Wednesday, January 21, 2009

NASCAR Brass And Media Collide On Thursday


This season has been very strange for NASCAR since the first day of January. No cars on the track at Daytona, bad team news every single day and many fans who almost seem shell-shocked about what is happening to the sport they love.

The first ten days of NASCAR TV programs on SPEED have made it clear the way NASCAR has chosen to approach these issues. SPEED's marching orders are to make believe everything is just fine.

Conversations about babies, off-season trips and anything else under the sun other than the reality of the sport at this moment is fair game. Other than a momentary slip on Monday (click here), it has been all smoke and mirrors with happy smiling faces.

What is left of the national motorsports media is being driven around the Greater Charlotte area on their annual media tour this week. Stops have already been made at several shops with less than stellar attendance by team owners and key drivers.

Richard Childress was off hunting, Roger Penske had a prior engagement, Elliott Sadler is on his well-timed honeymoon and George Gillett was nowhere to be found.

The traveling media pack has dutifully reported on what they were told, done their TV interviews and then got on the bus to the next stop. This year, the final destination will be the NASCAR Research and Development Center on Thursday afternoon.

This is where Brian France, Mike Helton and the NASCAR executives will face the media after France gives his annual "State of the Sport" address.

Lee Spencer from FoxSports.com talked about the possible scenarios:

NASCAR State of the Union — Traditionally, this has been an opening-day event. With no Daytona testing and Speedweeks less than a month away, it will be interesting to hear the spin for 2009. This is (also) NASCAR's opportunity to unveil any significant rule changes (perhaps some miracle to keep the Camping World Truck Series afloat?).

The picture of what NASCAR will be putting on the track in 2009 is hazy at best for many fans. This is an opportunity for France to talk candidly about how NASCAR is going to buckle-down, come together and race through this deep economic crisis.

Once France and his executive team are through, it will be up to the media to ask about the issues NASCAR has been hesitant to address. With outspoken writers like Jerry Bonkowski, Mike Mulhern and Bob Margolis no longer writing for major publications, it should be interesting to see and hear which members of the media put France on-the-spot about the real issues.

There are a lot of very fundamental questions that have not been answered by the NASCAR TV partners or the NASCAR.com website writing staff. It should be fascinating to see how the combined print, Internet, radio and TV journalists approach this one opportunity to speak directly with France, Helton and the rest of the top executives of the sport.

TDP will have a full report on Thursday afternoon with the details of what was asked and how those questions were answered.

In the meantime, perhaps you have some suggestions of a good question or two that the NASCAR media folks could ask France or Helton? Please feel free to click on the COMMENTS button and give us your thoughts.

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

61 comments:

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amy said...

Well, YO YO, if you are trying to be funny, you failed. Sorry

On the other hand, you did manage to get to the gist of what the news conference will most likely be.

Vicky D said...

JD, what we need is a mole in one of the top team shops, or even in Nascar to give us the info we are craving. On Monday's Trackside showed there's a lot going on in the background that we should know. Anyway, I don't give any hope that we'll get the real stuff just a lot of fluff. PS - JD you need to put your filters on this blog today.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Vicky,

It is a great reminder of the remaining racism is our society that TDP has run one story that featured a black American and has been harrassed by racists ever since.

The best thing to do is not to pay this little kid any attention. Maybe his mom will check the computer sooner or later. I have his IP address, so we will be filing a complaint.

Just another day on the Internet.

JD

Daly Planet Editor said...

My question for France is what does the Nationwide Series look like? How many cars and who are the teams?

JD

Anonymous said...

My question: Mr. France, if attendance continues to decline, what one change in the racing would you make to bring back disenfranchised original fans?

TexasRaceLady said...

Mr. France,
Bruton Smith propsed a TV blackout for races that don't sell out.

Is NASCAR considering this proposal?


PS --- I'm ROTFL at my verification code -- WACIEST

Wac(k)y is right. hehehe

Anonymous said...

