Wednesday, June 25, 2008

NASCAR Struggles To Deal With The New Media World


It certainly is an interesting time to be an executive with NASCAR. Suddenly, the public's attention has turned from fascination with the drivers to scrutiny of the management team.

Here at The Daly Planet, we talk NASCAR TV and have done so every day since February of 2007. Lots of diverse topics, both good and bad, have passed through our website and been discussed by our readers.

The Internet is our direct access to NASCAR fans around the world. This Google blog site was free of charge and took about one hour to set-up.

Meanwhile, NASCAR is standing at a true communications crossroad. The company is struggling with new media issues and is years behind in its approach to Media Relations. There was no better example of that than Mike Helton's recent driver meeting.

In this day and age, who assembles professional athletes to take them to task about speaking-out in the media and then allows them to exit directly into that same media who have been waiting outside the door?

The results were predictable. Immediate reporting of the private meeting and anger at Helton for trying to curb free speech. Regardless of his intentions, mismanagement of both the media and the message caused the results.

The second recent problem occurred on a much grander scale. It was NASCAR Chairman Brian France slouched at a table with no necktie and mussed hair talking in circles about an issue he clearly did not understand.

That was the official NASCAR video sent around the world in response to a racially-charged discrimination lawsuit against the sanctioning body. Incredibly, NASCAR itself had arranged France's appearance in the Media Center in Michigan.

Immediately after he was done, the video was posted on websites from YouTube to ESPN.com. France instantly had gone "viral." That night, on both local TV stations and cable TV networks that footage was the face of the sport that bills itself as the most popular auto racing series in North America.

How is it possible that no one took the time to prepare the Chairman in both content and appearance for this crucial moment?

Does anyone believe that David Stern from the NBA would appear like this on-camera? Have you seen the new NFL Commissioner speak? These two buttoned-up professionals deal with a variety of issues from cheating scandals to steroid abuse. Yet, neither of them has ever looked or sounded like Brian France in Michigan.

Where were the professionals from The NASCAR Media Group? The division between the old-school NASCAR "PR guys" and the TV pro's at NMG needs to close very quickly as the sport goes through this period of unrest. Images are now everything.

NASCAR's Public Relations staff continually fails to realize that what is said on-camera by NASCAR executives is now distributed globally and archived online in minutes. This is the reality of the new media environment in which we live. The days of the deadline press and the "print boys" are long gone.

At a time when NASCAR desperately needs a direct portal to the fans, they are reminded of one big reality. Not only did NASCAR generate billions by selling the TV rights to the races, but they also sold the right to actually operate the NASCAR.com website.

It is the Turner Interactive group in Atlanta, GA that operates NASCAR.com and all the things that go along with it. Their offices remain in Atlanta, part of a bigger group of Turner-operated websites. This company paid a lot to get control of NASCAR.com, and they have sole control of it until 2014.

What that essentially means is that almost everybody on the planet has direct access to the Internet except NASCAR's own management team. When the sport itself tries to send a message directly to the fans, it has to be delivered through a third party. Think about that for a moment.

The NASCAR.com folks in Atlanta are Turner employees, with the same kind of loyalty to their paychecks that any of us have to an employer. Their agenda is to grow the business for Turner, and use NASCAR as the content of their operation.

Where does that leave NASCAR? They cannot originate their own Internet site to offer official video and media releases. The top-secret one they do have is closed to the public with a log-in for approved media members. There is no MySpace page, no Facebook site and no YouTube postings from NASCAR for content they want fans to see.

NMG uses SPEED to show most of the TV programs they produce, but even with many thousands of hours of archive and exclusive footage NMG cannot create an Internet site for fans. Remember the Turner deal?

Daly Planet readers like to watch NMG uplink live post-race interviews from the Media Centers at every track, yet it is up to the fans to record and post that exact same content on the Internet. In a way, the fans are handling the direct Internet distribution of true NASCAR content.

Ultimately, the fans are the real new media partners of NASCAR. Just go to YouTube and search for "NASCAR." Often, highlights of races and re-posts of TV network NASCAR shows are online minutes after they have actually ended. Fans are making a statment about the online availability of good NASCAR video content. They are doing it themselves.

