The Frontstretch: This NASCAR Column Brought To You By Greed And The All-American Dollar by S.D. Grady -- Thursday March 20, 2008

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This NASCAR Column Brought To You By Greed And The All-American Dollar

Sitting In The Stands : A Fan's View · S.D. Grady · Thursday March 20, 2008

 

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It’s been some years since I became a devout NASCAR fan. Unlike some of my readers out there, I wasn’t raised on the local dirt track at the end of the street. Auto racing came to me through the Wonderful World of Sports, and later via a little cable box on top of the TV. I can only remember being dazzled by the Indy 500, but not by any billboards or the pretty colors on the drivers’ uniforms. In fact, as a young ‘un, I could tell you their names—Rutherford, Unser, and Mears. But not who paid for their appearance on my Saturday afternoon sports program. It was entirely about the “Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat” —nothing more. And so it should be.

However, times have changed, and those that sell advertisements now have more screen time than the finishing order of a race. When was the last time you can honestly remember any coverage of the Sunday Cup race simply announced, “And the winner of today’s event was…?” At what point did the name of the local grocery store chain become more important than who is hoisting the trophy over their head?

It’s no longer enough to be the best. The champion must grovel to those that wrote out the checks before kissing their wife or spraying their teammates with champagne. Spontaneity has vanished in the name of… well, you pick the culprit. Sprint, Nationwide, Coke, Pepsi, NAPA, Interstate Batteries, UPS, FedEx. Just read your favorite driver’s uniform and you’ll have a huge selection to choose from.

Sponsors are plastered all over every facet of NASCAR these days; here, Jimmie Johnson poses at Daytona after not just winning the pole — but the Coors Light Pole Award.

The other major league sports have all patted NASCAR on the back for setting the standard for funding sporting events. But I ask you to take a moment and think about that. Has NASCAR sacrificed something essential to competition in the name of staying in the black?

Baseball is baseball, not the Oscar Meyer Nine Innings. Football remains football. Not even Nike has dared to push the NFL out with the name of their latest running shoe plastered on every football. What does the NASCAR fan get inundated with every week? Sprint Cup at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway, where the Chevy Impala driven by Pepsi driver Jeff Gordon wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses talks about stopping smoking when you chew Nicorette Gum after you’ve painted your car with DuPont Automotive Finishes… he crosses the finish line while his Goodyear tires give out on the last lap, fueled by Sunoco gasoline… gasp.

How did this happen? Where did the racing go? Is it possible to call a race anymore just by talking about the competitors? More so, can the participants speak without spewing a lengthy string of plastic acknowledgments towards their sponsors?

I know it is possible. Each time I visit Thompson Speedway and watch the locals take a turn around the track, there is a lack of stickers on the cars painted in matte black primer. Victory Lane celebrations feature lots of hugs and cheers, a little talking, and more celebrating. The billboards in the turns are faded and sometimes peeling. Nobody worries much about appearances, and the racing is awesome!

That’s all I’m asking. Just a small concession on the part of Brian France et al. Sell every lap of the race, if you wish. But do you think we could back down on the name-dropping? I vote for equality for all! Muffle the constant peddling by the television, radio, and print media. Leave the advertisements for those nasty five minute intermissions we get far too many of. Let’s talk about the drivers, the teams, and the cities that we are visiting!

After all, I’m fairly certain a soft drink manufacturer has never built a car, maintained it, and steered it to Victory Lane. Humans do that. Let’s give the winners their due, and step on the can angling for a perfect camera shot.

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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
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mark
03/20/2008 11:58 AM
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Good luck on that….. this comment brought to you by the productive joining of my Mom and Dad.

