The Frontstretch: MPM2Nite: A Not So Fond Farewell To Fontana in the Fall by Matt McLaughlin -- Thursday October 7, 2010

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MPM2Nite: A Not So Fond Farewell To Fontana in the Fall

Matt McLaughlin · Thursday October 7, 2010

 

As the sun sets over a second date at Auto Club Speedway this weekend, the number of people sitting around mourning its departure are few and far between.

I’m gonna sit back right easy and laugh, while Brian and the Big Man tear this city in half…

This weekend, the Cup Series will compete for what will presumably be the final time at Fontana in the fall. Doubtless, other longtimers like me are going to be feeling the same way… good riddance to bad rubbish. Listen, I have nothing against L.A. or California, nor Californians. But this is an experiment borne of disaster that has failed miserably, and it’s all I can do not to bang out “I told you so” in bold print and all caps to end this paragraph.

Fontana was born to fail just like its sister track Michigan has lost relevance over the past couple of decades. Built on the site of a toxic waste dump, the former Kaiser Steel plant, the track was envisioned as a joint use facility like most other cookie-cutters built in that era. The thinking back in the day was that a race would have to host both open-wheel and stock car events to turn a profit. As such, the banking of the track was higher than was ideal for the open-wheel cars, but far flatter than was ideal for the heavier stock cars with their narrower tires.

Roger Penske, who also owned Michigan at the time, was the original architect and owner of Fontana. That seemed natural, since he was a big-time player in open-wheel racing and in the NASCAR series. In a highly unusual move, then-NASCAR head honcho Bill France, Jr. agreed his series would hold a Cup event at the track before the first spade full of earth was turned to construct it. No track had ever been promised a Cup date before it was built.

But between the announcement of plans for the track and its opening, something momentous occurred in the open-wheel ranks. The ill-considered split between the IRL, owned by Tony George of Indianapolis Speedway and CART, run by most of the team owners in that series, tore open-wheel racing asunder and destroyed its once proud tradition – at least here in the States. Salvos were fired in both directions, and the end was both sides ended up with little more than scorched earth and hurt feelings as public interest in both series hit the hopper. As such, even as stock car racing’s fortunes peaked, the idea of a dual-use facility like Fontana went the way of bag phones and leisure suits. Open-wheel promoters would be lucky to draw enough fans to pay for the parking lot attendants for the afternoon.

NASCAR was king on the U.S. auto racing landscape by default, and it seemed they couldn’t build grandstand seats fast enough to keep up with demand. The problem was some of those fans paying for those high-priced, newly-constructed grandstand seats were beginning to complain the on-track action wasn’t all that compelling. They began to think perhaps the new emperor had no clothes, as distasteful as the idea as Brian France parading naked down the frontstretch at Fontana holding a scepter and wearing a tiara might be for any of us to imagine.

Along the way Penske, perhaps seeing the handwriting on the wall, agreed to sell Fontana as well as Michigan to the ISC, the France family-controlled-track-owning-incestuous twin of NASCAR. And lo and behold, by some strange coincidence, suddenly the track found itself hosting a second race date.

CART was out of the picture by that point. The CART season finale in 2003 was scheduled to be held at Fontana, but ticket sales were so abysmal the race was canceled even after what tickets could be sold had been. The original reason given for cancellation was wildfires in the area, but tellingly the race was never rescheduled and the track was absent from the 2004 CART schedule.

So guess what happened in 2004!

Fontana’s ticket sales haven’t been the same since getting a second date.

