Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Island Of Brian France


In contrast to the growling and hands-on style of his late father, Brian France continues to appear in the media as an executive completely insulated from the reality of the world around him. Readers of TDP have seen France offer public words on topics from Mauricia Grant to NASCAR's drug policy.

Despite France's public assurances that Grant's allegations were completely false, NASCAR subsequently fired multiple employees and then settled with Grant out of court.

After Ryan McGee's interview on ESPN.com with former Camping World Truck Series driver Aaron Fike shook the sport, France defended the existing NASCAR drug policy. As we all know, NASCAR eventually changed to a modern system of testing that has resulted in multiple suspensions.

In 2007, France and NASCAR began a new TV contract that featured Fox Sports, TNT and ESPN splitting the Sprint Cup Series pie. Fox filled vacant weekends early in the year, TNT paid dearly to keep its toe in NASCAR and ESPN returned to fill the ABC Sundays without NFL Football.

Now, we are in the third season of ESPN covering the Chase for the Championship. This version of the NASCAR playoffs is the invention of just one man. Here is an excerpt from a Boston Globe story on the topic.

“It was actually Brian France’s idea,’’ said Jim Hunter, NASCAR’s vice president of corporate communications, referring to NASCAR’s chairman and CEO. “He and Mark Dyer, who was working for us at the time, were at dinner one night and they were talking about different scenarios of some sort of playoff system. And Brian sort of said, ‘How about if we did this?’ and Mark says, ‘Well, it might work.’ ’’

“The biggest thing was that once we reached this part of the season, we fell off the radar as far as coverage,’’ Hunter said. “Once Labor Day hit, and a race would be big, it’d be page 8, three or four paragraphs, no big deal. TV would or would not even mention it. So the last third of the season, we were just nowhere.’’

“Brian started floating it with Mike [Helton, NASCAR president] and me and everybody else and we said, ‘Have you lost your mind?’ ’’ Hunter said. “Then his dad [the late Bill France Jr., NASCAR’s former chairman and CEO] was like, ‘Are you nuts?’ But he hung in there with it.’’


Now firmly entrenched, the Chase has resulted in some TV issues that are affecting the fan base. Teams not in the top twelve, no matter how high-profile, simply cease to exist on ABC unless they are in contention for the win.

There was no Chase when ESPN was last in NASCAR, but the company is familiar with all kinds of different playoff formats from the other sports carried on the ESPN family of cable and broadcast networks. Then what could be the problem?

There is one fundamental truth that France and ESPN have overlooked. NASCAR fans do not change their allegiance simply because their driver did not make the Chase. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth fans do not put on Jeff Gordon t-shirts and pull for the #24.

The focused coverage and media hype on the Chase drivers forces fans of non-Chasers to abandon their NASCAR TV viewing and wait once again for the Daytona 500. The fundamental problem with that is there are more drivers outside the Chase than in it.

France's recent comments about the TV ratings and the Chase hold the key to his disconnect.

"It wasn't what we thought it was going to be, but that was just one race," France said. "The reality of it is the racing was probably the best that we've had at Loudon in a long, long time. The Chase has got the right storylines, the right things going on and the racing is very good. So we're very happy with it.

"We were up in August for almost every event and up in Richmond as well (last year's Richmond race was rain delayed). So we were a little bit surprised at that. It's one race. But if we keep having this kind of racing and the Chase unfolds the way I think it's going to, that will take care of itself. It just will. I'm not concerned about that."


Well, fans of the drivers and teams outside the top twelve are speaking with their TV remote controls. This Sunday the race from Kansas starts at 2PM ET, one full hour after TV viewers have been drawn into the early NFL games.

Should the NASCAR on ESPN team again structure the entire telecast around the Chase drivers, it may continue the run of poor TV ratings as fans walk away from a telecast that may never show the driver they have supported since February.

TDP welcomes your comment on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

79 comments:

darbar said...

My drivers are Matt Kenseth and Jr, and I've stopped watching most Nascar programming altogether. OK, call me a fair weather fan, but I just cannot bring myself to cheer for, or be interested in Jimmie Johnson, the 50 year old Mark Martin or the "I finally figured out how to beat the system by points racing", Juan Pablo Montoya. While the out of touch Brian France thinks Nascar has some great storylines, the average fan doesn't give a rip about storylines like the "elderly" Mark Martin, Jimmie's possible fourth Cup, or the first Hispanic driver who could win the Cup without winning a race before the Chase (gee, wasn't one of the real reasons why they brought on the Chase was because Matt Kenseth won the Cup without winning a race all season).

There hasn't been truly great racing all season for a number of reasons, and that's why fans have abandoned the sport. The COT stinks, the racing is boring, the Chase is not what they thought it would be, drivers are white bread boring, terrible race coverage by both Fox and ESPN, drivers who are just tooling around on a Sunday afternoon to collect enough points to make the Chase, drivers who've won multiple races during the first 26 who aren't in the Chase and finally the virtual disappearance of 31 other drivers and their sponsors once the Chase starts. No matter what anyone says, if Jimmie wins a fourth Cup, you'll hear the pounding of another nail into Nascar's coffin.

