The Frontstretch: Ads With 11 To Go? Before You Blame The Press... by Kurt Smith -- Thursday September 30, 2010

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Ads With 11 To Go? Before You Blame The Press...

Kurt Smith · Thursday September 30, 2010


Many of us in the motorsports media aren’t very popular with NASCAR’s competitors these days.

After several instances of driver Tony Stewart being critical of restrictor plates, Goodyear tires and debris cautions, owner Tony Stewart this year pointed his finger at the media for repeating that the racing sucks often enough to make people believe it.

His most high-profile employee, Ryan Newman, also took a shot at the press, informing them that it was their job to write positive things about our sport and “we don’t want you here otherwise”.

In the Frontstretch newsletter this week was a tweet from Delana Harvick directed at Jeff Gluck, accusing him of “tabloid journalism”. Gluck’s crime? Asking an RCR driver if it felt good to overcome a tough week. (This is why I don’t Twitter.)

If that’s what people who earn their living in NASCAR are expressing in public, I can only imagine what they say when the cameras, microphones and cell phones are turned off.

I understand the lashing out. Some of us haven’t been very kind to the sport of late. I like to think my columns haven’t been “The Racing Sucks, Issue 1”, “The Racing Sucks, Issue 2”, etc. all year, but I’m not paid by Frontstretch to say Chicagoland is a great venue for racing, either.

I write columns based on what moves me that week. Sometimes it’s negative. But I don’t have any beef with any drivers, teams or even the racing all that much, at least at Martinsville, Darlington or Pocono. My beefs are mostly with a decidedly unfair playoff and horrendous broadcasts.

Anyone looking for a scapegoat could try watching the last Dover race on ESPN. Sit through the whole thing now, no DVR fast-forwarding. Watch a race like a fan does. And you may start to see a big part of the problem.

Like many of you, I was home last Sunday watching what was a lesser than usual Dover event. Jimmie Johnson took home the trophy again, they earned the win, and most fans don’t have any problem with that. OK, so it wasn’t a barnburner. In itself that is no big deal. Some races are better than others as always.

ESPN came within mere minutes of having Jimmie Johnson’s 53rd career win being seen as a replay rather than a live event, perhaps the most vivid demonstration yet of how far NASCAR broadcasts have fallen.

The kicker happened as the Dover race was winding down when, with 11 laps to go, ESPN cut to a commercial break that lasted six laps. It is the closest to the checkered flag during green flag racing this columnist has ever seen a race interrupted for advertising. This was during a race where ESPN had gone to a break just eight laps—which at Dover is about three minutes—into the event.

I sat watching this, incredulously wondering if people were even going to see the finish of the race. The break featured a Nationwide commercial, with the insurance giant being talked up by NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt Jr. OK, I get that you need to get the guy on TV, but seriously?

At a time when NASCAR cannot afford to piss any more fans off, ESPN upped the ante on one of the biggest things that gets NASCAR fans’ goat. Don’t take my word for it. Read the responses to John Daly’s column here.

There is no way that the “worldwide leader in sports” didn’t know better than that, or that they didn’t have a contingency plan for a long green flag run at the end. NASCAR right now ought to be demanding someone’s head on a platter at the network that broadcasts its most important races of the year. Fans might appreciate a little concern on NASCAR’s part more than the Danica Show.

It’s not even aggravating anymore. It’s becoming laughable. NASCAR is still insisting on conducting business in the same self-destructive manner that has cost them millions of fans. An elimination-format Chase? Seriously? That’s the vision that’s going to save the sport? How about reducing the insane amount of advertising during televised races? Any plans for that on the table?

It was mildly annoying to see the Dover race come back from a commercial and still continue to run graphics, during green flag racing, promoting the race that we were already watching. It’s always bothersome to miss a lead change to a commercial break, or to have the racing put on a small screen while someone explains using the prominently labeled CHEVY cutaway car for the billionth time what a spring rubber does. If the racing is as great as everyone keeps insisting, how about letting fans watch it?

Yes, all of that is irritating, even though most fans understand if it’s kept within limits. But having six of the last 11 laps of a playoff event scrapped in favor of buy, buy, buy? We could change the name of this site to “The Racing Sucks Daily” and not chase away fans like a word from our sponsor inside 10 laps to go does. Honestly, this writer still doesn’t believe that that happened.