Fontana got its second race date, but in a huge PR blunder NASCAR stripped the Labor Day date from Darlington, a historic track where the Cup series had been running since 1950 and a cherished institution to the fans, and gave it to Fontana. The howls of protest from longtime fans was immediate and deafening, but it fell on deaf ears at NASCAR. NASCAR president Mike Helton cited “Realignment” and huffed angrily that NASCAR wasn’t abandoning a tradition with the old Southern 500, it was “starting a new tradition” at Fontana. (“Starting a new tradition” is sort of like a sign I once spotted along a rural Vermont highway en route to a car show, “New antiques made daily.”) Some consider me a lightning rod for disaffected old-time NASCAR fans, and perhaps I am. But the most passionate, vitriolic, and angry tidal wave of email I have ever received concerned the sacking of the Southern 500 at Darlington on Labor Day weekend and moving it to Fontana. The outraged email far outstripped the hate mail readers directed at the sanctioning body for the Car of Horror and the Chase combined. Far and away. A lot of those hardcore fans wrote me that losing the Southern 500 was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. They were done with the sport and never coming back. And every time I see those ever-dwindling TV ratings and all those empty seats at NASCAR tracks, it occurs to me a lot of them weren’t kidding.

I didn’t disagree with those readers and I was as disagreeable as any of them concerning the loss of my favorite race on the schedule, the Southern 500. I told my then bosses as a form of protest I would not cover another Labor Day weekend race until the event was moved back to Darlington and I haven’t. Those bosses threatened me, saying if I wouldn’t cover the race as per my contract I’d be fired. I told them to tape the pink slip to the speedometer on my Harley, because I wasn’t going to waste a good three-day weekend covering a bad race at a putrid track.

But something amazing happened once Fontana got its second race date. Ticket sales fell off a cliff. The Labor Day weekend race didn’t sell out. The spring race didn’t sell out. In fact, I’d venture to say both races combined failed to sell as many tickets as the one race date did in NASCAR’s salad days. Making things all the more ironic was the fact that NASCAR stripped Darlington of a race date because of unsold seats. Yes, Fontana has more seats than Darlington, but that only makes things look that much worse on TV when the crowds are so sparse. “Perception is king” is an old L.A. media axiom. FOX and ESPN can do their best not to show the grandstands on Saturday, but the size of the crowd at Nationwide races at Fontana is so embarrassing it looks like they paid winos on the strip two bucks and a bottle of MadDog 20/20 to fill some seats.

Insufferable rain has marked Fontana’s Spring race for years, this one in 2008 defined by weepers that allowed water to bubble the surface, causing ugly wrecks and an interminable delay before the race was postponed at nearly 2 AM.

Enter into the picture Gillian Zucker, track general manager at Fontana. She’s the prototypical Don Henley “bubble-headed bleached blonde that comes on at 5, she’ll tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye…” Confronted with all those empty seats, Ms. Zucker famously postulated race attendance was actually quite good, but those TV shots of empty seats were only evident because so many fans were under the grandstands shopping at the track’s many pavilions. Yeah, I’m going to spend a hundred bucks on a grandstand seat at a stock car race, then spend half the afternoon at the track’s Galleria looking for a deal on a Gucci evening clutch or a bootlegged reasonable facsimile thereof smuggled over the Mexican border.

Pity Ms. Zucker, who was thrust into her job with a background of stick and ball sports but not a clue about stock car racing or the fans who loved the sport. My guess is if shown a picture of both, she couldn’t tell which one was Tim Flock and which one was Jocko Flocko. Despite growing sentiment from racers like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (who was actually winning races and posting top-5s way back then) that the racing at the track was boring and it needed to be dug up and reconfigured, she was still in full Marie Antoinette mode. Digging up race tracks and reconfiguring them was terribly expensive, and it involved dirt and other gross stuff.

She knew what the fans wanted. They wanted a Wolfgang Von Puck gourmet eatery. (Wherein they could show off their Gucci clutches.) They wanted misting stations. They wanted bilingual signage directing them to their seats. They wanted upscale shopping. They wanted a glimpse of whatever “B” list celebrity they could post bond for the weekend that would agree to stop snorting coke for the afternoon to make appearances. (I think this weekend, the casting call has gone out for over-the-hill porn stars and any surviving members of the original Partridge Family to be on hand. Ladies and gentlemen, RU-BENNN KINNNN-CAIDDDDD! Worse yet, Ponch from CHIPS. Oh, wait a second, they already tried that). Almost certainly the Guv-enator won’t be there again. Even if Austria is effectively landlocked, Arnold knows to flee a sinking ship. Hell, I doubt Lindsay Lohan’s peeps would let her wave the green flag this weekend.

