Saturday, August 18, 2007

SPEED Off Track With California Speedway Girls

We have tried very hard this season to treat everyone with maturity and respect, regardless of their age or sex. We only wish that SPEED would make a commitment to do the same thing.

As we look into the NASCAR stands, we see lots of female faces who have feelings just as strong as their male counterparts for the sport. SPEED has worked hard to keep Krista Voda, Wendy Venturini, and even Nicole Mankse front-and-center on their racing-related coverage. ESPN has included Jamie Little, Shannon Spake, and Suzy Kolber into the mix of their NASCAR coverage this year.

During its early years as SpeedVision, the network was focused on racing of all kinds. The lifestyle programming was limited to shows on how to fix things, or where to travel for racing events and fun. Anyone remember the exciting "Wooden Boat" series?

After the purchase of the network by Fox Cable Networks, viewers saw many changes that did not sit too well with the female fans. Many fans might remember Texas Hardtails, which regularly featured surgically enhanced scantily clad females, and often used a wet t-shirt or bikini contest as quality programming content.

Earlier this season, The Daly Planet ran a column on Melanie, the new SPEED promo queen who asks "can you handle it" seemingly thousands of times a day on the network. We included a reference to NOPI Tunervision, which is a program that has a cult unto itself.

But, up until Saturday, this issue of the treatment of females as equals has not thrust itself into the NASCAR programming on SPEED. Up until now.

NASCAR Live on SPEED is hosted by John Roberts, and Saturday came from the parking lot of Michigan International Speedway. Suddenly, the network swept away its credibility with approximately forty to fifty percent of its fanbase. The California Speedway girls had arrived. SPEED played back a feature that had almost every offensive element possible to NASCAR's core group of female fans.

Certainly, everyone knows that California Speedway has been struggling with attendance for its NASCAR weekends. This market has always been a tough sell, and the female president of the track Gillian Zucker has apparently decided on a solution...cheerleaders. That's right, the female president of the track. That is her, pictured above, with a normal crowd of NASCAR fans in the background.

Saturday, SPEED host John Roberts suddenly appeared to be a drooling fourteen year old boy when he spoke about the group of professional models that had been selected to be The California Speedway Girls. Zucker herself referred to her cheerleaders as an "iconic group of year-round Ambassadors."

Its absolutely fine that California Speedway made this move. Anything they would like to do to promote themselves is understood. The column today is about how SPEED has approached this issue, and the fact that the video feature played on NASCAR Live on Saturday featured these "models" being trained by a strict female teacher in the "fundamentals of NASCAR."

That's right, these girls could be "trained" to be just as smart as the other female fans. Of course, they had to do it in their little outfits and perfect make-up and endless smiles. SPEED should have just given Roberts a gun and he could have just shot himself, and his career, right in the foot.

His shameless promoting of The California Girls calendar as a tool to lure fans to the track was ridiculous. Roberts briefly tried this same behavior on RaceDay a while back, but we let it pass. Not this time.

NASCAR is different from any other sport. The Daly Planet has said this over-and-over again this season. NASCAR crowds in the stands are not the partying young people from NOPI land. They are not the hard drinking and fighting NFL crowds of many cities. SPEED's earlier attempt to create a show around the infield partying failed. It was just families in RV's having fun with their kids.

This is a critical weekend for SPEED. ESPN has already done their first couple of races, and then turned over practice and qualifying to SPEED. A lot more eyes than usual are on the network, and Friday was an outstanding day of great coverage and good humor. Saturday, not so much. But, we will address that in another column.

This one slip on Saturday might not be huge, but I can't really judge it well because I am male. If you are a female NASCAR fan enjoying SPEED's in-depth coverage and listening to the trusted John Roberts, I can only imagine your feelings when the network basically throws you under the bus.

The California Girls are a misplaced effort by a desperate executive to save a struggling track. The amount of effort and money that has been spent on this project could have been used to encourage Hispanic fans, who are the missing element in this geographic area. Making them aware of the sport, and Montoya's rising star, would have been the most positive thing that could have been done between races.