My Frontstretch colleague Bryan Davis Keith once said to me, “You know, what gets me is that the things NASCAR needs to do to fix the sport are no-brainers.” He’s right. It’s been obvious for almost a decade now. In fact, we negatrons in the motorsports media have been pointing it out quite a bit. Has anyone quit being a fan because they were sick of single-file restarts or that there weren’t enough green-white-checkered attempts?

NASCAR was willing to completely overhaul a points system that had worked just fine for many years, and is talking about doing it again, yet remains completely unwilling to improve infuriating broadcasts, in fact even allowing them to get progressively worse.

Help me out, racing fans: do you need someone with a byline to tell you what might work better at capturing and keeping a “casual” fan?

Contact Kurt Smith

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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10/01/2010 05:12 AM

I watch the races because I like the sport of stock car racing. I do support the sponsors when purchasing necessities. I also remember when NASCAR (and most motorsports) weren’t on TV regularly. I am a casual fan.

NASCAR hasn’t supported its own racing since Bill Jr. started feeling his age. His son, brain, isn’t a promoter in the same vein, he’s out of his element in that ivory tower. Thus, the sport has dwindled to a crawl and may return to its roots of regional racing without TV soon.

I knew the end was near when EA Sports was given the NASCAR exclusive for video games, which they immediately dropped the PC World and served only the game machines…not a word from NASCAR. EA Sports then dropped everyone, not producing ANY games, but holding onto the license…not a word from NASCAR.

Now, they are allowing the networks to run amok with ads everywhere (how many times have you flinched when a car graphic zipped across the racing surface while the race is running?)…not a word from NASCAR.

I’ll continue to watch, as it’s the only good racing on regularly, but I can see the end a-coming, rollin’ round the bend. NASCAR has got to clean house and get the racing back to the front of the broadcasts.

zhills fan
10/01/2010 05:12 AM

I quit watching NASCAR last year for this very reason.

Bill B
10/01/2010 07:15 AM

What’s the point? It seems NASCAR is hell bent on making their customers accept whatever they get. No wonder so many customers are saying fyou and walking away. What NASCAR doesn’t seem to understand is that, in the end, the customer has the power.

10/01/2010 07:51 AM

Kurt: A good article. But what is new? Everything you have said has been said before. It has been said for years. And it is being said with alarming frequency.
I guess I could say that Delana’s Tweet is news, but seriously, is there an empty-headed blonde in America not on Twitter?
Maybe the news is that Tony isn’t actually kinder and gentler, in reality he is just a pansy, doing his best impression of EVERY OTHER HMS driver. Channeling his inner corporate shill.
I can assure you that cutting away for commercials that close to the end is not new. I have seen Fox go to commercial at Bristol with 15 to go. Sonoma has been interrupted with 8 to go. The list goes on, and there’s no reason to assume anything you, me, or God Himself says will be enough to break through Brian France’s arrogance.

Stephen HOOD
10/01/2010 07:53 AM

I couldn’t believe the cut to commercial either. My thought was, “Is ESPN as bored with this race as I am?” I don’t think the broadcasts have been that good although I don’t think the racing has been very good in the last four or five weeks either. There was a Nationwide race three or four weeks ago that was compelling, but the Spring cup races have been yawners. Maybe ESPN is bored.

10/01/2010 07:57 AM

I would like to think that the average race fan in not going to be “brain washed” by what people write, one way or another. nascrap’s problem is that they ONLY want postive feed back! Tony and Ryan have sold their souls to the brain farce. Dana, and Kevin are just total egoists!! Could go on and on. You keep writing what you see and feel, I am smart enough to glean what I want form your stories and make-up my own mind! I have been attending, first NASCAR and now nascrap, racing since 1958 and have seen what the little coke head leader is trying to kill for the sake of his ego!! The sooner the better I say…I don’t watch anymore, just look forward to FrontStretch to keep me up to date!! Thanks again to ALL you writers, I don’t always agree with what you guys write but DO read it and respect it!

Carl D.
10/01/2010 08:03 AM


This column was spot on. Current Nascar leadership is incompetent and out of touch. And Bryan Davis Keith is right, the fixes are no-brainers, but it would require the powers that be to admit they have been going down the wrong path for years, and they’re never going to do that.

If Nascar was a true corporation and not a family business, Brian France would have been sent packing by the board a long time ago.

