I think it’s one of Murphy’s Laws (Murphy, I never knew you, but you were one hell of a pessimist, huh?) that just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, someone surprises you. Of course, this is NASCAR we’re talking about, the sanctioning body that has come up with so ways to fix something that wasn’t broken that it will hurt your brain trying to remember them all.
But still, the latest missive from The Powers That Be might just be the worst. Well, OK, not the worst, because the worst was the Top-35 rule. But pretty darn close. In a time when NASCAR ought to be marketing the hell out of the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series, NASCAR’s latest decision instead sends teams in those series, their sponsors and their fans the message that nobody gives a damn about them.
I’m pretty sure that “The NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series – Where Stars are Born and We Don’t Give A Rodent’s Rear End” was not the marketing slogan that NASCAR had in mind for those two series, both of which were once prospering development series with their own identities and fans, but it might as well be after last week’s announcement. In case you missed it, NASCAR announced that the two series would wrap up their 2009 season with an awards banquet. But wait, you say? They always do that?
No, I said a banquet. As in one. For both series.
The year-end awards ceremony will be held in Miami on November 23. Which, by the way, is a Monday night. NASCAR cites the move as another cost-cutting venture for the teams, because they can simply stay in Miami after the season ends at Homestead on Friday and Saturday. It seems more like a cost cutting measure for NASCAR, frankly, and there is no excuse for that.
The worst part about the combining of the two series banquets is that it also means that only the top-five drivers will be honored.
That is nothing short of cheap and inconsiderate. Traditionally, teams have worked their tails off to get into the top 10 in driver points, which was always good for a table at the banquet and a few moments of recognition for their hard work. And they deserve nothing less.
The Nationwide Series especially takes a slap in the face on this one. As of right now, there is just one Nationwide regular in the top five. That’s right – Jason Leffler would be the only real Nationwide Series driver to take the stage if the season ended now. And I don’t see that changing much. I can see Brad Keselowski climbing into that position, but that still leaves the majority of those who take the stage as Sprint Cup regulars who already have no business taking the spotlight away from the drivers who belong in the series. Sixth through 10th in the standings right now are all Nationwide regulars – and it is they who get screwed the most.
The truck series will at least fill its slots with its own drivers (or at least four of them; it is feasible that Kyle Busch could slide into the picture), which is a slight improvement. But again, the series deserves better.
While NASCAR will try to argue that few fans tune in to the weeks-delayed broadcast of the banquets for the second and third series, the fact is that the events are not and should never be about the fans. Everything else in racing should be, but the awards ceremonies are for the men and women who have poured their hearts and souls into their work for 10 long months to get to the top of their game. It shouldn’t be about convenience, unless that was requested by the teams themselves. It shouldn’t be about television broadcasts or ratings. It should just be about the racing heroes who toil in relative obscurity for most of the year.
Sorry, fans, but this one just isn’t for you, and it never should be.
Sure, the new banquet format isn’t earth-shattering news, nor does it impact the way the teams will race. There have been worse rules made in regard to actual racing. But this is just… low. Plain and simple it is putting the screws to people who have done nothing but work hard for a place among the season’s best. It’s just wrong, and it’s sad that NASCAR thinks so little of its own racing series that the sanctioning body saw fit to do this. But they are sending that message loud and clear: If you aren’t in Sprint Cup, we don’t care.
That’s not the right message to send.