Here’s what it comes down to, Gilly-bean. Bistros, discount shopping, and views over the backstretch be damned right along with your demographics on the size of the media market. Race fans want good racing. They want to see passes for the lead. They want to see race cars running side-by-side for the lead in the waning laps. They want to see racing. That’s why they call them racing fans and not the Galloping Gourmets.

Back in the day, folks of my ilk and I were told to pipe down and accept the new NASCAR reality. The Southern 500 was history. NASCAR was tired of us blue jean-wearing, beer-swilling, blue-collar bubbas. They were after a more upscale clientele, and if we choose to give up our seats to the race there were waiting lists of newer, hipper more affluent fans wanting to take our place. Well like the Southern 500, those waiting lists are relics of the past, and blocks of seats big enough to land carrier-based aircraft in are now the norm. Ms. Zucker continues fiddling why Rome burns, questioning how the track never has grasped the SoCal attitude. Like the Athenians Saint Luke writes about in the Acts of the Apostles, Southern Californians in general and foreigners there have no time for anything but talking or hearing about the latest novelty. And in the sunny environs of Lala Land, NASCAR is old news. Nobody wants to be seen in last month’s hippest club if it’s half full.

I take a tremendous amount of satisfaction in Fontana losing one of its two Cup race dates. After all, I’ve been told all these years it was never going to happen, the media market was too important. The loss of the Labor Day weekend date might have stung track officials a little, but the loss of a “Chase” date to Kansas City was a less than subtle admission things at Fontana are so broken they can’t be fixed. But as I see it, the job is only half done and won’t be completed until Fontana is off the schedule all together and the Southern 500 is returned to its rightful place, Labor Day Weekend. That’s never going to happen, they tell me. Funny; they said the same thing about Fontana losing its second Cup date.

Who will decide the grand design, what is yours and what is mine, because there is no more new frontier, we have got to make it here, we satisfy our endless needs, and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny, and in the name of God, and you can see them there…

On Sunday afternoons, they stand up and sing about, what it’s like out there, they called it Paradise, I don’t know why, you call someplace Paradise… kiss it goodbye… Don Henley

Contact Matt McLaughlin

Thursday on the Frontstretch:
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Changing Lanes: Well Worth Changing Channels to Watch
Dialing It In: Where Does ESPN Go From Here? Why Fans Are So Mad
Fanning the Flames: Blue Humor Gone Bad, Revenge, and What’s Eating Junior?
When Joking About NASCAR Stupidity Becomes Reality
Fantasy Insider: Johnson, Fontana Go Hand-In-Hand … But Who Else?

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CornCob
10/07/2010 12:29 AM
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Bravo!

Its like they spit on us and wonder why in the hell we are mad.

Bubble-headed bleach blonde (Dirty Laundry) is Henley though, not Frey.

Buzz
10/07/2010 12:56 AM
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Amen, Brother Matt. I’d love to put my boot in Brian France’s ass.

Sadesworth
10/07/2010 03:40 AM
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Great column! This track needs to be turned into a plate track asap!

Bill B
10/07/2010 07:20 AM
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And here lies the problem. NASCAR knows that many long time fans weren’t happy when the Southern 500 was taken from Darlington. Now they could right that wrong and return it to Darlington and throw those fans a bone but that would mean admitting they were wrong. We can’t have that. It seems like such a no brainer.

Jacob
10/07/2010 07:42 AM
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Matt: Other than the Henley/Frey gaffe, you are completely right, and quite humorous. An excellent summary of the disastrous history that is Fontana.

Bill B
10/07/2010 07:54 AM
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Am I missing something? The final quote was from the song “The Last Resort” from the Eagles’ Hotel California album. The song is credited to Henley/Frey.

Ghost of Curtis Turner
10/07/2010 08:00 AM
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Ooo Rah!

Kevin in PA
10/07/2010 08:02 AM
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Bravo Matt…keep up the good work.

