One change that is looming on the horizon, a change that I have given a lot of thought to but have yet to righteously pontificate about, for the NASCAR fans that are left is NASCAR’s planned replacement of the classic souvenir hauler for a exciting circus tent!
I say “NASCAR’s plan” because, in case you did not know it, Motorsports Authentics (MA), the company who runs the business, is a subsidiary of none other than International Speedway Corp (ISC), which we all know is the conjoined twin of NASCAR and run by the geniuses we like to loving call the France family.
Here is the short version of how this is coming about.
Back in the heyday, when NASCAR was still riding on popularity surge of Dale Earnhardt, Sr.’s death, as late as 2008, sales for Motorsports Authentics were in the $2-billion-a-year range. By 2010, that had dropped to $1 billion. In fact, in 2009, in an effort to avoid a embarrassing bankruptcy, MA had to renegotiate its licensing agreements with the teams. By 2010, after cutting over half of its 400 employees and becoming more streamlined, it is apparently still not making enough money to feed the kids and are now looking to do away with the 20 or so souvenir trucks and replace them with circus tents sometime during the 2015 season. If you were wondering, the breakdown of the renegotiated agreement (which will remain the same after the change) is 15 percent to the tracks (most of which ISC already owns), 10 percent to the teams and drivers with the rest going to MA. That is the short version.
Now, the reasons for its demise are varied and debatable, some of which are loss of interest due to inflated prices, poor management (do you really need a separate truck for some of the lesser teams?! What’s wrong with combining a few?) and the overall decline of the popularity of NASCAR, mainly by running off the diehard fan in favor of the casual fan, just to name a few. But that is neither here nor there, at least for the purposes of this diatribe.
My point is simple: part of the mystique of attending a race is visiting the big shiny trucks! Some of my best photos of myself and others, has been taken with a souvenir truck as the backdrop. It’s a common occurrence for most race fans. Who in the hell wants a picture of they or their loved ones in front of the Jeff Gordon circus tent? The big pretty truck is part of the draw. Most times, if you didn’t plan on buying anything, you end up getting SOMETHING, sort of like going grocery shopping when you are hungry.
And what about the younger, up-and-coming fan? I, with my oldest grandson now at 5 years of age, have been formulating plans in my mind to take him to a race or two in the next year or so and seeing the look on his face as we get to souvenir row was something I was looking forward to. Unfortunately, unless I take him in the next eight months or so, I will never get to see that look. I seriously doubt that a tent is going to leave the lasting memory that a big shiny truck will.
But it’s not just the kids that will be affected. Even me, being the grouchy, sarcastic, (insert adjective and noun of your choice here) that I am, I still like to look at the trucks even if I don’t buy anything. I just don’t think a circus tent is going to do it (whatever “it” is) for me. Nor do I believe is it going to do it for your for everyday, run-of-the-mill race fan. Something will just be missing. Isn’t one of the main points sales is to have something to draw them in?
Of all the things that is wrong with NASCAR, in this time when it is trying to win the fan base back, this is simply a wrong way to go. The trucks ARE the draw. The trucks ARE part of the memories (past and future). The trucks ARE a part of NASCAR. Tents are not. If I want tents I’ll go to a revival or my local car dealer’s tent sale.
Yeah, I’ll go once, just to see how bad they can screw things up. Kinda like looking at a trainwreck. Then I’ll shake my head and never go back.
Circus tents are for, well, the circus!
Stay off the wall,