Their simple presence at the track would solve the very problem Ms. Zucker faces. No matter how small the bikinis or how enticing the sexual innuendo, The California Girls are going to be facing middle-aged American families like the ones pictured behind Ms. Zucker above.

SPEED has some decisions to make, and they have been negligent in making them. Is their vision of women on the network the mature and professional Krista Voda and Wendy Venturini? Or is it the manufactured fame of bikini clad twentysomething models who are put on national TV as a marketing tool?

Female NASCAR fans are probably going to help the network decide with both their remote controls and their pocketbooks. Did I mention SPEED has some decisions to make?

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.


jfs-va said...

I didn't catch alot of the programming today but I did happen to catch this. I've said this before and I'll say it again. I love looking at attractive women, but not as part of a sporting event (unless they are a participant). I have no interest in seeing anything other than the race, ballgame, etc.

But evidently there is some element out there that they believe will be attracted to the sporting event because they'll be able to see a few scantilly clad women.

Anonymous said...

I think Speed was "gently forced" into doing this segment and JD was told to pump it up. Who owns California Speedway and why do they have 2 races that never sell out? Hmmmmm

Matt said...

Yea, Ms. Zucker, it's the lack of scantily-clad females that's keeping fans away from your racetrack. Not that boring races, catering to Hollywood celebes or a race on what should be the day of the Southern 500 has anything to do with it. *Rolls Eyes*

Hey SPEED, how bout instead of insulting our intelligence with this, discuss why the stands REALLY are empty at California.

SophiaZ123 said...

Well, John....I thought of you and this site when I CRINGED and heard JR speaking to this woman.

I was down the hall glancing at the LR digital tv and had the volume up loud to listen as I was primping in the bathroom. I saw the bit of girls rehearsing but missed any SCANTILY clad girls or pics of such.

I just want to say SPEED now has developed 'functional bipolar' disorder. THIS WAS NOT THE SPEED I GUSHED OVER YESTERDAY. Sheesh.

I agree the race should've never gone to CALIF.

I am so sick of the over sexed culture we live in and the way NASCAR loves to PROMOTE their family sport with VIAGRA on the cars and the plethora of E.D. adds during their show.


I hope RACEDAY does not induce vomiting tomorrow.

Though NASCAR NOW should be packaged on a DVD and used for poison control to induce vomiting. Eric certainly triggers nausea.

I was very disappointed in JR drooling over this junk.


Isn't everybody?

projectpappy09 said...

In support of California Speedway, they seem to be having their own version of "grid girls" which can be seen at F1 and MotoGP events. I know it is a little deprecating to women, but it is a cool idea.

Anonymous said...

This avid NASCAR fan, who happens to be female, no longer watches RACEDAY, Trackside, or any SPEED Channel programming that insults my intelligence or gender.
I abhor the personalities of most of the SPEED Channel males, especially Jimmy Spencer and that strangely coiffed creature that wears glasses. Neither is funny and both are intellectually challenged.
Perhaps one day, the SPEED producers will realize that 'sex' will not sell or promote racing. The use of panting vixens to invite participation is repulsive and demeaning.
I listen to SIRIUS Radio programming more than I watch television these days. More often than not, what I hear is infinitely more enjoyable that anything I can see on the SPEED Channel, other than actual race coverage or qualifying.
Why is it that the intelligence level, moral code and general sophistication level of NASCAR fans coninues to be underestimated and ignored? SPEED and people like Ms. Zucker continue to perpetuate very unattractive stereotypes which are mostly unfounded, presently.
I suppose SPEED can do as it wishes. So can I !
In a lot of ways, NASCAR remains anachronistic and ignorant.

Anonymous said...

As a female NASCAR fan since the early 80's I was offended that SPEED chose to show the "training session" that these women were supposed to have been in. It was an insult to me and other women who really know the sport. I can't fault California Speedway as they're only trying to fill the stands, but I really don't think this is going to help. And this year, as I've done since the Southern 500 was lost to California, I won't watch the race. To me, it's just not Labor Day without the Southern 500....

Sal said...