Carl D.
10/07/2010 08:03 AM
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Matt…

This column is one of your best and one I’m sure you enjoyed writing. The only thing missing was the “I TOLD YOU SO!” at the end.

If the clowns running Nascar were running any legitimate corporation, the board of directors would have kicked their cans to the curb years ago.

So you got your Eagles mixed up… blame it on being over 50 like I do. I wonder if any other readers caught the line from “10th Avenue Freeze Out”, which I thought reflected the whole spirit of the column quite nicely.

janice
10/07/2010 08:29 AM
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na$car did try to right wrong with southern 500 and moved labor day race to ams. i think they figured it was back in southern state, close to darlington, but not close enough for them to actually admitting they made a mistake.

kind of like when dale was killed. na$car could have madated head and neck restraint system after adam petty and kenny irwin, but nope. oh well….i know someone will bust me over that comment. but just how i feel about na$car and their head in the sand mentality. they’re never wrong…just ask childress.

can’t wait to hear more about the sink hole at charlotte. mother nature has a way of taking back the land after a while. you can only build so much. i mean, tornadoes in arizona?! maybe brain fart was trying to figure out how to “improve the chase lineup”, i.e. make sure there’s enough positions so jr is guaranteed a spot next year.

dnmei
10/07/2010 09:12 AM
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Realy really GREAT times Randy! Declining attendance, an ugly spec car, points racing as opposed to wins racing, the Chase, domination by a few heavily sponsored teams, unbelieveable budgets…yep; someday we will all look back on this as the Golden era of Nascar.

GW
10/07/2010 09:42 AM
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Great story!! Fontana was an idea that fell flat on it’s face. It’s time NASCAR moved back to what made itr great. But then there’s Brian France in the way.

wcfan
10/07/2010 09:59 AM
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Randy’s back and still not taking his OWN ADVICE, if he does not like Matt and the other writers on this site LEAVE. These writers and many of the fans of the Frontstretch were here LONG BEFORE Randy found us. So Randy if YOU do not like what the Writers or your fellow Posters have to say about the poor quality of the racing today. Take YOUR OWN ADVICE and just leave.

JerseyGirl
10/07/2010 10:04 AM
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You didn’t say it, but I will. I TOLD YOU SO!

I was at the last Southern 500 at Darlington – not the newly named race at Atlanta. We were there the next year in the cold in November and we’ve been there every Mother’s day since.

I’ve had my own personal boycott of the race from Fontana – particularly the Labor Day event since racing doesn’t come into the equation – I have better things to do.

Supposed to be a nice autumn weekend here in NJ this weekend, too, so I’m planning to skip the TV version of this race, too.

Yep, NASCAR’s management completely underestimated the anger that moving the race AND all the other “really cool things” were going to do. I saw a poll the other day — 88% of the fans don’t like the chase — I’m guessing that those are the people who aren’t watching it on TV either.

Sherri T
10/07/2010 10:29 AM
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Great article!! Thanks for stating the TRUTH!

RaCoon Glenn
10/07/2010 11:06 AM
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“88% of the fans don’t like the chase”

Way to slip in some obvious Dale Jr propaganda! We get it! Everyone loves Dale Jr. and until he makes the chase no one is going to be happy with the current system.

Isnt it time Jr fans moved on to a racer that wins at least some of the time.

DoninAjax
10/07/2010 11:09 AM
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Matt, you nailed it again!

If 12% of the people like the chase (I wonder how many replied don’t care) that’s more than enough for Emperor Brian and his ego.

gnawTdawg
10/07/2010 11:50 AM
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Love your stuff, Matt…call’em like you see ‘em.

And ya gotta love that Henley.

29racefan
10/07/2010 11:54 AM
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@ RacoonGlenn – Do you seriously think the only reason the vast majority of fans hate the Chase is because of Junior???? R U serious? The Chase has turned the regular season into nothing more than a 26 week test session followed by a ten week race season with an artificial points reset. It makes the hard work of a good season irrelevant. Just points race your way into the top 12 and work on your last 10 race set-ups. And make sure you keep this format even though the sponsors and fans are leaving in droves. They’re not even watching on TV. And you still think the Chase is unloved because Junior’s not in it. Once again it is just too easy to blame the decline of NASCAR on Junior and his loyal fans. Dale, Jr. propaganda my a$$.
btw – great article – no argument there……..

