The Frontstretch: Potts' Shots: Over-Officiating And Commercialpalooza NASCAR No Nos by John Potts -- Wednesday September 29, 2010

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Potts' Shots: Over-Officiating And Commercialpalooza NASCAR No Nos

John Potts · Wednesday September 29, 2010


Ya gotta wonder…

About NASCAR’s TV coverage…

The crowd at Dover on Sunday wasn’t “horrible,” as a colleague on the Frontstretch live blog noted, but it was far from a sellout. Lots of empty spaces were visible, and two big sections of the grandstand were given over to sponsor banners.

I can’t blame Dover for that. I recall the first “Thursday Night Thunder” ESPN telecasts from IRP. We were afraid that the stands wouldn’t look full on TV, so we blocked off the hill outside of Turn 1. After three weeks, we opened it up again.

The 12 drivers spraying champagne all over themselves at Richmond are about the only people celebrating the Chase monster.

No doubt the economy is part of the reason for the declining crowds and TV ratings, but is there more to it?

The Chase was supposed to put NASCAR on par with the NFL and Major League Baseball in the fall. How’s that idea working out, Brian France? You got plastered in the ratings on the first week of the NFL regular season.

And Sunday’s race wasn’t the most exciting I’ve ever watched, giving me plenty of chances to flip over and watch the Falcons / Saints game. Of course, the commercials helped a lot on that.

About those commercials… I know Tom Bowles was keeping track of how many minutes of race coverage we lost to them, and I haven’t seen his figures yet, but it was a lot. They broke away with 11 green flag laps left and came back with five to go. (Granted, we’ve got some issues of our own here in southeastern Kentucky. Our cable system threw in one of those “required” Emergency Broadcast System tests with 10 laps left in a race last week.)

Still, the NFL has a solid policy on TV breaks: none during actual playing time. Quarters, timeouts, after scores, and after changes of possession. That last one leads to two in a row at times, but it’s cut and dried.

The nature of racing doesn’t lend itself well to that, naturally, but I think we’re seeing more and more commercial breaks each week.

The NFL, at least, has a lot of leverage with the TV networks because of the popularity of the sport. Does NASCAR? While they’re rapidly losing clout with sponsors, I believe they’re also losing it with the TV people. When ratings drop, a network can’t demand as much for their commercial breaks. This series isn’t the Super Bowl, with millions on the line for each 30-second spot.

That equates to less income, meaning the network has to run more ads to make money on their telecast. After all, they’re paying NASCAR and the tracks for the TV rights. We might see that change, too, and lower profit margins could have even more of an effect.

NHRA pays a hefty fee to have their national events tape-delayed and shown on ESPN2, and I don’t think they even have any control over who does the announcing. The way things look right now, it won’t be long before NASCAR’s in the same boat.

Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress remain beside themselves over a 150-point penalty to teammate Clint Bowyer surrounding a body tolerance violation so small, it’s about the width of just 15 pieces of notebook paper.

Ya gotta wonder…

What Denny Hamlin was thinking when he accused Richard Childress Racing of being one of the biggest cheaters in NASCAR. It’s been my experience that yelling, “He’s cheating!” and pointing a finger puts a target on your back for competitors as well as officials.

I think one of our writers had the best line, in quoting Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese admiral who planned Pearl Harbor and said after it, “I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Ya gotta wonder…

Just exactly where NASCAR is headed.

As far as I’m concerned, the deal with the RCR body height matter is an indication of over-officiating. It’s almost like the tech crew at New Hampshire said, “Well, it’s OK here, but let’s take it back to Concord and see what we can find wrong with it.”

I remember once in a big race at the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville when we had a winner who was right on the money in the post-race weight check. Another car owner protested that he thought our scales were wrong, so we hauled it to a nearby grain elevator. Still checked out OK.

When I said we need to get back to basics on Sunday, one of our writers offered the opinion that there needs to be a wholesale turnover of the top decision makers in NASCAR for things to change. I mean, is there anybody left at the top level who really has a passion for stock car racing? Or only bean counters, concerned with a bigger bottom line?

Do we need to start all over? To chuck the whole thing and find one strong man who has a real feeling for the sport, who knows what needs to be done, and let him build it back up from the beginning? To turn it back to a “regional” sport as it was when it began, and let it start growing from that point again?

I’ve seen the same kind of thing happen before. The original ASA was an organization founded on the principle of having the best from local tracks get together and compete. Hence the original title “Circuit of Champions.” Before that, the same type of philosophy applied to ARCA.