I'd say that nothing shows how little the president of the California track understands racing than the 'speedway girls'. I'm sure there are plenty of scantily clad young women walking around in California to gawp at without having to pay the price of a ticket to a Nascar race. She's already admitted that 'fans' at Cali would rather spend their time shopping than watching the pathetic excuse for a race that happens there. This is going to reinforce the 'family friendly' image that Nascar is promoting? the same 'image' that denies the bootlegging past of Nascar, and won't allow it's drivers to say sh**? To me, it's making Nascar look more than a little desperate. They are now suing sponsors and trotting out the 'bouncing bosoms' to try to bolster sagging attendance and TV ratings? Pathetic.

Anonymous said...


As far as women being used as a prop, it's ALWAYS BEEN done in sports and before I watched CUP racing, they had their WINSTON GIRLS.


When I saw Pamela Anderson at the ALL STAR race, i think it was, a couple of years ago BUSTING out of her shirt , I COULD NOT BELIEVE THAT?

So why am I surprised now. In general TV caters to the lowest common denominator.

NASCAR is no difference.

And SPEEDs PROGRAMMING "IN GENERAL" IS horrendous so I wonder why I defend them so often.

But they KNOW how to show qualifying and are better than ESPN.

Anonymous said...

Lisa (France Kennedy) is Gilligan's mentor/protector....If you want to put the spotlight on anyone in regards to this "issue" it's Nascar (mailing address Daytona Beach, FL) The late Hall of Fame football coach, George Allen used to say "Those people don't know that they don't know".....about people like Skipper Lisa & her little buddy Gilligan....nuff said

Anonymous said...

Swing and a miss on this one, John.

My wife and I were amused. As seriously as we take NASCAR, we didn't mind this.

If we never saw pretty women as part of a NASCAR promotion, it would be the first sport NOt to do so.

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed when I saw the segment and turned the rest of the program off. Trust me, part of the problem is that Fontana is a miserable hot place to be on Labor Day weekend. In So Cal you can go to the beach and see all the bikini babes you want, someone is not going to pay big bucks to go inland and look at a little flesh that you can see for free in a nicer environment.,

Anonymous said...

John, your comment: "NASCAR is different from any other sport. The Daly Planet has said this over-and-over again this season. NASCAR crowds in the stands are not the partying young people from NOPI land. They are not the hard drinking and fighting NFL crowds of many cities. SPEED's earlier attempt to create a show around the infield partying failed. It was just families in RV's having fun with their kids."

I agree that the Speedway girls are a silly idea, but I wish you would stop repeating your theory that NASCAR is this great family sport compared to other sports. You can go on YouTube right now and see two different videos posted by fans from Pocono a couple of weeks ago: the aftermath of one altercation in the stands with security trying to straighten things out, and one actual fight (among grown women) occuring in the infield. The fans of NASCAR are no more - or no less - wholesome than the fans of other sports. You don't need to denigrate the morality of the NFL or other racing series fans to make reasonable points.

Anonymous said...

Where's Humpy Wheeler when you need him? This man know's how to promote and run a track... How does a track in Concord, North Carolina host the largest movie premiere in the history of Hollywood with "Cars" in 2006 and California Speedway thinks a few scantly dressed girls are going to sell the remaining 30-40,000 tickets it needs to sell. Applause...Applause to Wheeler.

And those calls are coming out of the same NASCAR office in Century City, CA. There is no real entertainment connection or value to either California race.

California has to bring some exciting fan based events, elementsand track changes to raceday to bring the fans out to the track.

I have a few suggestions, but I'm not going to mention them here, I'm not getting paid enough. Yeah, the California Speedway girls could be a small part of the event, like the Vegas Showgirls at LVMS. The real story is a much bigger "PICTURE" and California Speedway needs a lot greater help. Wolfgang Puck and the California Girls eating his wood fired pizzas aren't going to cut it...

That's right Mr. Wheeler works for SMI and Bruton Smith... 4 of the 6 greatest tracks overall to attend a race weekend for everyone involved teams, drivers and most importantly the fans, are owned by individuals outside of ISC. The tracks I'm including in no particular order are Daytona, Brickyard, Bristol, Talladega, Las Vegas and Charlotte.