CornCob
10/07/2010 12:08 PM
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Carl D, where is the J Geils Band line? I don’t remember all the words to that song and I can’t find it and its driving me nuts.

Bill B
10/07/2010 12:10 PM
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I could not care less if Jr makes the playoffs or not. Whether he does or doesn’t will not change my view of the chase… it sucks donkey… well you get the idea.

EZ
10/07/2010 12:41 PM
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Great article.
I am one of those fans, haven’t been to a race since, and now hardly ever watch on TV.
This Goldman character must work for na$car?
“wcfan” you hit the nail right on the head!!
It won’t be long before na$car is just like open-wheel racing,it’s at least half way there.
Oh and it’s Bruce not J Geils,corncob

marvin ray lawson II
10/07/2010 12:42 PM
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so glad someone agrees with me.. but i aint watching nascar for the rest of the year because of they did to clint bowyer

AncientRacer
10/07/2010 12:44 PM
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Spot on. But if you’re gonna quote The Eagles, I’ll see that and raise you, Floyd (for both her and Brian Duh Clueless):

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear/
You shout and no one seems to hear/
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes/
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon

Dizzy
10/07/2010 12:52 PM
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speakin’ of the E Street band, my daughter and I were cruising in the Camaro on day. She was probably about 12. 10th Avenue Freeze Out came on the radio and I said, “cool, the Boss”. Then I asked her,“do you know who the Boss is?” and she replied, “Bruce Springsteen”. I said, “and who’s the king?”. She answered, “Elvis Presley” and I said, “No dear, Richard Petty”. Poor kid, no wonder she is so confused.

Kevin in SoCal
10/07/2010 12:54 PM
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Matt said: “ But as I see it, the job is only half done and won’t be completed until Fontana is off the schedule all together

Hey Matt, a big middle finger from me to you for that.

EVERY track deserves at least one NASCAR Cup date, so that NASCAR fans all across the country can enjoy this sport. NASCAR and its incestuous relationship with ISC has screwed the other race tracks out of Cup dates, and it still surprises me that the judge in the Kentucky vs ISC case didnt see it that way.

You can slam Brian France, and NASCAR all you want, but as I constantly say, its not the track’s fault. Blame Roger Penske, as I said yesterday. The open-wheel series was huge in the 90’s and he wanted a dual-use track for both series. So a big track was built, just like in Texas, Las Vegas, Kentucky, and Homestead. Its easy to look back now and see what a mistake that was, but at the time, it was the right thing to do. And we did have huge wildfires in last 2003 that led to the cancellation of the IRL race at Fontana.

Randy, Fontana did not lower their ticket prices for this 400 mile race. They’re still the same price as the 500 mile race in the Spring and last year. That’s part of the reason why I’m not going this weekend. But your last paragraph about Darlington being an outdated tradition? Uh… you’re clueless. That comment just invalidated the rest of your post.

Now that Atlanta has one date, NASCAR could go a long way to reclaiming some lost fans by swapping Atlanta with Darlington and putting the Southern 500 back on Labor Day weekend.

Lastly, how come ARCA is not more popular with you all? There’s no Chase, they race on dirt and asphalt, short tracks and big tracks, they use the old style Cup car, and there’s no Brian France. Based on your comments on this website, I would think ARCA would be the next big thing you’re all watching.

jimbe smeltzer
10/07/2010 12:58 PM
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what about North Wilksboro,great track for fans and racing. Southern 500, my favorite track,they screwed with tradition and until it comes back I will not be a fan!

CornCob
10/07/2010 01:12 PM
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KevininSoCal,

Watching this pig implode is the big thing to watch—its can’t miss TV.