This is the perfect time for NASCAR to shake-up things where public relations and technology are concerned. This huge sport needs to acknowledge that it has an information and technology gap and it is growing.

One of the most frequent emails received at The Daly Planet is from fans who have emailed NASCAR repeatedly and not gotten a response. In fact, who fans really emailed is the Turner Interactive bunch in Atlanta.

Only by finding and then clicking the "about NASCAR" button at the bottom of NASCAR.com can fans get information about NASCAR itself.

The best part is that this is also the location of the direct contact information for the multi-billion dollar NASCAR corporation. Then, the reality of NASCAR's communication philosophy with the fans hits.

There are seven sentences about the fifty-plus years of NASCAR. The fan contact information is next. It is the address of a Post Office Box in Daytona Beach, FL. That raises one good question for many fans.

"I would like to contact NASCAR, does anyone have a stamp?"

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to drop by.

53 comments:

Kenn Fong said...

The other day, Brian France looked as prepared to lead as Michael Dukakis looked with his Rocky-the-Flying Squirrel cap in the tank. He revealed himself for what he was, the boss's son who got promoted over a lot of other, more-qualified individuals.

The best think Brian France can do for himself and the sport is retreat into the background and let Mike Helton or someone with a little gravitas take the lead until he can shed the deer-in-the-headlights look.

Kenny
Alameda, California

Andrew S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Agricola said...

NASCAR didn't really have to do anything new or unusual to push their success to its current level, except to get as much tv exposure as possible. You're right, they are WAY behind the curve on the internet. And Brian France really ought to stay in LA or wherever and let the professionals run that organization....

SophiaZ123 said...

I barely go to the NASCAR.com site anymore (the upgrade last year was HORRIBLE as was the recent one at SPEEDTV.com) because its a cluttered mess.

Then ONLY reason I use it now is to try RB on race day and sometimes check stories.

Yes, NASCAR is behind the times. I sat last weekend incredulous at a slouchied, casual dressed Brian France. He addressed 'the media' about the lawsuit with the same enthusiasm a bored student would try to BS a teacher about an assignment he clearly did not complete but knew a 'little' about.

Not only did I think France had just been awakened from a nap with his demeanor, but it made him look like my reality: HE IS FAR REMOVED FROM THE SPORT, imo.

He is an embarrassment and Helton was not much better with such an ill planned/timed meeting with the drivers that was explained/understood in a variety of ways. Some of which I understand.

I have friends and acquaintances that still find it foreign I have gotten into NASCAR in the last 4 years or so. With that clip of France making the rounds, I think I shall go back in the closet about this sport. A leader he is not and NASCAR needs to get their act together for the modern age.

However, they yank MANY things off of you tube including one of my fave brief guys from last year that I learned of here. :)

Should be interesting how this all pans out with the drivers meeting and the big lawsuit. I hope the truth comes out about the latter and appropriate action is taken.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Andrew,

If you are talking about RacingOne, I totally hear where you are coming from.

That is now owned by the sister company to NASCAR, The International Speedway Corporation and is called a "property."

It still has the MRN tilt to it and offers podcasts with still pictures as the video portion.

NASCAR has to walk a fine line because of the money brought-in from the Turner deal and the fact that it was recently extended.

Our buddy Pete Pistone is the Managing Editor at RacingOne and they deliver pretty much a text and audio oriented site.

It should be interesting to ultimately see what ISC wants to do with it other than sell tickets and clothing.

I think its kind of funny that when you hit the "store" link you get the NASCAR.com Superstore without the NASCAR.com title.

Thanks for the comment!

JD

Andrew S. said...

I hate to disagree with you John, but NASCAR actually does own a website other than nascar.com. I am not going to name it because I used to be a member on their message boards until myself and a few friends decided to start our own board. But if you follow the money you will discover the website in question was purchased by Americrown which is a catering/concession company founded by Lesa France Kennedy. That's the same lady who is el presidente of ISC. I'll assume Americrown is listed as the owner to keep from violating their agreement with Turner. The website in question is also the home page for MRN Radio, another ISC company. It is also home to racetickets.com which is the official travel provider for... all the ISC owned tracks.

Andrew S. said...

I just made you look psychic John. LOL Sorry, I zapped my original post to clean up some typos.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Andrew, no problems. Thanks for the note so other readers can understand.

