Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fans Need Brian France On TV This Sunday


There comes a time in every sport where world events suddenly change the dynamic of a single season. This is now the case for NASCAR as the sanctioning body enters the final eight days of the 2008 season.

On Friday night, TV viewers on SPEED were shocked at the complete lack of fans in the stands for another great Craftsman Truck Series race. Saturday afternoon on ESPN2, Phoenix International Raceway offered a full day of practice and qualifying that ended with a late afternoon Nationwide Series race. Again, the empty grandstands told the tale.

The public image that NASCAR has put forward this week is of a sport in compete confusion. Rumors of huge layoffs and fulltime professional teams folding left and right are everywhere on the Internet. Fans have heard from team owners, drivers and every single TV commentator under the sun on this pending economic disaster.

The one person that TV viewers have not seen is NASCAR CEO Brian France.

While NASCAR's public relations guru Jim Hunter can offer comforting words and company president Mike Helton can explain racing decisions, neither of them is the face fans want to see.

For three generations, NASCAR has been a family-run business that has always had a clear and decisive leader. That role has now been passed to Brian France. The last time most fans saw him on mainstream TV was commenting on the Mauricia Grant lawsuit. France never wore a tie, looked disheveled and was clearly annoyed about the legal issues the sport was facing.

Now, with the tentacles of the current economic crisis about to grip NASCAR and shake it very hard, fans need to know what the leader thinks. Fans need to know what the sanctioning body is doing right now to ward off disaster in 2009.

Basic and very fundamental issues are coming to the forefront. Even as the Camping World sponsorship is set to be unveiled on SPEED, major Truck Series owners are leaving the sport after this season. From Jack Roush to Bill Davis, things are being said in the media that fundamentally do not match what is being said by NASCAR.

At a time when the Nationwide Series is struggling once again for an identity, JR Motorsports announced cutbacks and layoffs because the series itself is no longer viable to sponsors. This comes at a time when NASCAR is saying it has decided to push back the roll-out of the Nationwide COT until 2010. Once again, there are two fundamentally opposite statements in the media.

On the Sprint Cup side, the good folks over at Jayski.com are typing 24 hours a day trying to keep up with the potential team mergers and buyouts. As a small group of owners with sponsors in-hand continue to circumvent NASCAR rules by creating "satellite teams," others who have been in the sport for decades seem ready to fold their tents and walk away.

TV shows like RaceDay, NASCAR Now and NASCAR Countdown are the ways that fans get their up-to-date information on the hot issues in the news. Trusted names like Allen Bestwick, Wendy Venturini and Dr. Jerry Punch have been with the fans since February and have worked hard to gain the trust of the NASCAR TV viewers.

This Sunday, more than ever before, fans will be watching to see how NASCAR reacts to the on-going news that a significant portion of the very teams who support the top three series are in trouble. While announcers like Bestwick and Venturini can hold the attention of the fans, they both need one thing to get the job done. That would be someone to interview.

The only person who should be speaking to this subject is Brian France.

Denial is a wonderful thing, but not when the media is directly questioning the very health of the sport that provides the income and lifestyle for the France family. It is time for a strong statement of the situation within the sport and some solid answers to the issues that will confront both teams and fans in 2009.

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33 comments:

AMS fan said...

I'm not real sure if we need another "leader" on tv blowing smoke up our skirts. We just went through a few months of campaining, which you may or may not be tired of. This week may not be the best. The last thing I want to hear "officially" is how bad our sport is doing. For me, this has been a long season, some good racing, some not so good racing, one more week and we get a break. It might be best to let the dust settle on this season, let Brian give a "state of the sport", at the banquet, and hope we all can afford to support our teams next year.
I've been out of work since April 2nd. If something doesn't change, I may have bigger worries than Nascar come the new year.

3bud said...

I think Brian France is not his father ,in that Bill France Jr. would have been on this at the start of the problem.Like you said denial is great but not when there are hundreds if not thousands of people who are effected by actions or in some cases non actions. It some times seems Brian France would just rather not be bothered with the very thing that has given him the life he has always known, what his father and grandfather built seems to now be in the way. I hope I am wrong and he can step up and be the leader Bill France Jr. was, but it takes more then some words,it takes action and respect of and for the sport you command.

Sally B said...