Thank you EZ, I got Freeze Frame and 10th Avenue Freeze Out mixed up! Duh!

Bill B
10/07/2010 01:24 PM
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Kevin,
I agree 100% that Cali should have one date. It is no better or worse than most of the other 1.5-2 mile tracks. I think there is added prejudice against the Cali track because of the Darlington debacle.

And you are right about the thought process for building all the 1.5-2 mile tracks – greed.

wcfan
10/07/2010 01:31 PM
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Kevin in SoCal
Lets see how the attendance is next year when ACS has only one race. One of My biggest problems with ACS is the LACK OF FANS SUPPORT, this is the second largest media market and they can not get 80,000 to attend. You ask about the fan support of the Rock this week, if it would have had weather like ACS gets most race weekends they would have had the support. But it is hard to enjoy yourself when the temp’s are 30’s at night and 50’s at race time.

As for the ARCA series, if more of the races were on TV, and they showed the Short and Dirt Tracks this would help the series. But they only show the races that most nascar fans are complaining about. The Cookie Cutter tracks, if I am not going to watch drivers I like on those tracks I’m damn sure not going to watch drivers I don’t know.

AncientRacer
10/07/2010 01:34 PM
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Kevin in SoCal

As for me I love ARCA. In fact the final this Sat is the only race I am looking forward to this fall. I wish it were on TV more when I can watch it. BTW I’m in L.A. today meeting with network entertainment suits — each and every one of them at least 21 but not more than 31 yrs old. I’ve been offered free tickets and a “companion(s)” if I wanted to go. I don’t, but I did say I’d take a night up in SF to see the Braves play tonite. If you can find me the tickets and “companion(s)” are yours! I see your point, though, kinda. But the Southern 500 should never have been moved. Period.

And Matt, while we are on music, made me think maybe what NASCAR needs to do is ring up Gene Simmons. He did such a bang up job for the IRL bringin’ in the kids. Just don’t tell them that most of the Army is my age or older…Jus’ sayin.

Gordon82Wins
10/07/2010 01:45 PM
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Kevin, since you want to know why disillusioned fans don’t watch ARCA instead, I’ll answer that: it’s because Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch don’t race in ARCA. ARCA is, for now anyway, minor leagues. We would like to see the best professional drivers in the world race each other for race wins and championships without having their points reset and depending completely on aero for half the events.

We would also like to watch the best in the world without constant profit interruptions.

I’m not making the investment in an entirely unfamiliar series because of what Brian France has done to mutilate NASCAR just to prove a point to you. I just want to see the driver I’ve rooted for for years be given a Cup because he scored more points than anyone else for 36 races, not 10.

Which Jeff Gordon has done six times, not four. And don’t try the “they would have raced differently without the Chase” argument. The numbers are what they are.

gopapa
10/07/2010 02:01 PM
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Matt, one other point you could make in you assessment of why “everybody” hates Fontana is, it’s Jimmie Johnson’s home track and he wins there an awful lot. I’d say you have another factor there.

And I’ll say this, the people showing up dressed as seats keep showing up all over the country. It’s not just Fontana. (The Kansas grandstands looked pretty well packed, and they should, with only only one race for the year) But other than that, you can compare Fontana’s empty seats to a lot of other venues this year.

Mainly though, I believe it’s the Southern 500 deal, or debacle, and not the racing itself that draws the hate. If you’re gonna bag on a track for having strung out racing, you can point at most of them on the circuit. Think it might have something to do with the Car of Sorrow? I sure do. There is more 3 and 4 wide racing there than a lot of people seem to realize. TV coverage doesn’t show all of it. I know I’m in the minority here, I’m just saying that it’s not as bad as everybody says it is, and it doesn’t deserve to be wiped off the face of the earth. Pocono should have lost a race too, if not before Fontana.