I don't think a blackout is going to work. The majority of fans that go to races are not local. They travel from all over the country, unlike the NFL or MLB. So if you install a blackout, where would you blackout the coverage? Darlington? first off, it sells out, but if it didn't, it won't work. Iv'e been to Darlington several times, and the surrounding communities are sparse at best.
But one of my questions would be, "Why does NASCAR always seem to not address the issues that the fans want addressed?" Example:Sponsorship issues, teams merging to stay alive, attendance,less than full fields, abysmal racing, lackluster rating, etc. In a nut shell, Why don't you address the obvious, and don't put on rose colored glasses.?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:39AM,

Good question!

JD

Anonymous said...

Is NASCAR really committed to diversity? As the years go on by, NASCAR is looking less and less like America as minority groups population increases at a much faster rate that the majority.

Sponsors, the lifeblood of the sport, will look elsewhere for their dollars in order to reach as broad of an audience as possible. The NASCAR audience is becoming way too narrow for corperate america.

Tracy said...

My first question would be: Isn't it time to discuss the "f" word: franchising? If not, why not?

My second question: The Drive for Diversity looks great on paper, but why hasn't it placed minority drivers in any full time rides, even mediocre ones? With established drivers digging into the bottom of the barrel for a job (see Bobby Labonte), why pretend there's room for a diverse culture of drivers when clearly, there isn't? Max Siegal couldn't get a sponser for Aric Amirola in the iconic 8 car, as an example. What can you do to produce real results if your commitment to diversity is sincere? And why aren't you doing it?

Third question: reducing prices for the worst seats at tracks sounds like you're helping fans, but in reality, you're making it easier for the cheap seats that sell last because of their location to get sold faster. When are you going to have an across-the-board price adjustment for all seats that reflects the economic hardships suffered by most of your hard-core fans?

I'll stop there for now, although my list could continue.

Tracy said...
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Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:34AM,

At the Thursday press conference, the Diversity program will be updated for the media and the drivers selected for the 2009 program will be present.

Another great question.

JD

Becca said...

My question to France or Helton:

Why should race fans not know the real truth? I understand you do not want to drive away sponsors, but they are in the same position as the rest of America. America as a whole is in the same position, not one person/company is struggling, the whole country is struggling.


For most race fans the sport is an escape. In my opinion, if track operators could find a way to cut back (which I know some have) on a lot of the seats, not just the ones that are already cheap seats. The sport can survive this, but they need to be realistic and play to the advantages of the fans, not the sponsors. What got the sport to where it is today? The fans! And honestly, I think the fans can get NASCAR through the economic crisis. I know sponsorship has a lot to do with all of this, but if you bring the fans back the sponsors will realize that.

Dot said...

I'm confused. How would blacking out unsold races help?

My question would be, why can't NASCAR lower the entry fees for the poorer but race every week teams? Or use a sliding scale? At least until the economy gets better. They should also consider giving points to the post entry drivers. That's the only way they're going to fill the fields.

Anonymous said...

Why is it the closest thing we can get to the truth would be when publicly traded companies International Speedway Corp (ISCA) and Speedway Motorsports (TRK) announce their earnings for the year and outlook on '09?

Deborah said...

Anon at 10:34, a very important question/issue that is extremely long overdue in being addressed!

One of my questions is what is NASCAR doing to address the issue of how a lack of sponsorship dollars is negatively effecting the teams ability to have development programs to develop young talent, the potential future stars of the sport?

Also, what is NASCAR doing to address the rise in fan dissatisfaction with the state of the sport? Is NASCAR encouraging the teams and drivers to reach out to the fans?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Dot,

The theory behind local TV blackouts is that it encourages fans who are in the area to make the choice to either attend the event of miss it because it is no longer available on TV.

One the broadcast side, the local TV stations in the area would not carry the program. Over in cable TV land, they would use the area zip codes to switch users over to alternate programming.