Brian France would only issue a statement if he truly cared about the sport, something he hasn't shown so far. Nascar just announced another 'Official Sponsor'...yet another that won't be tempted to put their name on a car. As long as Brian France has his TV money coming in, and lots of official sponsors and his wallet stays fat, why should he be concerned about a family business that never meant more to him than a guaranteed income?

Matt said...

Brian France and NASCAR are in denial. Now frankly, I am looking forward to the "new" NASCAR, which may actually get back to old school NASCAR. If things get as bad as they appear to be, maybe NASCAR will finally realize the error of their ways.

Dot said...

Obviously this issue should have been addressed way before now. Some of this started a few years ago when NASCAR would steal sponsors from the teams to become their official this and that. And didn't NASCAR at one time step in to help teams find sponsors? I could be wrong on this point. They probably couldn't help now anyway.

If we think there are no fans in the stands this year, wait until 2009. You have to buy your tickets months in advance. I wonder how ticket sales are going? LVMS has a deal that you can pay some now and defer the rest until later.

Brian France has ruined NASCAR. Quick with all those changes and slow to fix what's wrong. Now you know why I call him the emperor. There's that saying about a family business being handed down. The third one almost always f***s it up. Being surrounded by yes men doesn't help either.

@ ams fan, I feel your pain. My benefits ran out in July. I consider myself lucky that I have a part time job.

Anonymous said...

I realize that more of you are probably tuned in to SPEED than CNBC, but let me tell you: On Friday, the financial network CNBC was talking 24/7 about the very real possibility of the bankruptcy of GM, Ford, Chrysler, or maybe even all three. The numbers of layoffs and the scope of the financial disaster they were talking about was mind-blowing. I think we all need to realize that it might not just be the trucks that are affected in this mess. There is a very very real likelihood that one of the major American manufacturers won't be around next year in Cup. Scary stuff for the sport, but horrifying when you put it into the context of our national economy.

As for the trucks, NASCAR is to blame. I think in an ideal world the Busch series, Truck Series and Cup Series would be like three arms of NASCAR, equal-but-different like the American League and National League in baseball.

Unfortunately, what you instead have is the minor leagues (Nationwide), major leagues (Cup) and senior circuit (trucks). I don't know if that is the fault of NASCAR or not, but if they want butts in the seats for trucks, they will need to change this perception immediately. I personally don't believe that excellent racing (which the trucks have) can overcome the perception of it being a senior-circuit for older drivers past their primes. I know many fans hate that description, but I think that is the challenge the truck series faces... well, that and an economy that will kill the trucks, if not the Busch series, too.

3bud said...

Anon 10:06 I have to agree about the auto industry ,it's been bad and the news coming out yesterday worse.I think it can defenetlly effect all 3 series in the very near future. NASCAR could help them all though with some decisive leadership.As for the Truck Series I have to disagree about the senior circuit, young and rookie drivers like , Erik Darnell ,Colin Braun,Donny Lia, Jon Wood, Matt Crafton mix it up every race with older and veteran drivers Ron Hornaday, Rick Crawford, Dennis Setzer,Johnny Benson,and Todd Bodine. I see your point but that should not be the perception given to the truck series.Just the best racing period.

Anonymous said...

anon 10:06 has it right....this is bigger than NASCAR...but racing has come through worse than this, and they can recover. Like for all of us, though, it's going to take time. I don't think anyone thinks it's going to be a walk in the park. And I don't think Brian France can be held responsible (though an authoritative voice might be helpful.) Not sure his presence means a lot now.

majorshouse said...

I think we have sorely needed leadership since Bill, Jr. handed the reins over to Bryan, and he is definitely not his father or his grandfather. I think it is time that he either does something or gives up the throne because it is grossly apparent that all he cares about is the money coming in and what he gets out of it rather than the racing.
I am ready for someone to kick his butt out and give us some real old school racing and not the crap that we have been handed this year. I ahve been following NASCAR for over 40 years and this is just political garbage. Back in the day when there was a problem, Bill Bill took care of it right then and there and that was the end of it, Bryan doesn't know when to pee or get off of the pot.

Anonymous said...

Hate to break it to ya JD but the stands have always been empty for Nationwide / Truck races.

Richard in N.C. said...

