The Frontstretch: NASCAR Sucks! Studying The Concept Of NASCAR Bashing...And Why I Won't Do It by Tommy Thompson -- Tuesday May 29, 2007

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NASCAR Sucks! Studying The Concept Of NASCAR Bashing...And Why I Won't Do It

Thompson in Turn 5 · Tommy Thompson · Tuesday May 29, 2007

 

In the ten months that this column has been in existence as part of the Frontstretch's Wednesday lineup, I have come to realize that life as a motorsports writer can be filled with legions of agreeable readers that eagerly await your next commentary. There’s no tried and true formula to make this column what it is every week…but in my line of work, there’s one particular easy way out I know I will never follow. Truly, all a writer needs to do is write endlessly, only varying slightly on the theme that anything that NASCAR does is bad, unfair, or just really stupid. Though this formula, in my estimation, is intellectually dishonest, popularity as a race commentator is almost a certainty when you do it that way. Unfortunately, it is a rule of thumb that more than one writer has adopted…with success.

It is also a methodology that I know I will never be able to master. The world has just never been that black and white to me; as much as I admire and respect the participants in the sport of big league stock car racing, I always see them as nothing more than human beings with the same failings as you would find in any other group of athletes or businessmen. I have never felt compelled to use my stature as either a vehicle to covertly promote any one driver or team over another or to wage any hidden agenda against the sanctioning organization. The fact is, whether a reader agrees or disagrees with my opinion on any topic, it is my hope that people understand that the belief was based on my understanding of the facts surrounding the issue at hand, and without prejudice.

It is easy for me to understand why “NASCAR bashing” is so widely accepted and enjoyed by some. They are the dominant player in American stock car racing, and as such, responsible for most of the perceived ills of the sport. And they make a lot of money to boot! It is always fun to kick a giant in the knees, and often times they deserve a good kicking. But are they always wrong? No. To say yes would defy the laws of probability.

Yet, there are writers that never, ever give a call to the France family-owned organization. I can only believe that those writers believe that NASCAR has become the premier auto racing series in the nation as well as the envy of most major professional sports through an unbelievable amount of luck. I do not share that assessment of NASCAR's impressive growth. I believe that they have been extremely intuitive business people who have more often than not correctly gauged what their customers, namely fans, want to see…good racing.

When the Daytona Beach managers of the sport implement controversial policy changes or decisions, I consider it nothing more than a business decision on their part. It is my belief that all changes in policy are ultimately based on a premise that it will increase the number of followers of the sport. Their only real motivation is to continue to grow the sport and as a result, make more money for themselves. And I have absolutely no problem with the organization making lots of money by giving the sports spectators a good show. As a commentator of the sport, however, I then only need to come to a conclusion as to the fairness and benefit to the sport of the issue that is being debated.

And that is the mindset that I intend to continue to employ in analyzing the sanctioning body in this weekly column. I have no preconceived notion that NASCAR is automatically wrong, or that they are part of a mythical "evil empire." I respect their business acumen and have observed for more than forty years their steady and truly amazing growth. They have been very adept at shifting their policies to maintain that momentum and accommodate new participants in the sport in the form of fans, drivers, corporate associates and even the press. And of course, they have not always in my estimation made the right calls, and I do not hesitate to take them to task on those blunders. It’s because mistakes are made always with respect to what I know are honest efforts to provide the very best competition in stock car racing. Because that is the key to NASCAR's continued prosperity, and I am convinced that they know it.

I have supported NASCAR on a number of policy changes over the years, including more recent issues such as the highly divisive issue of instituting a ten race Chase to the Nextel Cup Championship. I felt that the change in the point's structure was a good shot in the arm for the sport. Yet, I have been critical of the recent decision to augment the number of championship eligible teams from ten to twelve. And to date I have seen no evidence that the Chase format has been detrimental to the sport. What improvement in late season interest among fans that it has created is certainly open to argument and difficult to estimate, but it is my best guess that television broadcast numbers that have slipped the last two seasons would have dipped even more if not for the Chase to the Championship.

From day one, I have remained open to the much-criticized Car of Tomorrow project, as I understand the need to improve safety and believe that NASCAR teams cannot depend on the support of auto manufacturers in the future. The jury on the CoT is still out, yet more early critics of the project seem to be reluctantly agreeing with my initial assessment of the race car as it gains track time. Yet this column was well ahead of the pack of both competitors and other columnists in criticizing NASCAR's initial schedule that would have teams trying to compete with two very different racecars in 2008, as well. The schedule, as I saw it was particularly unfair to the smaller and less funded teams. It was a plan that was officially scrapped last week in favor of running the CoT for the entire Nextel Cup series next year.

When expressing a pro-NASCAR point of view, I have learned to expect considerable disagreement on the part of the readers, some of whom are determined not to give the highly successful organization any credit for anything. And this past week I even received similar haranguing from one of the front men of the anti-NASCAR gang, Frontstretch senior writer Jeff Meyer who, in disagreeing with my point of view that favors NASCAR/Sprint Nextel in its litigation with AT&T, decided to employ the stand-by "low blow" that he no doubt was sure would please his fellow NASCAR anarchists, "Oh please, Tommy! You are starting to sound like a mouthpiece straight from the NASCAR PR offices!”