The bottom line is that will not work in NASCAR and has no place.

JD

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is that will not work in NASCAR and has no place.

Why not?

Blackout... said...

JD:

I can remember going to the fall Charlotte race in 97…..both of the races (Busch & Cup) were not sell outs and the beginning of the races were blacked out locally……the end of the race sort of just appeared.

The Indianapolis 500 has been blacked out live forever….the ratings for the evening replay is always in double digits…….can you really think of a single reason why I would shell out money to see the 2009 Brickyard 400 after the debacle of last year when I can sit at home & watch in HD?

Anonymous said...

It's not the price of the seats, it's the $6.00 hamburgers, $3.00 bottle of water, the Rip off Motel rooms, the price of Gas.
And reducing the price of the Cheep seats, isn't going to do anything.
As far as a Blackout, all that will do Is cost the sport more fans.
Aren't they running the fans away fast enough, without another dumb assed idea like a Blackout

Anonymous said...

Last year I attended two races at Lowes, one at Martinsville, four at Daytona
I will never attend a race again.
Several reasons I have quit attending
1. Most people's butts are wider than 13 inches, or what ever size the seats are.
2. The cost has just got out of hand, and I'm not even objecting to the cost of tickets, it's the Motel, food and gas
3. At Daytona the wait just to get out of the track to board a bus to go to the parking lot was over 3 hours for the Nationwide and Cup races

I bought a 67" DLP HDTV for less than I spent going to one race, I can actually see better on TV and with Track Pass, the bathroom just around the corner next to the refrigerator, it's a much more pleasant experience

Daly Planet Editor said...

Other than the two Daytona races, there just is not much left to the historical races that fans used to attend on a regular basis.

Blackouts are only effective when the event being blacked-out is going to be special.

A summer race in Pocono or the California event after Daytona are just two of over thirty races that have no value to leverage with a blackout.

NASCAR has three series and tons of preview of review shows that would not be affected in addition to highlights posted almost immediately on YouTube and other video sources.

Nothing to protect in the sport at this time with this style of "old school" TV thinking.

JD

Blackout... said...

JD Wrote

"NASCAR has three series and tons of preview of review shows that would not be affected in addition to highlights posted almost immediately on YouTube and other video sources."

Why would you ever watch an entire race live on TV?

Tickets being to expensive, not being able to bring food/drink, motel gouging, worring about your own finacial future are all good reasons not to go to your local race.

But live TV in your local market is sort of privlage, not a right.

It may be time to blow up the entire model..1 visit to most markets would be the first idea in making races "events".

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 12:04PM,

You raise a good point. What more and more TDP readers are reporting is that they DVR the race and then join it in progress.

The idea is to fast-forward through the first couple hours of the race and then watch the last hour or so live.

This trend is affecting the sport and with later start times there is no doubt that lots of the 2009 races are slated to head straight to the DVR, TiVo or VCR.

JD

alex said...

My quesion:

Will Nascar talk to FOX/TNT/ESPN and encourage them to give airtime to every car at least once a race, regardless or track position? More TV time will make sponsors happy, and can improve the overall health of the sport if potential new sponsors can see the value of sponsoring a car.

Blackout... said...

JD:

I live in the Indianapolis area...the only Indy 500 I have ever watched live on TV were during the era of big satellite dishes - getting the direct ABC feed. The Speedway has make seeing the 500 an event...and the replay during prime time has become second nature.

That is why a "blackout" really does not seem like that big of a deal....

However, if you live in an area where the track has way overbuilt capacity that can not meet demand (Michigan is an example), I could understand the fans not being happy if a race was blacked out.

Anonymous said...

It's not the price of the seats, it's the $6.00 hamburgers, $3.00 bottle of water, the Rip off Motel rooms, the price of Gas.

Gas is well under $2 a gallon where I live.

And the $7 beer is alive and well at NFL or MLB games.