JD

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- It seems to me that NASCAR needs some good, crisis control specialists to guide it - but, I'm afraid Brian France as CEO of NASCAR has to be out in the public in this matter, at least frequently. I believe it might be misconstrued if he's not out there.

I have heard some positive responses to France's coming out Sunday, but all of such have probably come from the NASCAR media, which is more likely to be sympathetic.

Anonymous said...

I am a huge NASCAR fan and always will be.

But let me tell you. Brian France thinks he is a Mr. BigShot and hes not. His own father could run circles around him when it comes to running NASCAR. I don't know who he was trying to impress during the news conference by leaving his shirt unbuttoned.

Anonymous said...

Sophia. I agree with you about the whole website deals. SPEEDTV.com is literally a mess. I am a freelance webdesigner, and I don't know what they did to that site. I always learned that Simple is sometimes better. SPEEDS site before was simple and easy to use. Now it is a complete mess.

I have gotten use to the new NASCAR.Com. It took awhile since they changed it so drastically from before.

SophiaZ123 said...

Anon

I used to read SPEED TV but the mess it is now is UNREAL. Even tho it's MB are not well monitored, almost IMPOSSIBLE to read with that dark grey background with white text. YIKES.

I have NEVER read NASCAR news on SPEED TV so I never get to see clips from tv on that site..so clustered with adds it's absurd~! NASCAR.com is better in comparison but geez. It would be nice to read NASCAR stuff on SPEED TV but it's ALL I can do to find Robin Miller's columns and I usually just do a google and hope his latest link comes UP. THAT's how much I HATE SPEEDS "Home page". That site does nothing for NASCAR and I bet TPTB have never used that site but I digress.

Yep, if NASCAR wants to be with it in this century, they need to look in the mirror AND read the Internet. But MB on SPEEDS horrible for the eyes and I can't remember I went to NASCAR.com MB...not a fan friendly site. I usually click around for news and just post here.

Thanks for having the best site to post on, JD.

:)

I enjoy the fellow posters here, too. And it's nice to have folks from tv post here even if anonymously. It's APPRECIATED!

darbar said...

There are multiple issues here. First was the "driver meeting" that Helton and Company lied about to the media. They said the meeting was to instruct drivers of the need to reconnect with fans. Within 30 seconds of the end of the meeting, it was learned that the meeting was actually to reprimand drivers not to complain about the COT. But, I think there was another thing working here. This meeting, and the intentional misinformation, was used as a smoke screen for the $250 million dollar lawsuit. Throw another "controversy" to cover the real big controversy that will probably cause more problems than France/Helton and Co can handle.

Then we have the Brian France insanity. I think that for too long, Nascar has run it's own little country with one or another France acting as Emperor. They could do what they wanted, admonish whomever dared to question their actions, and even silence members of the media (I reference here a discussion last year when a couple of announcers on Sirius radio told of how they were called to the Nascar trailer and told what they could and could not say on their programs). But now, France/Nero fiddles while Nascar/Rome burns. With all the media outlets, including the ever-expanding internet, this whole lawsuit business will do nothing but continue to expand quicker than Barry Bond's on steroids.

The France family has continued to operate on principles and concepts that worked well in the 1970's. But considering how all means of information exchange have exploded in the past few years, for whatever reason, they have resisted to accept and adapt to those changes. France, Helton and company must realize that the iron fist that founded and continue to operate Nascar, can no longer work in the internet age. That, along with the race fan's insatiable desire for news and gossip points to the need for someone to run Nascar who knows the way of the world. Today's Nascar is not the moonshine runners of days gone by, but it's obvious that this Nascar, and their leadership, is still living in the 1960's.

bevo said...

Interesting that you wrote this today JD. I was thinking about how out of touch NASCAR management was today as I listened to NASCAR radio on Sirius this afternoon. When this suit was first filed the different hosts reported on it and basically left it at that, as they should since they have a dog in this fight.

This afternoon however they started to talk about the interview with the attorney by Sports Illustrated. Of course there was the required bashing of all lawyers (except their own) and how outraged they were about the attorney's characterization of the management of NASCAR. Never mind that he was simply stating that however NASCAR management tries to account for the charges something is wrong with their structure; chain of command, communications, incompetence or worse.

