that I hate, yet ironically have myself become. Brian France has made it clear that he wanted to get as much money as he possibly could from the sudden influx of this new fan base and he succeeded…for a few years.
Alas, as with any boom, there is also a crash. When the ADD/ADHD ‘casual fan’ started to leave, gimmick after gimmick has been tried to keep the status quo of the heydays but to no avail and here we are today.
But, will Brian France admit he or NASCAR has ever done anything wrong? Of course not! And that’s the integrity, or lack of, that I was talking about earlier. Not only wrong about the gimmickry, but even right down to the cars themselves as is the case of “it was absolutely not the ‘wing’ that made so many cars become airborne when going backwards at 180+ mile per hour.” I mean, for Heaven’s sake, any idiot can see that simply by holding you hand downward or upward out the window while driving down the highway! You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out!
While Brian is no rocket scientist or even, in my opinion, very bright, he is dangerous in that he is a corporate marketer.
Wait! What was that? A corporate marketer? Where have I heard something about them before? Oh yeah, Humpy said that’s what has ruined the sport!
And we got one in charge of NASCAR. What did you think was gonna happen!?
Humpy didn’t have to sit and think long and hard about all this. He could have asked any one of millions of us and we’d have told him. Oh that’s right, we did!
Unfortunately the epiphany didn’t happen to a guy whose name happened to be Humpy France.
Stay off the wall,
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This should have been the top story on this site. Excellent.
And yet most of the Nascar media won’t give Humpy’s opinion the time it deserves for fear of their OWN jobs and Nascar. And, no, I don’t blame them.
Nascar itself, I fear, is going to have to crash and burn before real change happens. And I do believe that’s coming what with the economy being what it is and will be.
Exactly what a lot of us have been saying over and over for a long time. But let me say this one more time:
If Brian France was a real CEO of a corporation that answered to a board of directors, he’d have been fired a long time ago for incompetence and mismanagement.
But of course he’s not.
Jeff, could you please explain this to Summer as she seems to feel that fans should be happy with the “product”.
I’m like an old scratched-up record that gets pulled out every now and then…
NA$CAR and what it stands for:
It is a sad state of affairs that NA$CAR has found themselves in right now. But it is the truest from of the “Golden Rule”…he who has the gold, makes the rules. France will continue to run NA$CAR straight into the ground – and then casually walk away and place the blame on the economy or some other scapegoat – certainly not himself.
I’m pretty much figuring this will happen about the time this newest TV contact runs its course. By then he will have milked every cent out of what was once a great business, an enjoyable American pastime, and a great sport. He’s really not an idiot – just a stupid man. My Daddy used to tell me…Pigs get fat – hogs get slaughtered. He’s got another 5 years or so the get himself fattened up. Just watch – If you can stomach it.
Spot on, but as I mentioned yesterday, Bruton Smith and SMI (Humpy’s former employers) definitely had a role in the changes in NASCAR. It was the effort to build and promote Texas Motor Speedway that led to North Wilksboro and Rockingham going off the schedule in part. Also, like ISC the only tracks SMI built in the 90s were 1.5 mile clones of Charlotte/Atlanta (Texas and Vegas). Bruton still wants to put another race in Vegas, and I wouldn’t put it by him not to take it from Bristol if the Spring race continues to have attendance issues. Hopefully, Humpy’s message will make an impact and start fostering some needed changes (slowing the cars down for more passing, schedule changes, loosening the rule book, etc.)
However, I will say that the complaining still gets old sometimes. Going to a NASCAR race is still a 10x more enjoyable experience than going to MLB, NFL or NBA. I always get the feeling at the track they are trying to give me the most for my money, and not trying to suck every dime out of me before I leave. Whenever I tell my non-NASCAR fans you can bring coolers/beer into the track they are shocked. Just look at the NFL’s new bag policy to “promote safety”. I’m guessing that policy is just as much about stopping fans from bringing a drink or snack into the stadium so they can pay $10 a piece for them inside. I just think sometimes NASCAR fans need to keep things like that in perspective.
What is it that they say about family businesses and nepotism? Something like:
The first generation sweats to create and grow the company, the second generation maintains the company and the third generation runs it into the ground.
And Brian is just proving it true!
The only hope I have is to remember that when Tony George set out to singlehandedly destroy open wheeled racing in this country, it was his family and the other directors who finally reined him in and made him head janitor or whatever it is he does now. Maybe some day the France family and the board of boot lickers will get the guts to do the same thing.
Folks, I hate to break this to you – but while you may see Nascar as a sport, they see it as a business. That isnt going to change.
We know that. We just don’t like it.
Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:
Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
BSNews! Bruton’s Plans Extend Beyond Bristol’s Track
Top Ten Reasons Fans Failed To Show Up At Bristol Sunday
BSNews! NASCAR CEO Given "Special" Award Amidst Lavish Fanfare
Fan Coun-ci-What? Just What Is It That NASCAR Wants To Study?
Want to know more about Jeff Meyer or view his complete article archives? Then hop on over to his archive and bio page.