This stuff isn't unique to NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

Will Nascar talk to FOX/TNT/ESPN and encourage them to give airtime to every car at least once a race, regardless or track position? More TV time will make sponsors happy, and can improve the overall health of the sport if potential new sponsors can see the value of sponsoring a car.


While I'd like to see more of my driver, I think this is a BAD idea.

How about they just cover the race, and as the man said, "You want to be on TV? Run up front more!"

Anonymous said...

Dear NASCAR,
Can we get back to actually racing?
Can we get rid of the Lucky Dog rule?
Can we allow the drivers to be emotional (both mad and happy) and not take away points for a gleeful Victory Lane slip of the lip (ever heard of a delay)? You take away points for a word said on TV but not for bonehead moves on the track, are you more worried about safety or an offending word, where are your priorities?
Can we allow some innovation instead of the strict COT rules? They are supposed to be the world's greatest drivers but if you're that concerned about safety where you bring in all of these ridiculous new rules, diluting the racing, then why not go ahead and put them in go-carts and everyone will be safe?
I could go on and on but I'll just say Let'em RACE!!!

Vince said...

First off I seriously doubt that any of the "regular" NASCAR media will ask France, Helton, or Hunter any real hardball questions. They NEVER ask anything remotely hardball to the NASCAR brass face to face. They are a bunch of wusses when it comes to asking a direct pointed question. The "regular" NASCAR media can write their columns in print or on the Internet or even on Sirus/XM and ask hardball questions, but put them face to face against France and company and they all turn into a bunch of pansies. All we'll get is the usual fluff questions.

As many here have posted already the reasons fans are going away from the sport in droves is not just the price of tickets. It's boring races, vanilla drivers, cars that no longer resemble show room stock cars, high concession food prices, high hotel/motel prices with minimum stays, horrendous traffic getting too/from the track, mystery cautions to bunch the field back up, rules that are enforced or not enforced at the whim of the NASCAR brass, etc. I could go on and on.

Like most people, I DVR the telecast and FF through all the endless commercials and fluff pieces during the race. I've gotten so I DVR everything now days because of the endless amount of mind numbing commercials on TV.

I think this coming season could well make or break NASCAR as we now know it. Just my opinion.

darbar said...

Mr. France, why do you feel it's right to keep lining your pockets with sponsor money while teams are fighting to find a few dollars to run their cars?

Mr. France, Mr.Helton and Mr. Hunter, why do you continue to blow happy smoke up our behinds, while whistling a happy tune trying to make us believe everything is fine in the world of Nascar. Do you all believe we're that stupid and don't realize there are big problems in the sport? Do you actually believe that we've seen great racing the past two seasons? Do you really believe the COT is the kind of car the fans want to see? Do you honestly believe the Chase has solved your problems? Think again, fellas.

Broomfield, Colorado said...

Vince is correct in his obsevation that the regular NASCAR media will not ask hardball questions. Have you ever been in a room where there is a news conference going on? The powers that be point to someone they know, and call them by name, and then let them ask. They know all too well that they don't want to end up "sleeping with the fishes", so to speak. These friendships last years, some going back 60 years or more. Do you honestly think that Chris Economaki would ask John Darby why NASCAR is a public relations disaster? Those two have know each other for over 60 years!

Rick Remixx said...

why they take my video down lol

Daly Planet Editor said...

David Poole has a nice summary of the black-out issue over at thatsracin.com.

JD

Blackout... said...

While Poole's artcile has some good points...the fact that the Indy 500 local rating last year was a 12.6 - the replay runs the same time as the Coke 600(the Indianpolis market is one of the top 5 for NASCAR TV ratings).

So saying they would lose ratings could be debated.

Bruton should really think about having only 1 race at some of his tracks (hint ATLANTA!!!)

Richard in N.C. said...