To top it off though they just reinforced his point about the "old boys club" and being too insular by going off on his use of the term "nudnik". They had never heard the word and went on and on about it, ridiculing the attorney.

Obviously NASCAR is in desperate need of a PR firm specializing in crisis management. The strategy of attacking the accuser and not being proactive is doomed. The classic way to handle bad press was set back in the Tylenol scare many years ago.

The rub with becoming a truly national and maybe international sport is a much larger stage.

bevo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

A lot of this stuff goes back to the "shill" factor that has concerned me for years. NASCAR has always operated on the assumption that we will believe whatever they say. The Sirius issue has concerned me a great deal as of late, as now two shows have had MRN announcers inserted as "hosts". Now the MRN guys are unequaled when it comes to calling a race, but they do work for NASCAR, and regardless of what they claim, their stated opinion is tainted as a result.
I was a little surprised by NN last night when the opening take was "what a great weekend NASCAR had", and no coversation about either issue (lawsuit, and/or drivers "meeting").

As sad as it is, many outside of the business see people like France and Helton as nothing more than a racing version of Vince McMahon of the WWE. One local sports reporter even opined to me that at least McMahon admits his show is entertainment, and does not push the idea of "integrity", while the NASCAR bunch try to act like the NFL, but are "managing": the news and stories. I am not sure I agree with all of his opinions, but if these are the attitudes of mainstream sports media, how can NASCAR gain credibility?

Tom
Inverness, FL

Anonymous said...

Brian France needs to understand that, while NASCAR controls all when it comes to their own insular world, if they don't start taking control of their image outisde that world, they're not going to be happy with the results.

GinaV24 said...

I thought it was incredible that NASCAR was foolish enough to call a meeting with the drivers to try and silence them. It is an insult to the fans to think that we will suddenly believe that the racing is "great", if the drivers no longer say so. Also, Brian France has appeared out of touch and useless on pretty much every media appearance I have ever seen him make. This latest appearance is only one of many. He usually fiddles with his tie, doesn't make eye contact and generally appears disinterested in what he is saying. And this is the guy who is supposed to be running the sport? He so obviously knows little or nothing about racing,it is painful. The fact that NASCAR would rather sweep all of the problems they are having, including the lawsuit and the absolutely abysmally boring racing is amazing to me. It's not the dark ages any more folks. The fans are active, informed and able to access all kinds of content and NASCAR needs to learn a lot about life in the big leagues. I'm one of those fans who sends e-mails to NASCAR with little result other than a canned answer. I had forgotten that it was actually Turner I was writing too -- thanks for the reminder. I used to send them snail mail too, but stamps are too expensive to waste these days when mail sent to Daytona probably goes right into the trash anyway.

Alex said...

Another issue: Remember how NASCAR wanted drivers to return to having more personality? They had a press release and statements made by France and Helton about it.

Now, they tell drivers to shut up and drive, essentially. If there's something that any sports fan hates, it's when the folks involved with a sport are hypocritical.

T.C. said...

Hey JD,
Great post. The comparison between NASCAR and the other sports is something I didn't think about. David Stern, Bud Selig, and Roger Goodell are always so prepared in terms of dealing with controversy and the media. But then again, they've been doing it for a lot longer then NASCAR (which isn't necessarily a good thing).

I think they (the NASCAR management team) have become a little complacent about certain aspects of the sport. If something goes wrong, they are used to having the power and weight to fix it, but times are definitely changing.

In terms of their internet presence, it seems that NASCAR, like many other large, established companies hasn't yet realized the size and gravity of the internet. There are so many stories of big companies thinking the internet was a fad, or something that just nerdy people used and its not that way at all. NASCAR isn't quite this bad, but they still don't quite grasp the power of the web and the fact they don't have tight control over their own website is ludicrous.

Again, great job JD...

Anonymous said...

This is why NASCAR is treated like a second class citizen with the mainstream sports media, and also why when I tell people that I enjoy watching NASCAR they look at me as if I've just announced my hobby is robbing convenience stores.

glenc1 said...