Who's running the "Show" in California? Definitely, not Merv Griffin.

Anonymous said...

This is just another desperate attempt of Gillian Sucker to try to get butts in the seats. She seems to be going after the teen boys who are having the typical "hormonal urges" they go through at that age. Let's face it, that track is a sinking ship and the only thing keeping it afloat is the egotism of the France family.

NASCAR tells the networks what they will and won't cover, so don't stick this one on Speed. It's the putzes in Daytona who are behind this little fiasco. If Speed could cover what they wanted to, there would be a lot more hard-hitting stories about things going on in the garage and off the track.

If you think Brian France has been a nighmare to Cup racing, just wait. Lesa makes Brian look tame and if Brian doesn't turn things around by the end of year 5 of his tenure, he will be replaced by Lesa.

Bobby said...

This should be the last straw and take away Fontana's second date. This is NOT NOPI, this is NOT the NBA, and this definitely is NOT Formula One.

Give Texas the Labor Day date (they want a better date), push Atlanta to Bristol's date, and make the final four races in the Chase Phoenix, Homestead, the Sharpie 500 at Bristol, and crown the Sprint Cup champion at the Southern 500 in Darlington. Talk about playing for the title at the toughest -- imagine golfers playing for the FedEx Cup at Shinnecock Hills and Oakmont, or playing the Super Bowl at Lambeau, or Game 7 of the World Series at Fenway. NASCAR could have a Myrtle Beach Race Week where drivers can spend the final race week on the beach.

When NASCAR moved the Southern 500 to November, it was intended to push for the race as

The Professor said...

We gave up Darlington for THIS??????

Seriously, SPEED's programming department seems to be run by the kids from _Weird Science_ some days. You don't see the Yankees or the Colts or the Packers promoting their teams with pneumatic bimbos. Why should racing fans be so demeaned by the network that is supposed to be devoted to our interests?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anonymous 10:20AM,

Did you just say morality and NFL in the same sentence?

Anonymous said...

mature and professional Krista Voda and Wendy Venturini
Are the best comentators. Put the CA girls in your broad-casting and watch them plumet. The 60 and 70 are over women have brains and rights don't overlook that have you ever heard of a womans scorn. this is a family sport and my child won't be watching anything with skimpy dressed women in it!!!!!!!!!

Richie W. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...

Thank you for the diverse comments. Please refer to the rules on the main page for posting comments, and the content that will cause them to be removed. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Speed was "gently forced" into doing that segment. I am a female and went to my first race in the mid 70's at Darlington Raceway. I won't get into how I feel about Cali having the Labor Day Race. ..I'll just say that the racin' gods are behind the terrible turnouts for the race and having a good laugh about it. As for the Speedway Girls...yeah that will put fans in the seat when giving tickets away hasn't.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing out this problem. I'm a female NASCAR fan and watch with my 9-year-old son. I'm sick of having to watch the race (or any televised sporting event, for that matter) with my remote at the ready to switch channels when something inappropriate comes on. It's usually some of the commercials that I have a problem with but I'm really disappointed to hear that SPEED is doing this during the NASCAR programming!
(And I am so sick of Melanie - she's on so much GUYS are probably getting sick of her!)

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous 10:20AM,

Did you just say morality and NFL in the same sentence?"
Yes, John, I did. My point is you can't measure or compare the morals of the NFL or NOPI FANS to NASCAR FANS. Way to miss the entire point of my post, which is you nedd to stop putting NASCAR viewers or fans on a pedestal compared to other sports fans. I notice you went for the quick wit and had no comment on the YouTube videos from Pocono with the "wholesome" NASCAR fans. Did I mention that the fight video shows a few dozen "family-oriented" NASCAR fans standing around watching and laughing at the two women fighting on the ground, or posing for the camera, beers in hand?

You wrote about NASCAR fans: "They are not the hard drinking and fighting NFL crowds of many cities." So what are those people at Pocono, exactly, then? Somehow I doubt they would be offended by the Speedway Girls, which was the point of your post.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...

Anonymous 10:20AM,

You have the perfect right to your views. NASCAR gets over one hundred thousand folks for a race, and you can certainly go out and find anyone you want as the example of making a point.