Yes, now would be the time for Brian F. to make some public statements about what he sees as the status and future of NASCAR - but my impression is that he does not like being the public face of NASCAR and prefers to leave that to Mike Helton and Jim Hunter. He clearly does not have as good a public persona as Mike H.

At the same time I do find it curious that Bill, Jr. is deservedly lauded for what he did- but the fact that he chose Brian as his successor and was there to watch how Brian performed is usually overlooked.

Gymmie said...

@anon 11:58--yes it's often sparse for those races, but have we ever been able to put the TV on pause and literally count every person in the stands before :(. Yes I know Phoenix has a zillion other spots on the hill to watch as well. But I doubt that all the "missing" people were sitting there. The same folks who sit on the hills for years do it and a few others may join in. I was doing other things during N'wide so I missed most of the crowd shots but Friday I was thinking, I bet we could count everyone in that shot.

Anonymous said...

You don't speak for every TV viewer on Speed. You only speak for yourself and your column should reflect that. I'm sure the viewers on Speed were tuning in to watch a great race, not to watch how many fans were in the stands at PIR. Everyone knows the economy is down and people don't have money to buy race tickets. What exactly, do you want to hear from Brian France?

'This Sunday fans will be watching to see how NASCAR reacts to the on-going news that a significant portion of the very teams who support the top three series are in trouble' I disagree with what you wrote. YOU will be watching to see how NASCAR reacts. The great majority of fans will be watching to see great racing. I appreciate the hours you spend on the blog, but I do not appreciate you grouping all viewers as one, because you do not speak for everyone, including me.

Anonymous said...

I have a question, and I apologize if this is not the place to ask it...

BUT:

If Ford, GM or Chrysler were to either declare bankruptcy, merge, or undergo some other event that would cause one of them to pull from Cup -- and NASCAR felt it needed to bring in Honda to fill the void -- would you still be a NASCAR fan or would two Japanese brands on the track ruin it for you?

For the longest time, I didn't think I could root for a non-American car. But I'm a big Gibbs fan and actually like Kyle Busch, so I've given Toyota a pass. So maybe I would accept them - not sure.

Anyway, sorry to stray from trucks, but I think the sports will feel the pain in the auto industry in a very major way.

Adam T. Martin said...

Where is Brian France? Unfortunately, not living up to his father's promises.

The media needs to get in his face and if he can't handle the pressure, then it is time for a new leader.

Lesley said...

Its all very sad!! true nascar fans can no longer identify with the sport..All cars are the same!! The COT was the worst thing to come along in the history of (stock car racing?) No more loyalty to any brand!!there all the same!Over exposure..TV deals where you cant even find the race! Come on!!!I quit...

Anonymous said...

I don't expect to see any examples of "Leadership" coming from Brian France or anyone else at Nascar. Just look at how they've sat back while this pig of a car called the COT has festered on the racetrack. Side by side racing is unheard of. Last week at Texas,the network played endless radio transmissions where the top teams b*****d about how poorly the cars were handling. Dave Blaney was on TWIN Monday night. He heard the radio talk and said that he thought that it made him feel better that the guys at the front were experiencing the same frustrating handling problems that he was. After two years of Politicians "talking",I'm tired of 'talk'. What Nascar needs to do is fix the Product. Fix the COT and the fans will return at least to their TV's if they can't afford to attend a race. I just watched exciting Truck and Nationwide races at Phoenix on TV. Outstanding racing and a minimum of blather from the Booth.

DrTeplisky said...

JD...my sense is that you and (most important of all) the fans will get your wish eventually, if the past is any prologue.

Usually the "Maximum Leader" will have an informal formal chat with reporters on Sunday afternoon right before the Homestead race. This is likely scheduled so the comments are buried in the race/championship reporting.

One thing I learned at Ft. Dix's NCO Academy back in 1973, is that a leader is responsible for all that the leader's organization does--or fails to do.

The "Maximum Leader" seems to like to take responsibility for the successes--but not the failures.

Just my .05 (.02 with stagflation)

Dee said...