Ron Drager and his people have kept ARCA alive, I believe, by keeping it close to that. Sure, they run Daytona and Talladega, but they also run at Salem, Toledo, and on the dirt at Springfield and DuQuoin. All kinds of tracks, but the same cars, just like NASCAR did back in the day.

Now, we’ve got some series with the same kind of aim all over the country. In our area, it’s the Ken-Ten Pro Late Models, with rules that allow teams from local tracks to compete.

Does NASCAR need to start over?

Ya just gotta wonder…

Wednesday on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Dollars Alter Dreams, Chasing Not To Lose, And NASCAR Overexposure
Why The Monster Meltdown at Dover For Chase Contenders?
Mirror Driving: Three Cars For RPM?, And Three’s Company For Harvick, Childress, Hamlin
Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Top 15 After Dover
Carey And Coffey: Weeding Out Those Chase Pretenders
Top Ten Things Kevin Harvick Doesn’t Want To Have A Pissing Contest Against
The Frontstretch Foto Funnies! Dover, September 2010

Contact John Potts

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Did You Notice? … A Return To Richmond, Post-Spingate And Quick Hits
NASCAR Mailbox: A ‘Normal’ Saturday And A Valuable Lesson
Beyond the Cockpit: Tony ‘The Sarge’ Schumacher
Open Wheel Wednesday: Controversial Moves, Long Beach Crowds, and Being a Fuddy Duddy
The Frontstretch Five: Pleasant Surprises of 2014 So Far
IndyCar Driver Profile: Takuma Sato
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09/29/2010 09:52 AM

When decisions are made based on what is best for the stockholders, it seems bad things happen. It doesn’t matter what the sport is. (See MLSE and the Leafs)

The NFL is always doing things to improve their game and most of the time they work. But if the changes don’t work, THEY GET RID OF THEM. Not a bad concept.

The NFL will probably drop two exhibition games and make the season 18 games. The CFL did that years ago. You’re welcome.

For Emperor Brian, it’s all about the bottom line and how soon he can elect himself into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. And as I have said before it will be in the Destroyer section where he makes it on his own. Third generation at it again.

09/29/2010 10:07 AM

Bryan: I don’t think NA$CAR needs to shrink back to a regional sport. It has National recognition, and thrived on the National stage.
What appears to be the problem, is the corporate bodies in charge.
In the begining, Bill France Sr. had a vision. His vision was a sanctioning body that didn’t steal the box-office, and maintained a legitimate racing series.
Bill France Jr. had a vision of taking the series out of the Southeast, and marketing it to the nation, as a whole.
Brian France has no vision. He is at the head of NASCAR because it is his family right. He isn’t an honest man like his grandfather was, and he isn’t a savvy businessman like his father. He is there simply because his name is France. And he turned NASCAR into NA$CAR.
In order for NA$CAR to become NASCAR again, it would require the removal of the ENTIRE head of the sanctioning body. But then you are left with a conundrum, while their removal would open the door for a visionary, WHO is the visionary that could step in and right the wrongs of the past decade? Where do you find a motorsports/racing visionary?

The problems with NASCAR or NA$CAR are easy to define, but nearly impossible to repair.

John Potts
09/29/2010 10:36 AM

Humpy Wheeler.

09/29/2010 11:27 AM

Can’t Brian be taken care of like Tony George?
How long will the stockholders take the losses?

keeping it real
09/29/2010 02:20 PM

RE: “Over-officiating” – It’s amazing to me how many “journalists” are acting like NASCAR just decided out of the blue to take the 33 to the R&D Center for a closer look. News flash – they’ve been taking the winning car to the R&D Center and doing the exact tear-down that they did on Clint’s car FOR 3 YEARS NOW.

09/29/2010 02:20 PM

I was thinking more like Brian France should be dealt with by the Red Queen — OFF with his HEAD! (joking)

09/29/2010 02:51 PM

Successful family businesses generally follow a similar pattern. The first generation starts and and makes the business successful, the second generation maintains it and the third generation destroys it.

Looks like it is happening again.

09/29/2010 03:35 PM

John Potts: Humpy is a great visionary mind. Every track would have a spectacle, that’s for sure.
He definitely has a visionary mind. But Humpy isn’t getting any younger. If you hired him to lead, you had better start lining up the replacement visionary immediately.

However, I admit that Humpy never even crossed my mind. A solid suggestion.

09/30/2010 03:15 PM

I don’t even watch the races anymore. I tune in to “Race in 60” on Speed channel.