I simply happen to agree with NASCAR's position on this matter, as I truly believed that their stance is good for the sport and the health of the organization. And that is perhaps where Meyer and I will continue to find disagreement on NASCAR-related issues. For nothing in Jeff Myer's considerable body of work suggests that he is prone to agree with any change or position that NASCAR takes. In fact, I believe Mr. Meyer presently is calling for some kind of revolution or overthrow of the sanctioning body, not a position that, in my opinion, allows for unbiased, open-minded commentary on the subject.

Possibly, Mr. Meyer is correct and NASCAR is chronically wrong and needs to be disbanded. And I know that if I would just adopt that theory, I may very well experience a significant increase in the number of dedicated readers of my column. However, rest assured that if I ever reach the conclusion that NASCAR basically sucks, I will find something else that is of interest to me, and not expend the considerable time and energies required to work writing a weekly article on a subject I do not particularly care for.

When all is said and done, I like NASCAR's version of stock car racing, and hope that the sport continues to thrive. And I will continue to call it as I see it.

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Sgee
05/30/2007 09:49 AM
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Well Done! I am glad there is someone out there not just looking for the negative to write an artcle about! The people who are do that are just killing the goose who lays the golden egg! No, NASCAR is not always right, but often they are! And no matter what, Its one of the best sports out there, so stop complaining and watch the race!

M. B. Voelker
05/30/2007 10:17 AM
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Well put.

I have to wonder why those gleeful doomsayers bother to watch in the first place.

leo
05/30/2007 12:03 PM
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Tom, once again thru your words you show class and professionalism, you are right on! it’s easy to bash something when it’s wrong but often those decisions are made for a reason sometimes things work out sometimes they don’t.
I also read Mr. Meyers article last week and as always he showed his ignorance and unprofessional behavior of a loud mouth wana be journalist, he probably should join the ranks of lowlifes papparazi and write for the trailer trash publications that we often see in the check out lines at the grocery store.
I, like so many thousands sometimes don’t agree with NASCAR policies but still believe that it’s one of the best sports in the world, and if along it’s journey someone other than me makes money on it shall be it, because that is how it works.

Doug
05/30/2007 02:15 PM
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Did you pull down their collective pants before kissing them (NASCAR) on the as*??

I am a race car fan, I expect a “decent” product, I expect a product un-tainted by “suspect” calls and penalties!

I expect the fastest cars to race, not the slugs based on some phony point system!

I expect a “fair” race, not one decided by phantom debris!

I expect a “level” playing field for ALL competitors!

I expect a fair method of qualifying each week!

I expect NASCAR to stand up to the plate re: GOODYEAR TIRES!!

If I buy something at the store that is not good! I take it back!

With NASCAR, I just choose not to go to anymore races (thus joining a huge number of like minded fans)!!

I HEREBY RESERVE MY RIGHT TO CONTINUALLY CRITICIZE NASCAR FOR THE JOKE OF AN ORGANIZATION THEY HAVE BECOME!

After some 45+ years of watching and supporting, the time has come to call a spade a spade! In this case it becomes-THE JOKER!

leo
05/30/2007 02:33 PM
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Hey Doug,

“BOBSLED” is the sport you looking for!

Yatesguy
05/30/2007 02:45 PM
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Well said, Thomas. It just amazes me how people will go out of their way to let their hatred be known. I hate baseball. I hate the players, the owners, the steroids, the guys that throw batteries, all of it. Yet I have never felt compelled to find a baseball forum somewhere and let people know how much I hate it. Why would I want to do that? How would that help or change anything? When I was young, I felt like I was in the minority for liking NASCAR. now it’s fan base has exploded and I STILL feel like I’m in the minority. I don’t “get it” and I guess I never will.

mickey fawbush
05/30/2007 03:01 PM
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I’ve been a Nascar fan since the late 1950’s.I did attend races until it became to expensive.Now i’m reduce to watching it on tv.I have seen a change since 1985.It has been onesided ever since.Nascar is only interested in money.They don’t care about the fans.Well i’ve seen all i want and decided to watch Golf.The game hasn’t changed and everyone has a chance to win and the rules don’t change.I’m gone and won’t return.

Joe Keeton
05/30/2007 06:49 PM
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You must be trying to get a job with FOX? Declining TV ratings and empty seats at the tracks tells anybody in their right mind that NA$CAR is screwing up, once a good thing! “Lucky-Dog” rule, “out of bounds lines”, The Chase, The Chase part 2, too many stupid fines and points penalties, the COT, mid-afternoon start times, TV partners that don’t cover what us fans want covered, TOO MANY CHANGES!!! It is fitting that ESPN is coming back to cover NA$CAR, they both have the same attitude, They can’t do any wrong. LOL —- 2007 NA$CAR does SUCK!!!

