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.
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?
©2000 - 2008 Kurt Smith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!