LeftwingLeftcoastLeftfield
10/07/2010 02:25 PM
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On any given day you see more slicing and dicing, crazy passing, bumper to bumper high speed action on Hwy 15 just outside the Fontana speedway than you see at the track. With only 43 cars on 2 miles of 4 lane highway it gets too spread out and even though the speeds approach 200mph it is not near as viscerally compelling as the insane traffic on the freeway. (Except on race day when it resembles a parking lot)

Craig
10/07/2010 02:29 PM
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Well stated article. It was one thing to close Rockingham. The Ferko lawsuit had a lot to do with that, but NASCAR made its biggest blunder sacking the Southern 500. Its not perfect, but at least that second CA date is going to Kansas where people seem to care about racing. It won’t happen, but they take the other Fontana date and send it back to Darlington or Iowa. I want more short track racing!

Bad Wolf
10/07/2010 04:40 PM
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Kevin in SoCal, your logic escapes me. I want to be able to watch the best racing at the best tracks on my TV each week, and care not if a track is close to me so I can see it live. I used to pull my camper 1400 miles round trip to attend a Nascar race, and have traveled 3000 miles round trip to catch a live Nascar race, so don’t give me your “Everyone deserves a track close so they can attend a race” bullcrap. Sounds to me like you think every casual fan deserves a track close by so as not to be inconvenienced with travel plans and expenses to see it live.

Right on again Matt. I always thought Fontana would go the way of Ontario.

flagplan
10/07/2010 06:27 PM
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People complain races are too long. Agreed but racing is also about push cars. So lets race two 250s back to back. 10 minutes between, inverted in the middle start, red flag conditions. Full points for each race. Or run timed races, 200 laps per race or 90mins per race. These might get me watching again.

Kevin in SoCal
10/07/2010 09:24 PM
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Wait a minute. Why are you bashing the track for the celebrities they have? When was the last time ANY celebrity showed up to a NASCAR track that wasnt pitching a movie? (Daytona 500 and All-Star Race excluded). We all know most celebrities are the left-leaning tree-hugging type that think NASCAR is barbaric, so we dont want them at the track anyway.

Thank you to the above commenters who agreed with me. You are appreciated, even if we’re in the minority.

Bad Wolf, I’m happy for you that you have the time, money, and arrangement necessary to travel across the country to see a live NASCAR race. Not everyone is as fortunate as you, myself included. Just because you can throw $1000-5000 around doesnt mean everyone else can, too.

thomas dalfonzo
10/07/2010 09:46 PM
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Ms. Zucker and ISC had the opportunity to revamp the race track and blew it. That was the only chance she had to save the California Speedway.

As much as the people hate the Fontana race track, NASCAR absolutely needs to be in SoCal. I can’t understand why can’t you just build a 2-mile, 25-degree banked, 90,000 seat race track right in downtown L.A. That is what I would do. Whatever the cost, the France family will pay for everything.

The Fontana race track should go through what Homestead-Miami Speedway went through in ’03: An increase of banking in the turns and a revamped raceway. It worked for Homestead and it can work for Fontana. People should not be so cheap and gutless.

I say that Fontana’s one race should be in mid-March and run under the lights on a Saturday night. In reality, though, the banking renovation may be the track’s only saving grace. The track should just be sold to SMI. SMI knows how to run a race track right.

Bad Wolf
10/08/2010 02:55 AM
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“Bad Wolf, I’m happy for you that you have the time, money, and arrangement necessary to travel across the country to see a live NASCAR race. Not everyone is as fortunate as you, myself included. Just because you can throw $1000-5000 around doesnt mean everyone else can, too.”

You’ve got it all wrong. I was such an “Uber Fan” back in the day that I planned my yearly vacations around Nascar events like others planned an outing to “Disney Land”, and I don’t feel it is a slap in my face that there is not a Disney Land in each of the 50 states so all the poor people can go. It just makes it more special and memorable if you have to work at it and make it a priority. I first went to Disney Land when I was about 12 years old, and it was freakin awesome. If I had one just down the street and went every month it would be a yawner. Some things are worth the wait and expense, and are more special and memorable if it is hard to acheive.