1. Fans can't continue to pay high ticket prices. 2. Drivers can no longer get the large paychecks with sponsors being less willing to pay so much. If you look at the payouts at the end of the races, some elite drivers get more money for finishing 40th, than a driver who gets 10th, sponsors are going hmmmm that 10th place driver doesn't look so bad. 3. Nascar needs to make sure that the TV coverage includes all the teams so all the sponsors get some air time 4. The basic fact is, when cars are getting lapped on lap 15 and only 10-15 cars finish on the lead lap, thats boring. I don't mind more cautions to bring the field back together and assist teams whose cars are not quit running right, to be more competive at the end. The NFL has timeouts, so can Nascar. I try and go to one race a year, the ones I can drive to and maybe spend one night, it about did us in for any other trips this last summer, driving to Bristol, ticket costs, hotel costs, food etc and at the time gas, we just got all of those bills paid off and now x-mas is coming, daughter is getting married, her father lost his job so no money for her wedding. Some of these Nascar drivers think their you know what doesn't smell, they are rude, call other drivers names, my thoughts about Kyle went up a notch when he donated money to a former driver in need. Fancy houses, fancy dogs, designer wives, gets old guys. Sorry, just stressed, but still a fan.

Anonymous said...

Even if Brian decided to show up, we wouldn't hear what he has to say anyway - the boo's would drown out his every word....

With all that's going on in our economy, what could Brian say anyway? If he says everything will be okay, we won't believe him. And he sure as heck isn't going to say that NASCAR is going to heck in a handbasket.

Nope, the man's not going speak - although you might see him lurking in the background....

majorshouse said...

I really wish that the cars would look mkore like the production cars on the street and this COT may be safe, but it is also one huge joke. NASCAR said that it would save the car owners a ton of money, but from what I have seen, it has saved them nothing.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:58PM,

Guess you and I were watching different TV's this season. Sold out stand-alone races and packed night races were the norm earlier this season.

This issue is not the sell-out, it is the perception that things are going bad and the ship is sinking. That is why any organization that is experiencing a public relations problem needs the CEO on TV.

Anon 12:44PM,

When you look up "denial" on Google, perhaps you will see some things that are familiar in the definition.

The way this blog works is I write about a topic and then folks come in and give their views.

Simply saying the topic does not exist does not make it go away. The voice of the sport needs to be the CEO, not TV commentators.

My whole point is that the racing that you are focusing on is being overshadowed by the fear that the sport as a whole is about to crash.

Rather than interfere with the final racing weekend of the season in Homestead, it would be smarter for France to say some good words now and assure fans that NASCAR is working hard with the teams to allow the sport to continue for 2009.

Thanks for your comment.

JD

Anonymous said...

Nascar needs to stop signing exclusive contracts with sponsers. In these bad economic times, they keep losing big sponsers, i.e., Nextel/Sprint has forced ATT out, Nationwide has forced Geico out and now what will Camping World bring to the Truck Series? Also look at the Coors deal, what did it do to the Bud Shootout?

GinaV24 said...

The only reason I would want to see Brian France on TV this weekend is if he's announcing his resignation. He has made some of the dumbest moves "in the best interest" of the sport since he took over from his father. He wanted to attract the "casual fan" instead he managed to alienate the die-hard fans and well, the trouble with casual fans is they are just that -- casual.

Nan S said...

Very few family businesses survive into the third generation or beyond. It is very rare to find family members who are as capable as the founder, or who care to work that hard.

Usually family business follow one of three paths:
1) they get sold in following generations
2) they bring in other people to run it and only show up to collect a check
3) or the business is driven into the ground by incompetence and greed.

midasmicah said...

Don't expect Brian France to come out and say there are major problems. With the constant fan opposition to the chase format all he does is dig in his heels and basicly say, "it's my toy and you can't play with it." Same with the COT and the loss of fan friendly tracks. It's not about the fans. It's about tv sponsorship, but it's a double edged sword. With tv calling the shots, na$car sold their soul to the devil. Combine France's denial and the tv factor you have a recipe for disaster. The fans are tired of being beaten like a rented mule. Hence the mass exodus of hardcore fans. There's an old addage, "keep the customer satisfied." That's not happening and for those that don't believe it, they're using as many smoke and mirrors as na$car. Brian France needs to do something and fast. Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 10:06 pm