Somehow, you seem fascinated by a YouTube video of two drunk women and another of fans disagreeing over seating arrangements.

This column is about how Cali Speedway is off-base with the forty to fifty percent of the fans who are female. The posts above reflect that idea.

I have been to many NFL games that featured brawls in the stands and the parking lots continually. If you wore a visiting team's jersey, you would have it torn off.

In the NASCAR stands, everybody gets to pick their own team. In the infield, if you act up you will be arrested. What is the difference?

It is the fact that almost half the fans are female, and the sport is better off because of it. Catering to male audiences like the NFL does continually is simply off-base. You don't seem to be concerned about the issue of the column, only the fact that the NFL was used as an example.

Anonymous said...

Oh, so everyone else is allowed to whine about CA speedway taking Darlington's Labor Day date, but when I comment about the whiners, and why CA Speedway has two dates, at 7:51pm, it gets deleted.
Kevin in SoCal

Anonymous said...

They tried this at Irwindale Speedway (a short track about 40 miles from CS), and it was a disaster. I have no problem with hot scantially clad women, but not when I paid $100+ to see a race!

Anonymous said...

I think your wrong on this one John. I go to about 6 races a year and while there are alot of families that go there are also alot of adults there that have been drinking the whole day. I have had bad encounters with both of these groups.

As for the scantily clad women that were on SPEED, they were there to promote a race and a race track own by the France family. If you want to put blame somewhere it should be there. SPEED probably had no choice but to put them on and talk them up.

Oh, by the way, I was watching it with my girfriend and she thought that it was funny that they had to do that to promote a race that Nascar said was at a better location now than when it was a DArlington and they never had to do that at Darlington. And she wasn't offended, she actually was laughing about it.

Daly Planet Editor said...


The rules are on the main page. You can address any issue, but your one nasty and personal comment caused your post to be deleted. If that happens in the future, just repost with a minor correction. You have great opinions, and I hope you continue to leave them here.

darbar said...

Just what I want to do, pay $200 for a race ticket and find myself with augmented, plastic bubble-headed women that belong on Girl's Gone Wild. As a woman sports fan, I get tired of owners trying to promote their venues using sex. If you put a good product on the field or track, we'll be there, but I've yet to meet a man who spends top dollar for a ticket just to see fake, sexually provocative women.

Does anyone have the email address for Speed, John Roberts, and the women who handles the California Speedway? I'd like to send a few notes reminding them that at least 45% of Nascar's fan base is female.

Anonymous said...

Tired of weak programmers ruining the sport. And too bad SPEED decided that the pre-teen Melanie should be The One. Guess what? We can handle it. And a lot more than Melanie could ever dish out. Lowest common denominator TV.

XM - The Joe Costello show ... awesome all the way around.

KoHoSo said...

This is yet more proof that all NASCAR cares about is the 18 to 35 year old male demographic. This garbage goes all the way back to when races were on FX and they were running those very graphic promos for "Son of the Beach." And, this type of "show" goes well past what we all saw in the old days of the Winston Girls.

Hey, nobody loves scantily-clad women more than me. But, I have enough consideration for those who feel differently on that subject to realize that there are times and places where such displays are not welcome or appropriate. And, one would certainly think this would be the case for an organization such as NASCAR that presents itself as being friendly to "family values."

One of these days, I'd like to see one of NASCAR's outwardly Christian drivers or broadcasters finally speak up about the trash that surrounds the presentation of their sport in the pursuit of more money. It seems to me that there were some things said about that subject in a certain old book I have read. ;)

And, if they want to fill more seats at California Speedway -- a track that sits only six miles from where I live and work -- dig that boring travesty up and put in some progressive banking...or a longer road course...yes, even a road course would provide more exciting racing than has ever been seen at Fontana in a stock car. I don't go to races there anymore even though its so close. I'd be more entertained staying home and watching some paint dry or grass grow. And, if it's women I want to see, that can be done far cheaper and with much more to be seen than for even the least expensive ticket at California where a 75 cent bottle of Pepsi goes for three bucks.

Anonymous said...
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