I’ve been a fan of Tony Stewart in the past, partly because he used to be the one driver you could count on to tell it like it is. Unfortunately, Tony now tows the company line more than most drivers. What’s more, he then blames the media for for reporting the awful truth about the state of the sport. I hate to say it, but Tony has become a real hypocrite.

One final thought… does anyone really care what Delana Harvick has to say? I sure don’t.

10/01/2010 08:11 AM

“If the racing is as great as everyone keeps insisting, how about letting fans watch it?”

Well put. Jacob’s right though, it isn’t new. There’s been plenty of times where a long break has come back for two laps and then another long break.

Every time they do the side-by-side broadcast on TNT, fans love it. So naturally Mr. France is not even considering it for other races.

Kevin from PA
10/01/2010 08:27 AM

How many years have fans asked for the small screen showing the race during commercials? Like your friend pointed out – it’s a no brainer.

Actually it’s a win-win-win as more and more people either DVR the races or switch to that other Sunday sport during commercials. Either way, I have the feeling no one is watching the commercials. So if there was racing being shown, the eyes wouldn’t drift.

To Mik: Gotta love how EA got one up over NASCAR. NASCAR gave them everything; basically bankrupted the only decent NASCAR gaming company (Papyrus); and then EA never did produce a game worth playing.

10/01/2010 09:06 AM

Gordon82: Thanks, It is a travesty the way this sport has been killed.

Mik and Kevin from PA: NA$CAR should let codemasters make a game. I hear the new F1 game is outstanding. I bought the Papyrus NASCAR game BEFORE I even bought the PS1. Spent hours trying to figure out how to set up the car well, and had some spectacular wrecks. It was a riot. EA’s boring games captured NA$CAR’s current racing action PERFECTLY!!! (Read: Don’t bother playing, while you’re not bothering to watch)

10/01/2010 09:24 AM

Carl D…i agree with your Tony comments…im still a huge fan..but, change in personality is disappointing…in general i feel the lack of personalites is what i killing nascar the most..

there probably is no answer unfortunately…nascar was based on the fans relating to the drivers..most of us cannot relate to driver’s lifestyles family wealth is just ‘buying’ rides now-a-days…no hard work needed.

Cecil Inman
10/01/2010 09:28 AM

What get’s by goat is we all complain about all the commercial’s and half of them are about NASCAR itself. What is up with this? It is like if the fan likes something these days NASCAR will find a way to mess it up. Brian F. needs to go away. What do you think Big Bill would have done with him?

Kevin from PA
10/01/2010 10:11 AM

Jacob: Not to turn this thread into geektalk but alas no – just this week NASCAR sold the rights to NASCAR 2011 to a different company. They do specialize in racing games (they made a Ferrari racing game?) and the details sound promising (up to 16 people racing on line; career mode; etc.). We shall see but of course a 5th grade hacker could have produced a better game than EA.

Of course in the category of NASCAR being NASCAR: They also sold the rights to use NASCAR trademarks to Gran Turismo. So of course NASCAR makes more $$$ while screwing over yet another gaming partner.

10/01/2010 10:41 AM

Here’s what I am waiting for…

“It’s five laps to go here at Bristol and it’s a four car battle for the lead. We’ll take our final commercial break now and join the winner in Victory Lane.”

10/01/2010 11:26 AM

One thing that people are not saying is a fact that pertetuates throughout businesses that are family run. First generation builds the business, 2nd generation takes lessons learned from the building process and makes the business better (Sounding familar), 3rd generation has taken everything for granted since birth and has no clue how to actually succeed in the business and runs it into oblivion while grandpa rolls over in grave and Dad is too busy enjoying
“retirement” to care or has passed on. This happens to the majority of longterm family oriented successful businesses. Same thing is happening in NASCAR and ISC. Grandkids are mucking it up and no one is pulling them into the woodshed to get them to wisen up.
Long long time fan that used to rarely miss a race. Now I try and catch the start and then go do stuff and then catch the end. I have maybe seem 20% of the racing this season after just a few years ago watching closer to 80% or more of the season. Tell you what getting a lot more accomplished around the house and the wife seems happier about it.

10/01/2010 12:55 PM

As a long time Nascar fan, there are some days where I wish this sport would fail to the point where it is forced to start from scratch again. There are so many things wrong with Nascar it will take way too long to fix I’m afraid.

Hopefully someone gets a grip on things and rights this ship in a hurry.

10/01/2010 02:39 PM

The France family once told the drivers that they (drivers) needed NASCAR not the other way around. I would be willing to bet ol BF thinks the same way about fans. News flash: I don’t need NASCRAP, but I would like the real NASCAR back.