I don’t want to be stuck with mediocre racing just because you think you should be able to wake up on Sunday morning and drive 1 hour to the track. Give me “The Rock” on TV and I’ll be happy as hell in front of my old fashioned poor guy 27” tube tv instead of in the stands. I bet Kevin in SoCal has a big fancy flat screen in his living room because his priorities said buy the big tv instead of planning a vacation to Bristol in August.

Henry M
10/08/2010 11:52 AM
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The biggest mistake (of many) at Fontana was that they lessened the banking, from 18 degrees in the turns at Michigan to 14 degrees at Fontana. I have been to a few races at MIS and passing was non-existant, too flat. So you build another and make it even flatter? Not good, Roger.

Kevin in SoCal reminds me of the comment defending the nomination of Harrold Carswell to the U.S. Supreme Court about mediocre people deserving representation as well. Didn’t work then, shouldn’t work now.

LA will not support the NFL, do you expect them to support NA$CAR?

Kevin in SoCal
10/08/2010 12:45 PM
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Thomas, there is NO ROOM anywhere in downtown Los Angeles to build a race track any more. Any drag strips we had were chased out years ago by the local community who said the cars were too loud and too close to their homes. That’s a huge reason why ACS Speedway was built out in the boonies of Fontana. Remember how much the residents of New York bitched and complained when NASCAR wanted to a build a race track in their neighborhood? Los Angeles is hugely liberal, and they dont want the “noise” and “pollution” of that barbaric NASCAR in their town. The NHRA drag strip in Pomona used to allow us amatuers to race there several times a year. But the local residents complained about the noise from the twice a year pro racing, so they compromised and kicked us out and kept the pros. It was a lose-lose for everyone. Thankfully ACS stepped up and built us a 1/4 mile race track.

Bad Wolf, actually, I also have a “poor guy” tube TV in my living room as well. I dont have HD, nor surround sound, either.
By your standards, NASCAR shouldnt race at ANY track larger than 1.333 miles in length, because anything bigger causes aero-dependancy and spread out racing. Boy that would make for a short season. If there were plans to take a race from anywhere else in the country that doesnt have another local track, such as Kansas, Texas, Infineon, etc, I would make just as much noise. NASCAR needs to be all over the country, not just in the South East and not just on local access cable channels no one gets.

Henry, its a fallacy for you to say L.A. does not support football. The Raiders, Rams, Chargers, UCLA, and USC are all HUGE sports here. The Dodgers, Angels, and Lakers are all HUGE here too. The Rams left Anaheim because the team sucked and St. Louis made them a better offer. The Raiders left because the city of Los Angeles prefers to spend their money catering to welfare recipients rather than upgrading their infrastructure, and Oakland made them a better offer. I was just a kid at the time, but I think thats the same reason why they left Oakland in the early 80’s as well. The owner just follows the money.

Laidback Racing
10/08/2010 01:51 PM
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Been waitin’ all week for this article…knew it would say what all of us longtime fans feel…

Chris in TX
10/08/2010 11:56 PM
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I am happy that ACS is losing a race. I think it is somewhat silly to have the date (sort of) move to KC…Frying pan —- Fire, etc. Also, having KC and ACS back to back this season is, well, not as interesting to me as I would like it to be.

I do, however, agree with Kevin in SoCal, that having at least 1 race “local” to very large population centers is to everyone (even Nascar’s) benefit. More so than pimping the ISC tracks at the expense of better venues.

Having 2 races at a track in a year is a privilege.

Living in Dallas, TMS justifies their 2 races a year by having ridiculously high attendance numbers for all of their races. I’m happy to have it.

I’m a little sad that the 2011 TMS schedule doesn’t appear to have the Rattlesnake 100 ARCA race again, with the shift to the early weekend being night races. That was easily the best race of the weekend this year.

Oops…wandered around a bit there. Good post, Kevin. ACS should be fine as a 1 race track. The Southern California market is big, and having a race there is good, so I hope it works out.

Bad Wolf
10/09/2010 01:01 PM
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Sounds like some people enjoy Nascar pandering to the lowest common denominator. Enjoy your “Brawndo” this weekend at the track, it has electrolytes so it’s good for plants too.