I don't know that it's fair to say Brian knows nothing about racing (from the comments, not JD's). He was around it all the time growing up, and he knew his father was the 'boss'; *some* of it had to sink in. But in this electronic day & age, knowing about racing does not mean you know how to manage a 'league'. At times I find Brian very personable and charming, but as many have noted, he has little air of authority and it's hard to take him very seriously. He comes across as a kid doing a grown up's job. Helton, on the other hand, is so serious I don't know that I've hardly seen him crack a smile (and I've seen him in person). The phrase, 'speak softly and carry a big stick' comes to mind. But the control they once had they can't continue to have--that's the nature, as JD points out, of the Internet and other media outlets having more access than ever. I think the number of fans accessing these extras is relatively small now, but it obviously will continue to grow as even Grandma has a computer now.

And as Tom notes, I have always had the impression that NASCAR thinks we're sheep who just follow whatever they tell us, as if we have no minds of our own. The TV media doesn't help--they are all beholden to NASCAR. They can always threaten with, 'well, when that contract is up...' And many of them still have business concerns in NASCAR. It has *never* been like it is with other sports, a pet peeve of mine ever since I became a more serious fan about 10 years ago. I always wanted to ask 'what are they afraid of?'

And as for the lawsuit--we are not hear to debate any of the truth since we don't know what that is, but the *perception*--now that is a major, major issue. Many people believe the worst in this area and the way NASCAR handled it will only strengthen that opinion. And the fact that many of the parties one would think to ask refuse to discuss it, or answer with no answer. When these types of issues have come up in other sports, right or wrong, players/coaches, etc have been more than ready to express an opinion. Why is NASCAR afraid of being treated like every other sport, since they have fought so hard to be thought of as one?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't have a problem with Mike Helton's mandatory meeting IF....I thought that Nascar was making a sincere effort to improve the COT which would improve the racing and in turn,please the fans. I can't imagine the money spent running all over the Country to test this pig,the telemetry, shaker post rigs, pulldown machines,etc all in an effort to make this COT turn. The fans have seen passing,primarily in the pits and 6-10 cars on the lead lap at a number of races. Comparable cars can't pass and the empty stands confirm the fans are getting the message. I'm not for Unions,but between the COT, bumpy tracks that don't have pit stalls for all the competitors and marginal tires, it's only a matter of time before the drivers will say that they've had enough.

David said...

They still don't get it. At some point you have to start listening to the people you have brought it and paid the big bucks to. The good ol boys and NASCAR corporate are gonna start feeling the pain soon. NBA ratings are up big time and Tiger pulled on a Monday what they wish they could pull for a Sunday race sometimes. Sirius Radio is a shill for them as well, Majority of the time they are just saying well could you do better. That would be hard for NASCAR etc.

The writing is on the wall, will they be able to read it or be left behind??

SquidBuzz said...

NASCAR really shot themselves in the foot when they signed away the website rights. You have hit the nail on the head when you pointed that out.

Is it possible that this is the way that they want it. A giant buffer zone between them and the public? Kinda like when a company builds a new headquarters building. It is never built anywhere near where the average employee can see it. And it is done that way on purpose. That way no sees the expensive offices and so that the big wigs can drive their super expensive cars and not be noticed by the people that are having a hard time buying a new average car.

Just my thoughts.

Later.

Andrew S. said...

bevo,

based on your comments I'll bet that you were listening to Tradin' Paint with Steve Post and the slightly freakin' famous big bag of gasman.

Tracy said...

In this day and age, you have to be media-savy if you're Nascar. That's what JD is saying, and as he has pointed out, Nascar's grade so far is F. France should never, never have give that press conference in Michigan.

However, I have to be fair and in response to the poster who wrote, "And the fact that many of the parties one would think to ask refuse to discuss it, or answer with no answer," point out that no lawyer wants anyone involved in a suit of this magnitude, from France down to the crew guys, commenting in the press. The first rule is "shut up and let me do the talking, that's what you're paying me for." I know that's hard to swallow, but as one of the online commentators pointed out, a named party to the suit has opened his mouth and said words that essentially added a couple of million to the punitive damages phase of the trial. I'll bet Nascar's legal team is ready to hire a hit man. If there is a legal team in place for this - and I don't mean in-house counsel. So far, I don't get the feeling the Big Guns are on the case.