I heartily disagree with your assessment of the 3 series, particularly trucks.
Its not that trucks are perceived as a "senior series" its that the race 'vehicles' are things that fans cant relate to. Trucks on asphalt have always been a non sequitor, and the design of them - with the ultra high roof lines and squatty noses are not representative of street trucks (thats the same issue for the COT as well)
I GUARANTEE that if you put current truck competitors in a series driving pre COT cup cars (Winston Cup??) and throw in Terry Labonte, Ken Schrader, Bill Elliott,Ricky Rudd and other guys who made this sport what it is but were summarily shown the door by the Bryan France administration, that series would out draw Nationwide. GUARANTEED.
What BryFrance fails to recognize is that his fortune is a result of race personalities and NOT the NASCAR logo. If you doubt it, imagine an applause meter measuring crowd reaction to Ken Schrader's introduction and then Joey Logano. No contest.
NASCAR and their media/marketing group are a rudderless ship, devoid of creativity, humility and self assessment.
It could very well go down as the greatest collapse in the history of professional sport.

B.K.

Anonymous said...

Fans Need Brian France On TV This Sunday.

As a fan, let me say,I heartily disagree!
IMO, NA$CAR needs someone at the helm, who cares more about the sport, than about the $$$ that it generates.
The teams are in trouble, they need sponsors. There are plenty of sponsors out there. NA$CAR in it's greed has been grabbing them up for years. Cost of primary sponsorship getting a little stiff? No problem. Just become the official whatever of NA$CAR. The $$$ goes in the France family pocket, the owners get squat.
The best thing for the fans would be for NA$CAR to be sold. Let the Frances take their Billions, & disappear.
Let someone run it who realizes that it's the owners who are the show, The promoter just puts on the show.

dawg

Newracefan said...

When I first started watching Nascar, Bill JR was stepping away and I didn't even realize he or Brian existed. Helton has always been the face of the sport for me. I've since learned more of the history and understand Bill SR and JR's place, Brian's not so much. I'm OK if he doesn't want to be the face of Nascar and stay in the backround but then someone else needs to step up and soon. I think the banquet is too late, is it even on TV this year. Perhaps a week or 2 after Homestead, I really don't want him to rain on the championship parade.

theangryengraver said...

Brian France? Who's that??

Enough said :-(

Anonymous said...

When it comes to leadership and track presence, Brian France is to NASCAR what Teresa Earnhardt has been to DEI. I think that Brian France would rather still be in L.A. and not have to be involved with the running of NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

Nascar certainly needs a leader who cares about it and is not only interested in money. Brian France is useless and dosen;t know squat about what he is doing. Whoever is on the board needs to fire him, ASAP. Get rid of Helton, Darby and Hunter ASAP also. Put people in charge that really care about the sport and the fans, whom they have lost at a fast growing rate. Bubba (Brian) needs a big reality check.

red said...

i, for one, most certainly do not "need" brian france on tv this sunday -- or any sunday. i am mystified by his apparent disconnect with the sport he is supposed to be running and watching/listening to him with two races to go in this season isn't going to clarify that for me. i DO want to put his feet to the fire and get him to discuss the state of the sport but not until after homestead.

and here's what i would suggest he do (and what i would do if i were in charge!):
1. LISTEN! listen to the fans, the drivers, the owners, the media, the track operators. listen to the suggestions, the feedback, the complaints. listen carefully, look for patterns and trends, for commonalities in what's being said.

2. RESPOND! respond to what you've heard. respond one on one, in writing, in print and tv interviews, in blogs. make certain your responses are seen and heard and very visible! answer the questions, give the reasoning, provide the explanations that folks are seeking. then go back to point 1 and LISTEN some more. keep repeating until you have a clear idea of what the rest of the sport's supporters are thinking.

3. COMMIT! commit to finding answers, to changing what can be changed. remain open to the good ideas that were generated in steps 1 and 2. take all the feedback from all the sources and make the changes that will help bring competition back into the sport and return fans to the seats.

4. SPEND! get off the money and get some of it back into the hands of the teams. seek out sponsors for struggling teams, help with travel costs, think about how to "underwrite" some of the track expenses so that the ticket prices come down.

basically, i want brian france to approach the situation as something that he, as a leader, has to manage and figure out how to solve. i want him to look for new ideas and review old suggestions. i want him to put aside his vested interest and look at our sport with an eye to retuning it to its roots as well as insuring its survival into the future.

but i'm not holding my breath.