The Frontstretch: Time IS Ripe For a Racing Revolution by Jeff Meyer -- Wednesday October 25, 2006

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Time IS Ripe For a Racing Revolution

Voices From The Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Wednesday October 25, 2006

 

It is no secret that in the eyes of NASCAR, the racing game is NOT a democracy. It purely is, and most always has been, an outright dictatorship. Throughout the course of history, such dictatorships have their peak…and then, inevitably, a tragic downfall. Recent happenings have me thinking a downfall is close at hand.

When the France family first started the sanctioning body that controls NASCAR at its highest level, it WAS a good thing. It gave structure to a sport that needed structuring. It was good for the sport, good for the spectators, and good for the competitors. However, over the years, that has blatantly changed.

Since the beginning, anything that was against The Family's wishes has been instantly quashed. They were (and are) the only game in town. If you want to race at their level, now tops in the U.S. Racing world…you played by their rules, and their rules only. It has been that way for nearly six decades. In the process, as with most dictators, The Family has become obscenely wealthy.

Don’t be fooled: the wealth is obscene. The Family owns most of the tracks. The Family owns most of the souvenir business. The Family owns most of the concession business. The Family owns a brand marketing company to funnel money from other businesses into their own. The Family decides who races, and where, and even what they must race. But now…The Family has finally overdone it.

As I said earlier, the structure that The Family provided was good for the sport's best interest, even if not everyone approved of their methods. However, as the years have gone by, the words “for the sport's best interest” have been replaced by “for The Family's maximum profits.”

Consider a few of these happenings that have occurred in recent years, gaining steam with some recent news:

  • When NASCAR went into Mexico, was it to expand the sport? No, it was to expand the MARKET. Now, the sport heads to Canada for the same reasons, just like they went to California before that. That’s not the end of the list, either; do you think NASCAR is attempting to build tracks in the Northwest and New York City so people there will become more interested in stock car racing at the highest level? No, they, by their own words, want the MARKET size the track will capture, simply by being built there. The fans in the seats don’t matter..it’s the ability to say to the stockholders you have a track in a certain area that does.

Now, with protests galore, does The Family care that the majority of people at or near the proposed new sites don't want a race track there? No. But rest assured…they will do whatever is necessary to push it through.

Is that the way to promote the sport of stock car racing? Of course not. Why go where you are not wanted? Of course, if these new ISC (The Family) owned tracks were to ever be built, (and I still say they never will be)... will they be guaranteed a Cup date? You better believe it! That will lead to inevitable speculation as to what other non ISC tracks would lose their Cup date; for do you think for one minute that NASCAR would take a date away from one of their existing tracks? Not a chance!

  • Does NASCAR care one bit that the new Car Of Tomorrow is opposed by everyone from the fans, to the drivers themselves, not to mention the team owners and even the manufacturers? No, they do not. Not at all. You race the COT or you don't race…the same attitude that it’s always been, despite a growing chorus of disapproving voices that gets louder every day.
  • Does NASCAR care that the Chase format has directly affected how the competitors actually race during a race? No. The Chase is strictly made for television ratings, and even those haven’t been producing the numbers expected this year.

The only thing that I personally can think of that NASCAR has done in the last ten years that was GOOD for the sport are the SAFER barriers mandated at all tracks. However, and you will NEVER convince me otherwise, the SAFER barrier was only mandated because Dale Earnhardt was killed. Had it been anyone else…I think you would still not see them at all the tracks. Before Dale's death, it was “too costly” to install them. After that tragic day, how fast were they mandated?

The underlying theme of all this is that as the sport has grown, The Family has grown extremely rich, but…so have others that have played their game over the years! The very thing that The Family has sought could now become their downfall.

There are tracks out there that would do anything for a date…but realize they aren’t getting one anytime soon. There ARE people out there that have the wherewithal to start a rival series, with stock-looking stock cars no less. All it would take is a few big names and a few big name sponsors to jump on the bandwagon, and the fans would eat it up!

Things would become cheaper for all involved. More people could actually afford to play the game. Sponsors would pay less, and be happy to do so. Car manufacturers could gain their identity back on the race track. Oh, did I mention the FANS?

All it would take for this revolution to happen is a few key people who are currently at the top level of racing to actually have the guts to do it!