JD, I believe you do Bob M. and Jerry B. a disservice by lumping them in with the wholly-biased Mike Mulhern. In general, the off-track coverage of NASCAR has been only mediocre for the past 2 years. The sport and NASCAR has grown to the point that many of the off-track issues are outside the areas of expertise of the majority of the NASCAR press corps. Thus, I am not sure that most of the NASCAR press corps is interested or equipped to ask the NASCAR officials about the major, off-track issues. For instance, I have not had a chance to look much yet, but so far I have seen nothing written about what happened to the "promised" investment in PE by Boston Ventures. So far it looks like the NASCAR press corps has given BV a pass, possibly in part because they do not understand BV's type of operation.

I would like to ask the NASCAR officials why they do not make an effort to be more in touch with their fans - such as by, at least, having a direct-to-NASCAR e-mail and/or a NASCAR cable network like virtually every other sport.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Trust me, there is no possibility of any type of blackout being inserted in the 2009 NASCAR season.

Bruton is a great guy, but the TV contracts have been long since signed and blackouts are not an issue.

Back to the questions....

JD

Daly Planet Editor said...

Richard,

Like him or not, Mulhern was not afraid to stir things up. That was the only point I was trying to make. Not too sure that spirit is alive anymore, maybe with Pockrass from scenedaily.com.

JD

Anonymous said...

JD are you going to do a story about the new NASCAR.Com website? I guess it laucnhes Jan. 29 and they have a preview of it up. I looked at it and it looks like they took a step back and are going back to the old design that worked good. I think I might like the new NASCAR.Com better.

Anonymous said...
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Daly Planet Editor said...

The new column on the NASCAR.com site will be posted around 6PM ET.

JD

Nathan Brice said...

Have we heard anything from FOX about what it will do with NASCAR coverage this year? I am not going to trust what Charles Davis said on the national championship broadcast when he said that Chris Myers would be a part of the team. I need other people to confirm anything that he says.

Daly Planet Editor said...

There are new posts up, please refresh your browser or click on the logo at the top of the page.

Thanks,

JD

TomB said...

Just found this site. Good stuff. Are Margolis and Bonkowski going to report anywhere? I enjoyed the quick click on Yahoo every week.

As a short track racer, I'd love to see truck go back to the short track, no pit stops, break in the middle. Takes the expensive crew and big track aero out of the picture.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD, In fact I enjoyed Mulhern's articles and miss being able to read him in the W-S Journal, but then the Journal always embargoed most NASCAR news in Dec. & Jan. to save it for its season kickoff special section. While it was frequently irritating, I had gotten used to his constant bias. However, frequently when he stirred things up it was like he'd stirred the soup kettle with a plunger.

Geez do I miss Bob Margolis' articles. Not only was his writing well-done, interesting, and timely, but he did not appear to be afraid to go against the media crowd. I also thought he always seemed to have done his homework so that he knew what he was talking about.

Anonymous said...

As a short track racer, I'd love to see truck go back to the short track, no pit stops, break in the middle. Takes the expensive crew and big track aero out of the picture.

No thanks. If I want to see short-track style racing, I'll go to my local short track.

The trucks were the best series last season, so let's not mess with it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Tom,

Jerry is going to get his own website together shortly.

Bob has moved on to other challenges, and you can read a full TDP column about that by Googling Daly+Planet+Bob+Margolis.

Mulhern has MikeMulhern.net up and is working on putting the pieces together.

Thanks for the good words, hope you come back often. We have new columns every single day all season long.

JD

Newracefan said...

I'd love to know what they are going to do to make the Truck series viable long term since it is some of the best racing out there. Some why to get more fans out to the races wothout messing with what makes the races great. How about a save the trucks marketing strategy.

AMS fan said...

If Sirius can keep their feed working we are hearing the State of the Sport ongoings.
As for now they're a lot of drivers named in the diversity program.
I hate to be a promo for Sirius, but if you're a NASCAR fan, it's the way to go.