The trick is how to handle the publicity without looking like a stone wall with no heart. Once again, you hire the best in the business to get your media act up to speed. And you do what they tell you to do. Not what you've always done, which so far, has left you looking like nitwits.

Tracy said...

Sophia, I'm with you on the SpeedTV and Nascar.com websites. What messes. Hard to navigate, hard to read.

GinaV24 said...

I certainly agree with you folks about the websites. Speed and NASCAR.com both became impossible to deal with on a regular basis. I no longer use either one for regular information and since Speed has screwed up any programming that I'm really interested in, there's no good reason for me to go there.

As for Mike Helton, well, he always looks like the muscle for a mob boss and Little Brian comes across as weak and ineffectual. I stand by my assertion that he doesn't know anything about racing -- just because he is Bill Jr's son, doesn't make him knowledgeable. He appears uncomfortable being around the tracks and watching him at the awards banquet is painfully funny. He cannot wait to get out of there and do something else.

Anonymous said...

Jayski used to have NASCAR's phone numbers posted, but I don't know if it's there anymore and it was certainly well hidden in the first place.

I used it to call NASCAR about a mailing address/HR information for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The response I got after being on hold for 20 minutes? "Uh, I think it's up in Charlotte somewhere, you should check with the city."

How does NASCAR's own PR or HR people not know anything about the Hall of Fame? I understand the building itself is owned by Charlotte, but you'd think NASCAR might have some proprietary interest in the Hall enough to have their people be able to field questions.

(BTW, The only decent thing about being on hold for so long was that the "hold music" was an MRN broadcast of a race!)

As long as NASCAR pretends to act as if they just fell off the media turnip truck, it'll never overcome the stereotypes and prejudices non-fans believe about our sport.

Anonymous said...

With regard to the appearance of Brian France and his posture sitting at the table, does anyone else see a strange coincidental KARMA between that image and the deposition that Jim Dolan gave regarding the sex discrimination case by a female against Madison Square Garden???

SPOOOOOKY!!!!!

Gary said...

About being in front of the media.

There are consultant firms that will come to your office and prep you on how to look, talk, and act with the media. It typically is a one or half-day seminar. These firms are typically staffed with broadcast pros from back in the day.

In a former life of over 33 years at IBM, we used them all the time. Say, at a new product announce or trade show, with product development engineers and programmers present, they would each receive some tailored coaching. Then, these techies would leave their acroyyms, bits and bytes geekspeak back at the lab, and not sound like total geeks to reporters

The training sessions were very beneficial and it was money well spent. I can sense that many at the Hendrick team have had such quickie training and it shows whenever they are in front of a camera or mic.

Maybe some of the teams have got such established vendors, and could let Nascar heavies know who they use. After all, the Teams’ drivers are loaded with appearance schedules and being a pitch man all the time for whatever decals are on their ride and hauler!

Maybe even JD, the blog owner could do some 1099 contract work on the side, to coach the two being discussed. ;-)

Newracefan said...

Yes Nascar needs to get out of the 70's as far as their media is concerned. I was surprised but pleased to hear it was Brian France who addressed the media about the lawsuit and then I saw it. All I could think was sit up and where's your suit, this is not Steve Jobs presenting the new Iphone. I guess Helton would have been better at least he always dresses well. Nascar better have already been on the phone to a BIG firm that specializes in damage control to handle this mess before it spins even more out of control than it already has. I know they must have in-house counsel isn't anyone listening to them, and if they are not yelling from the roof tops then they need to be replaced too. For crying out loud call Rick Hendrick he knows how to do damage control that man was under house arrest many years back and look where he is now. I agree with poster about HMS and how they present themselves. I was at the Dover race and saw a well groomed man with freshly pressed black pants and white long sleeve shirt, he didn't need to turn around for me to know where he worked. That's right there was the HMS logo on the front of his shirt and BF shows up to a press conf in a wrinkled shirt.