Listen up Royal Family, we the people, the ones whom you built your castle upon, are sick and tired of your dictatorship and your suppression of our sport! We have been speaking…but have you been listening? Look at your precious “ratings” now! Look at the empty seats in your “prime markets!” Listen to the drivers who have achieved mega-celebrity status. Fans just LOVE mega-celebrities! You Royals are an entity. People HATE entities!

The Royal Family is living on borrowed time. They are just too arrogant to see it yet.

We, the people, WILL have our sport back. We just need a few new leaders to get us there!

We are waiting.

Tear down the wall!

Jeff

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M. B. Voelker
10/26/2006 08:16 AM
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I’m waiting for just one of the people who continually whine about how horrible Nascar is to set up their own, competing, stock car series.

After all, if Nascar is so terrible and there is such demand for a “purer” racing series that corrects all the flaws in Nascar then it will be easy to find financial backing, owners and drivers will beat down the doors for the oppertunity to race in the new series instead, and TV will beg for the priviledge of broadcasting the races.

However, despite the great abundance of complainer there is a distinct shortage of people willing to put their time and money where their mouths are.

IMO, all you negative-thinking complainers, its time to put up or shut up.

Mark
10/26/2006 08:30 AM
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Bruton Smith has the wherewithal and the backing to do it. But you know as soon as he starts talking to drivers and sponsors, the Family (sounds a lot like Sam Gianchano), will pull out all stops to keep it from happening. They are big, they are rich, and they are mean.
But something has to change or I think economics will be the deciding factor. A lot of us are just tired of watching the same old crap every week, that is, rules being made as you run, and, no individuality among teams. Nobody can do their own thing anymore, if they know something that will make the car better, they cant do it, its illegal (detrimental to stock car racing)

Bill
10/26/2006 09:15 AM
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What you have written certainly has a lot of merit to it. Every year we hear the fans complaining about the product and how the sport is changing for the worse.

BUT, how many of us are still watching on Sunday when the green flag falls? A great percentage of us are still there as well as the numerous new fans that have been attracted to the sport. To be honest, even if the sport has changed to the worse, it is still the best sports product for me on Sunday so I remain as a fan.

Who long will this last, however? It just may be that the sport is on the decline. NASCAR has created a situation, in my opinion, where we don’t have developing drivers ready to take the step to Cup. As a result, I feel the quality of the drivers entering the sport will not be as good as we have become accustomed to. That right there may help the sport reduce in popularity.

In short, as long as the stands are still full and many of us are watching on television, the NASCAR powers-to-be won’t change their ways. But when it flops, we can then say ‘we told you so’.

Jay
10/26/2006 10:55 AM
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true, Bruton does have the money and tracks to pull off a coup, but the Frances will come down on ANY driver that talks to him about this. Just like when the drivers tried to form a union,they were banned like Cutis Turner was, or at least threatened with that.

ERIN
10/26/2006 11:09 AM
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THE FAMILY..I keep expecting a horsehead to turn up in one of the Frances’ beds! My husband and I have been becoming disenchanted with NASCAR week after week..and it is SAD..it is the only game in town to watch….I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach..once the stars of today (i.e. Tony Stewart, Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon, Harvick, etc. etc.) leave or retire from the sport there will not be enough “watchable talent” on the track for many to continue to root for. I can only manage to watch the races due to the last of the “pure racers”..and I don’t see much going on with NASCAR that makes me want to get attached to any future drivers. With each new batch of drivers you get less of the impression they are their own men..out to win races and hug pretty women in Victory lane..as much as they are out to win money and yessir their way to a dinner with NASCAR and it’s sponsors. Clones…did you see the movie “Stepford Wives”..well after Talladega Nights did so well they have begun shooting Talladega Nights 2…“NASCAR DRIVERS” where the COT is driven by robot David Ragan look-a-likes!!!

Mike
10/26/2006 01:55 PM
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So MB, you’re saying that all the fans who are dissatisfied with the way the France family is doing business should start a new racing series? Most of the fans I know don’t pull in the kind of money needed to start a new series. And no bank in the world is going to lend the type of money needed to start a new racing series because your average fan doesn’t have the type of collateral needed to start one up. If you think it’s hard getting a car or home loan from a bank, try getting a loan to the tune of $10 million or more when you don’t have the income and/or collateral that’s needed.