Kevin in SoCal
10/01/2010 03:58 PM

I have a question: How come more people are not watching the ARCA races? They use the old-style Cup car, not the COT. They race on many more short tracks. They even race on dirt. The drivers are not racing corporate billboards, and there is no Brian France, and no Chase for the Championship. So why isnt it experiencing huge upswings in ratings now that NASCAR sucks?

10/01/2010 04:04 PM

There was a commercial during the last 10 laps at Dover? Hmmm, I must’ve still been asleep.

10/01/2010 05:05 PM

I quit watching with 50 to go. I knew what the outcome would be. I was a fan since ’89 but I’ve left it because it has turned into a soap opera. Maybe NASCAR should experiment with week day day time races. It fits with their business model.

10/01/2010 05:39 PM

Love ARCA races — but there aren’t many tracks near me that the series races on and they are hard to find on TV.

I’m afraid that I, too, am tired of the same old, same old nonsense from NASCAR and the way that the races are broadcast on TV. I was at the race at Dover so I missed the end of race commercial debacle, but it doesn’t surprise me at all. Heck, they go to commercial before they even show 10 laps, interrupt the racing every 5 laps it seems — and then wonder why people have stopped watching. Why bother?

I don’t believe any words that come out of any of the management of NASCAR. They have lost all credibility with me.

10/01/2010 07:02 PM

Kevin from PA: Is it the makers of the Ferrari 355 Challenge game? That game was worse than anything EA put out about NASCAR. lol Thanks for the info, I will look into it, although to buy it means that I would have to put $5-10 in Brian’s pocket. I don’t think I can spend any more money on that snake-oil salesman’s crap anymore.

Bad Wolf
10/01/2010 10:20 PM

“One thing that people are not saying is a fact that pertetuates throughout businesses that are family run. First generation builds the business, 2nd generation takes lessons learned from the building process and makes the business better (Sounding familar), 3rd generation has taken everything for granted since birth and has no clue how to actually succeed in the business and runs it into oblivion while grandpa rolls over in grave and Dad is too busy enjoying
“retirement” to care or has passed on. This happens to the majority of longterm family oriented successful businesses. Same thing is happening in NASCAR and ISC. Grandkids are mucking it up and no one is pulling them into the woodshed to get them to wisen up.”

Been said by myself in response to a Matt M. peice here, and also brought up by Matt himself on Frontstretch.

The reason for all the commercial spots during the broadcast is the stupid money paid by Fox back in 2000, raising the expectations of Nascar as to what their “product” is worth. Now the networks have to sell ever more ads to line the pockets of Brian France and Co., and with less veiwers each year more ads need to be shown per advertiser dollar spent. This whole debacle can be laid at the feet of Fox and Brian France,

10/02/2010 08:43 AM

i agree with jerseygirl.
i watch and love the arca races when i can find them on tv. the racing is generally pretty exciting, much more akin to the trucks and what you might find at a good local track. why no upswing? tv coverage, promotion, race times and nascar is dragging the sport of auto racing down as a whole. imho.

10/02/2010 07:17 PM

The Chase is just maddening. It should go. When a driver who hasn’t won a race ALL YEAR can rocket from 12th to 2nd place in the points in ONE win—there is something VERY wrong with that point system.

The season is too long. End it by Oct. 1st. Or keep the length of year and have less races per month. As my mother used to say “Don’t wear out your welcome.”

As long as the drivers aren’t physically-fighting, let them have personalties and vent opinions and frustrations about issues, events, and losses. Unlike a team sport, you pick a driver like you pick a partner—someone who’s exciting and you enjoy, and are amused by their personality as well as driving skills. That is the interesting stuff. It’s the drivers with bland, media perfect personalities that are such a snore. But anyone with a strong personality is criticized and encouraged to conform and be like the bland ones.

Stop trying to make all of them into identical emotionless, opinionless cardboard drivers. Strong personalities, opinions, and rivalries gives fans things to talk about and reasons to log into the website to read what writers, drivers and NASCAR have to say about what’s going on, and makes fans want to watch the next race.

If it’s less than 15 laps to the end of the race, don’t have a commercial. I don’t have a problem with commercials most of the time, esp. if they are funny, like Carl & the Aflac Duck ones, or the Gillette commercials.

Contact Kurt Smith