Soph I also do not like the new Speed web site have gotten use to Nascar.com (what idiot signed away those rights did Nascar really need the money that bad) but it's the last place I look and my biggest bitch is that you can't tell if you read the article or not. I do like the video archives that's where I got to see JR's post race media interviews and they were hysterical.
I didn't mind the drivers meeting part for me that was typical Nascar and instead of thinking it was a smokescreen I thought of it more as another example of not being media savvy enough to realize it wasn't being handled properly.
It will be interesting to see how this all ends up.

glenc1 said...

tracy, I understand what you are saying about NASCAR officials commenting--but I really meant the people in the sport--one of the print reporters--I forget who--mentioned a number who would not talk to her. There was a 'selection' of people from the garage and the media as well...not people who work for NASCAR, but yes, they were obviously afraid to comment for fear of their place in the NASCAR world. I guess that is my frustration...the 'fear' factor. NASCAR has clearly used intimidation successfully over the years.

As far as Mike Helton--I wouldn't want his job for all the world. But when I'm annoyed with something he's done (or hasn't done...) I remind myself that he's had to come forward at some of NASCAR's darkest moments, and that can't be easy. I also believe much of what he does is dictated from the Frances. But Brian France didn't just get the job overnight--he worked in a variety of positions before they gave it to him--starting with mowing the infield at DIS, and including track and series management as well as competition (Truck series) and marketing. Enough so that it would be *expected* that he would be better at this job than he is. I'm not defending his ability to do the job, I'm just saying he didn't get it fresh out of grad school or something.

Some years back I accidentally came upon what I believe were NASCAR's offices in Daytona. I thought it was odd that they were so subtle. I figured it out, but it wasn't obvious.... Made me wonder if they were afraid disgruntled fans would come storming in the doors, lol.

David said...

There is an interview on the SI.com NASCAR site with the Female official that is suing NASCAR. Two of the most telling statements are the ones related to how they run their business, that directly relates to this topic. They go something like this.

Q. Having been on both sides of it -- Irwindale and the culture you claimed to have been in during your time in the Nationwide Series -- how do you think changes can be made?

A. "They need to stop hiring their ignorant brothers, cousins and uncles of theirs, and start hiring qualified, educated people to start running their multibillion dollar business. Stop giving 'Uncle Frank' a hookup knowing that he's ignorant."

Q. Do you think that some type of diversity training could help fix it?

A. "That's not going to work. You can't sit people in a room and say, 'Now you're going to change.' You can't blow up a black blowup doll and say, 'Look at their eyes. This is their nose.' That's stupid. You need to hire people who are well-rounded, educated, capable of stepping into any type of environment and not making themselves look like a fool."

David

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing a picture of Brian France some years back, and I think he was sitting on a small tractor and doing some kind of grounds work at Daytona International Speedway. I believe he would have been in his late teens at the time. The gist of the story was that his father was making him learn NASCAR from the ground up. Brian was being groomed to take over NASCAR some day, and he would know the whole business. The France family wasn't going to just hand him the keys to the business because he was next in line.

My own impression is that he has no interest in racing, only grandiose dreams for further expansion of the business aspects of the sport. You know, saturate the U.S. market and move on to international leagues. It has been my personal observation that executives who have no interest in the core activity of a business usually make poor leaders.

Whatever Brian France's true interest in racing, the efforts to prepare his public image for his present position have failed miserably. I sometimes think he wishes that he was back on the tractor mowing the lawn at Daytona.

Michigan fan

Richard in N.C. said...

Perception can often be seen as reality. I have to believe (hope) that Bill France, Jr. was convinced Brian could handle the job, or he would have replaced him. Being knowledgeable enough to handle the job does not always come across - and Brian France does not appear to have the communication skills to convey his (I hope) competence.

I expect the vast majority of people view Ross Perot as some sort of "flake," but he's obviously been smart enough to create more than 1 very large, successful business.

Anonymous said...

People forget that NASCAR -isn't- the NFL or the NBA -- those are huge corporate leagues. NASCAR is a privately-owned company. Worse - a family-owned company. In other words - the learning curve is going to be much steeper and much slower than these other entities. The head of NASCAR isn't an MBA. He's the son of a racer (and a racer himself). Just because his business is racing, don't expect them to understand business. They clearly don't. I think most of the success of NASCAR has happened in spite of management, not because of it.

Anonymous said...
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Richard in N.C. said...

JD- At this point it appears that NASCAR's failure to be taken seriously by the so-called mainstream sports and news media may actually be working to its benefit as it does not seem to me the lawsuit story is getting much traction in the non-NASCAR media. For instance, I cannot find a comment about it on Keith Oberman's website - and, so far, I have not heard the story flailed on sports radio.