And I’m guessing by the implied message in your comment, that fans of other sports don’t have the right to complain about what’s going on with their hometown or favorite teams? So they need to start new basketball, baseball, football, and/or hockey teams because they’re dissatisfied with the current teams?

The only two people involved with the France family that have the type of money, collateral, and clout to form a new series are Roger Penske and Bruton Smith. Penske has the money and Smith has the tracks. But neither of them are willing to bite the hand that feeds them.

Unless every one of the 75 million fans, by the France family estimates, are willing to donate $10 a piece to a fund to start a new series, we’re going to be stuck with what’s being served up by the Frances and the complaints from the fans are going to continue until eventually there are no fans left to complain and there’s no sport left to complain about.

J. Meyer
10/26/2006 03:18 PM
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Folks, the way I see it, all it would take is say, Bruton Smith, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and their respective sponsors and perhaps team owners to get the ball rolling. And, if Jr were to jump on the band wagon, well then it would be a done deal.
So, if you have Smith, Stewart, Gordon, Gibbs, Hendrick, and Jr, thats six people that could topple the empire should they set their minds to it. We the fans would gladly give more than 10.00! Price of a ticket would be more than that!
It could be done. The big names in the sport, coupled with the fan support, are a gazillion times more powerful now than they were years ago, say when certain individuals tried to form a union.
They have the power, they (and their sponsors) just aren’t sure if we the fans would follow if they were to step out and lead us!
I say the fans would!

Craig
10/26/2006 04:28 PM
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I have been thinking about this for a while now, it happens to all the short track series here in Wis. every couple of years. I think though instead of starting a new series all it would take is a couple big name teams to jump to the arca series. they already run the same equipment but would probably need a bigger title sponser to put more money in the point fund. But if you want to watch good racing you need to go out to your local short tracks Fri. or Sat. night and watch guys fight it out just for the love of racing.

Mark
10/26/2006 11:23 PM
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When Tony George decided to star his own series which is the IRL people said that knowone would watch. Granted it is not the biggest sport in the world, But I think that it shows that it is possible. I know this is a Nascar site, But I was using this as an EXAMPLE. WHO KNOWS.

Mark
10/27/2006 08:03 PM
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It seems that too many young racers today learned how to drive watching Days of Thunder and Talladega Nights. The talent pool will become more and more convaluted as the Busch GRAND NATIONAL series becomes more and more saturated with Cup drivers. I think we already see teams like Penske and RYR paying the price for lack of real, talented drivers. You cant send somebody off to driving school that has only driven his mothers station wagon, and expect him to be able to wheel these monsters in competition against other drivers. The tricks the Earnhardts, Stewarts, Gordons, Martins, have in their bag didn’t come from the Richard Petty Driving Experience. It came from racing Ol’ Slick down the backstretch, and getting along beside him in turn 3, on some dirt track in a place these young pretty boys never heard of. Experience makes the driver

M. B. Voelker
10/27/2006 09:58 PM
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Mike,

If Nascar is truly that terrible and the whining complainers’ ideas are so much better it would be easy to find the financial backing to put them in place. After all, investors love a better idea.

Chick Zborowski
10/28/2006 01:38 PM
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Reply to M. B. Voelker: You say it would be easy to find financing for a better idea? I’ve got the idea if you’ve got the money!
Chick

Ledduk Racing
10/30/2006 07:06 AM
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I totally agree that NASCAR needs some direct competition to get them back to a reasonable state. It’s never good when you have one power controlling everything. Eventually the power is abused, as it is right now. It’s probably going to take a total outsider(s) with mega-megabucks to even start something new and the France monster will continually attempt to tie them up in court and drain the life and $$$ out of them. Also, people inside of NASCAR are making too many $$$ to genuinely think of competing against them. They are greedy too!

The other alternative to this is the one that will never happen because people generally fail to organize well unless there’s monetary rewards involved for them. If people are really upset with NASCAR the way to get them to change is simple. If it’s not fed, even a monster eventually dies. It’s that simple. However, most people find it easier to feed the monster and give into their own gratification than to tough it out to create change. It’s the American way anymore.

 

Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

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