Larry Burton
05/30/2007 07:10 PM
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I agree with most of what Doug says! I’ve been around a long time listening and watching Nascar and they do some things good but they do have a lot of problems that need to be addressed. I think Brian France is trying to make NASCAR the NFL or something like it and it cannot be done! He’s trying to go too much Hollywood and that’s not working also! Most of what Tony Steward said was true except he went a little overboard on the wrestling bit but most people agree with what he said. Didn’t take nascar long to nip him in the bud did it! That’s another thing, when has Nascar ever been wrong? When did anyone who has ever appealed a fine or ruling had it reversed or lowered? I sure can’t remember when. Surely you can’t be right all the time! After Daytona they asked I believe Ken Schrader on TV if he thought the caution should have come out-his reply was you had a car upside down sliding down the track-yes he thought the caution should have come out! Another thing, Nascar has a conflict of interest! They own numerous tracks and look out for them with two dates even though better tracks may be available that don’t have any(Kentucky?)! And what about moving the Southern 500 from Darlington. That should have remained there and run under the lights either Sat. or Sunday Night on Labor Day Weekends! Another thing, you better not criticize nascar if you are a driver or announcer. They control everything basically-what you say and can’t say and if you don’t play by their rules you are gone! If something is obviously wrong with a decision or call that nascar makes the drivers and announcers should be able to talk about it and not fear retribution. That’s one way of making improvements-you learn from your mistakes and do better the next time but somebody may have to point this out to you! It think that’s nascar problem a lot of times-they’re wrong and they don’t want to admit it! You can write all the good things about nascar you want but nobody is going to read it because there’s not a lot right now to write. Do we care if Brittany Spears sings the national anthem or Alec Baldwin waves the green flag or gives the command to start your engines? The answer is NO, its the racing we care about! ESPN had a big part in Nascar’s popularity by broadcasting the races starting in the eighties and they need to look at how it was done then instead of all this hollywood glitter they have now. Another thing is the price of a ticket, how can the average working man who was NASCAR’s mainstay for so many years afford to to go to a race and carry his kids and family? They are pricing the fans out of the seats! Notice them empty seats lately and the TV ratings? I could go on and on but I’ll close and let some other people talk about all the good things about Nascar!

Matt
05/30/2007 08:30 PM
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Gotta respectfully disagree here.

Are you are a fan of sport or business, Mr. T?

If you are a fan of business that delights in watching an organization squeeze every last dime they can out of its consumers than NASCAR is a smashing success. They are to be appladuded other than a troubling note suddenly there are losing a lot of long time customers.

If you are a fan of sport NASCAR is beyond a joke. If it were a joke people would be laughing. Instead they are hollering. The goal of any company whether they sell soft pretzels, beer, cars or stock car racing is to improve the product to make it more desirable, to make folks want to buy more of it, more frequently, and take greater delight in it. As one of those grayhairs who was around back in the golden era that I say lasted from 85-92 or so the racing today is a watered down, tamer, and less fun version of what made me decide to do this for a living. Of course so are the competitors. Says what you want about thier off track activities but Dale Sr. and Tim Richmond were just a heck of a lot more fun than Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth. And I say that as someone who once shot a game of pool against Tim Richmond in a dive bar in the Poconos and had him buy me and my boys a round even though I lost. If you know what NASCAR did to Tim Richmond your rose colored specs might shatter and blind you. That’s when the seeds of cynicism were sown.

How close have you gotten to the sport, Tom? Infield? Garage passes. Inside the trailers. Press Box? I was warned by the first boss I had in this business, oh, I guess about a decade ago “the closer you get to the inside the less you’re going to like this” and Lord, was he prophetic there. Like Jerry used to sing “If I told you all that went down, it would talk off both of your ears, goes to show you don’t ever know, play each card you got and play em slow, then wait until that deal goes down…”

I’ve said it so many times I no longer mind repeating it. Your viewpoint come down to a basic question. Does stock car racing belong to NASCAR because they sheperded it into NASCAR or does stock car racing belong to the fans who supported it for five decades even when stock car racing wasn’t cool, who have made tremendous personal sacrifices for the sport and spent a ton of money on it (and the drivers who in many cases have given thier lives and health for the sport). If that’s the case NASCAR officials (and let’s stop using euphenisms here and just say “the France family”) hold this sport in sacred trust for those who built the house for them?

As for me, I was an insider. I crawled through the fire and those bas**rds (the ISC) still owe me about 12 g. If Brian France tells me that the sun is going to rise tomorrow I’m tucking a flashlight under my pillow just in case. Like you said, he’s probably right but I’ve seen him wrong too often.

Ten months on the mill is nothing to be sneezed at. Email me in five years when you’ve been in the belly of the beast and we’ll compare notes. Meanwhile circle Feb. 18th on your calendar and remember to chant “Bill Simpson killed Dale…NASCAR couldn’t react for the sake of reacting..”

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