Anonymous said...

I agree that a lot of this is Brian France being unaware that times have changed as far as controling the media. You can't just hope this goes away, you have to step up and address it in a professional manner, which we all seem to feel hasn't happened.

John Mcgraw said...
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NASCAR Lawsuit in the Media said...
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LuckyForward said...

I am sick of France-Helton-NASCAR. All of the above have such a narcissistic view of themselves as they think they may "decree" what drivers, teams, etc. may say and think. Last time I checked, there is still freedom of speech . . . except in NASCAR. The inordinate need for control speaks to the overly large egos of Mr. France and Mr. Helton.

Well, here is how it shakes out for one FORMER NASCAR fan: I have relinquished my rights for my tix at Atlanta, Bristol, Charlotte, and Talladega.

Think about that, NASCAR intellengicia . . .

Dot said...

To Sophia & Darbar,
I don't have to comment anymore because you guys get here before I do. So I'll just say "ditto" from Dot.

Regarding Brian France and his appearance over the weekend. I don't know much about body language, but his "spoke" defeat. The least he should've done was to sit up straight.

JD, again I want to say how much I enjoy your column. And the commenters, too.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD-
Thanks for all your efforts policing the site and making it one worth coming back to.

emeraldchickpea said...

To all that have posted so far, thanks for the enlightening and astute comments.

I can think of all sorts of analogies/metaphors/whatever...first and foremost was "The Emperor's New Clothes". Brian just isn't up to the task of actually controlling, or managing, anything even marginally close to a race team, much less the whole shebang. Dave Marcis and Brett Bodine know more about NASCAR, racing and management of a business, to name just a couple!

The folks that post here are both vocal and sensible. While we don't always agree on all things in all ways, we do agree that there are problems, from the top down, in how things have been administered and allowed to roll unchecked and uncontrolled down an increasingly steeper slope.

Y'all know what I'm talking about here -- things are mightily messed up and aren't getting any better in the forseeable future at the rate it's been going.

Our comments on the de-evolution of NASCAR broadcasting, and its media messes, are darned sensible compared to the "official line".

It's sad that we can't really get down in the trenches and do something to help our favorite sport...

LuckyForward said...

Just a quick thanks to all for your thoughtful and insightful comments. And to JD for keeping this site going, on track (no pun intended), and focused.

It is a joy to dialogue here.

John Mcgraw said...
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Anonymous said...

I think most of the success of NASCAR has happened in spite of management, not because of it.
June 18, 2008 6:27 PM

Agreed, and what a great comment. They have always presented to the drivers the idea they need NASCAR more than NASCAR needs the drivers, but I think NASCAR has been saved by a small group of very popular and influential drivers. Who probably don't even realize how powerful they are.

Anonymous said...

I believe most of NASCAR's growth and movement towards mainstream can be attributed directly to R J Reynolds Tobacco and their sponsorship of the sport. RJR caused many changes to be made at the track and in the media. It went far beyond simply increasing advertising of the "Winston Cup Series".

Regardless of your opinion about tobacco companies, you have to admit they know a lot more about advertising and public relations than the folks at NASCAR did/do. Because of the type of relationship and the length of it, I think RJR had a particularly close relationship with NASCAR that was beneficial to NASCAR in ways that weren't obvious to the public.

When federal laws required RJR to end its sponsorship of the sport, NASCAR lost an old and experienced friend. The relationship with Sprint/Nextel may provide the money, but that old relationship is gone. I can't help but think that if RJR was still sponsoring the series, someone from RJR would have stepped in and given some friendly big brotherly advice to NASCAR on what they had to do to improve their performance in the media and the court of public opinion.

Michigan fan

Daly Planet Editor said...

I apologize for the fact that an obscene comment lasted for a while on this page. My blogspot page was unavailable to me for a bit.

Again, the rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Please email me with any questions about our policies.

Thanks all!

JD

Tracy said...

Michigan fan at 12:16 - I think you may have hit the proverbial nail on the head. I'm reading Mark Yost's The 200 MPH Billboard right now, and what you said fits in perfectly with what I'm understanding from the book.