Kevin in SoCal
03/20/2008 05:08 PM
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$1 million a year is more than any practical person can spend on the necessities, but some athletes are greedy and must have more than that. In turn, we fans pay more for tickets, food/drinks, and souveniers to attend the events and support them. Not to mention the higher prices we pay for products produced by the sponsors. It wont end until some athlete takes the high road and says he will only accept enough money to live on, instead of more money than he can spend. We have a better chance of life on Mars than that happening.

sparxmoore
03/20/2008 06:58 PM
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THIS comment brought to you by a LIFELONG fan : I have NEVER step foot in lowes , OR home depot , Wouldnt buy a sprint ( or nextel) phone , Dont own a single DEWALT power tool ,Wouldnt drink BUDWEISER if ya gave it away ,Have never shipped anything UPS, and LASTLY have never tried NICORRETTE to quit smoking ! NOT because i dont think these folks have nice products and not because im NOT a RACE FAN ….SIMPLY because their PRICES are too damn high ! Maybe if you concentrated more on making things affordable and less on trying to convince me why i need to spend my money with you , MAYBE i could afford to give you my businuess ! EVEN if you spend a trillion dollars showing me you support my sport , i still cant afford it !!

Mark
03/20/2008 07:00 PM
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Like everything else that NASCAR does , the sponsor involvement was allowed to get completely out of control . Im the beginning , Bill France wanted to make sure that all sponsors were recognized , after all ,thats how you keep them involved . But over the years , and particularly over the last twenty years , the marketing department at NASCAR has been filled with people from beer , cola , and cigarettes . No background in racing , no knowledge of how the sport works , and no guidance from the top because people like Brian France and Mike Helton didn’t have much more knowledge or background themselves . So the hat dance , and the constant shilling by the broadcasters just increased unchecked and unguided . The bottom line . The nonstop advertisement that NASCAR has become has been used as a joke in every form imaginable . How many times have we all seen sponsor decals on someones clothes used as a joke on tv or in the movies . The marketing department at NASCAR is maybe the most inept part of the organisation , but has been allowed to run along unchecked for so long , that i’m afraid we’re stuck with the mess , it’s become normal in their eyes .

Chris2
03/20/2008 08:51 PM
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First off, Mark’s first comment has to be the funniest bit I’ve read in a long time..give that guy a bonus. Secondly as a longtime fan, (who happens to also not be too far away from Thompson Speedway), I’ve been wearing my voice out for the last so many years discussing how racing has become secondary to the art of merchandising within NASCAR. I know it was mentioned a few weeks ago about how its being said during pitstops from the talking heads in the booth the cars coming in to top of with Sunoco gasoline. At that point I had heard it once or twice and was mildly amused that its gotten to that point. Since then for some odd reason its been stuck with me so that now I seem to pick up when I hear that phrase uttered..it seems to come up alot. I get it guys, I really do..it takes money to run the sport..understood, that what sponsorships do for teams. After awhile though it seems like an infomercial that happens to show whoever is leading, or if your lucky the top-10.

Robert Eastman
03/25/2008 05:07 AM
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No one misses the good-old days of racing more than me. I long for the day when we were able to take an old street car, strip it out, put in a roll cage, slap a cam in the engine, weight/spring jacks in the suspension and go racing. With a lot of “blood, sweat, and tears,” plus a few thousand dollars we could go have a weekend of fun and even win a few races. Of course, late into every week night we toiled, getting ready for “Saturday night.” Showing up for work half asleep each morning was the norm. But hey, we had to go to work to get some money to feed our real passion, RACING! Something strange happened on our journey to the present day. Saturday night short track racing no longer cost “a few thousand dollars” that almost anyone who really wanted to race could afford. Today’s short-track, weekend warrior must “pony-up” 30, 40, 50, even $100,000 per season to be competitive. As a result, car counts at most tracks are way down. Tracks that used to draw 50 to 100 cars per night now get 25 or 30. With fewer cars come smaller crowds. Where thousands used to attend, your lucky to have a few hundred spectators show up. As a result, the Thompson Speedways of the world are disappearing, being replaced by housing developments, industrial parks, and shopping malls. When racing becomes so expensive that it no longer makes any economic sense, it disappears.
The “ridiculous cost” of racing is the culprit, the reason why we must suffer through the non-stop commercials. When the commercials stop, the racing will stop.
Welcome to the modern world!

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