Nascar has many inherent flaws, and it's being run by a group of men who have absolutely no idea that they're destroying the sport. Nascar has lost their grassroots supporters and abandoned everthing that made them successful, all in the name of padding Brian France's pockets. He's the modern day Nero who's fiddling while Nascar burns to the ground.

Sophia said...

WOW! I had nothing to really say about Brian France but darbar, I do second most all your points.

It's very sad how out of TOUCH BF is with the fans:(

Truly lives in a bubble.

Sicklajoie said...

The decline of NASCAR to the way we see it today began with the Brian France regime.

Richard in N.C. said...

I still think the Chase is a good idea - but not perfect. Now how EESPN deals with it is another matter. The focus on substantially no one other than the Chase drivers just takes EESPN's truck-based, tunnel vision to another level of crap. EESPN focuses on too few cars before the Chase and then further narrows its focus when the Chase starts. Basing the broadcast on what's on the track, rather than what the folks in the truck throw up on the screen would be a major improvement, and eliminate the misrepresentation with which EESPN begins each race - i.e., that the guys in the booth are up there so they can see and call the race.

Anonymous said...

I know some fans don't like the Chase... but I love it. I think it has brought a whole new level of excitement to the end of the season.

If we ran the old system, Tony Stewart would be a crazy-amount of points ahead, taking all the drama out of it... and guess what: network TV still isn't going to show Jamie McMurray and David Stremme if there is a Chase or no Chase.

The last race before the Chase began was incredible drama in a race that would have otherwise been a bore. The closeness of the points and everyone gearing up for their A-game in the last 10 races has created an intense competition that I find exciting and interesting. In the old format, Denny Hamlin would be working on 2010 -- in fact everyone except Tony would be working on 2010. It would be one big test track for the last 10 races with people getting data instead of racing.

I don't love Brian France -- but my grandfather used to have a saying: Even a broken clock is right twice a day. And in this case, Brian France was RIGHT!

Anonymous said...

I think the Chase has made the competition so much more intense. In the first two races of the Chase, you had all Chasers in the Top 5 most of the day, and you usually had 6 of the top 9 guys from the Chase. I'm sorry, but under the old format, those guys wouldn't be racing as hard for every single position as they are now... and if they did, well TV would STILL show them and not the back of the field.

Anonymous said...

I think NASCAR could do something to make a lot of fans happy: They should still give a big award and trophy to the driver with the most points as in the old system. It would not detract from the Sprint Cup to have a second trophy for the overall points leader, and then the "old Winston Cup" champ would still get his recognition.

Beyond that, I don't think you can deny the Chase has added to the end of the season. Talladega will be 10x more intense as a Chase race than just another late-season points race when the 1st place guy is 180-300 points ahead of the field. Of course, some of you don't like plate racing, either. But you can't please everyone.

MikeC said...

While I've never been a fan of the Chase, even if there wasn't a chase, drivers outside the top 12 wouldn't get much in the way for television coverage. My problem with the Chase has always been it's a contrived way to try and create a tight points battle.

I always hear people say "this gives drivers a chance to still win the championship"......I'm sorry, every driver has that chance when the season begins at Daytona in February.

The problem is NASCAR got so concerned about cutting into the coverage the NFL gets, that they missed the ball. It doesn't matter if you have a Chase or don't have a Chase, you're not going to make any in-roads into the amount of coverage you get.

But now the fact that the Chase races are down in numbers.....I wouldn't doubt we see the Chase format get tweaked some in the off-season in some form.

Anonymous said...

long season
i like the chase
i miss the linked events - no bull five
there is room for the chase as well as coverage of contenders in the races - 4+hrs!
champions are nothing more then best avg finish w/bonus for winning
duke the championship out on the track - winner take all -

Dot said...

@ sicklajoie, ditto.

I don't know how BF cannot be concerned about declining ratings and myriad complaints we express week after week.

Is he happy with the TV coverage? The racing (or lack thereof)? And where is his concern for the pit crews? I figured out why they keep getting hit. The real racing is done on pit road. Lord knows you can't pass on the track, you have to gain spots on pit road.

I'm hoping that JJ wins his fourth championship. It will be interesting to see what the Emperor will come up with next. I'm sure he wasn't thinking that one driver would continuously stink up his Chase.

The George family woke up, maybe the France family will too.

Tom said...

Random blab here, but Johnson has 15 of his 44 career wins (more than a third of the total) in the Chase window.
Isn't it on the other drivers to do SOMETHING? Like WIN??

Just a thought...

Anonymous said...

Although my drivers (Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman) made the chase I do not care one bit about it. I have been litteraly skipping the other races and I am waiting until Talladega comes. Brian France should be Fired right now. The chase must be gone. Ban cup drivers from racing in the busch/nationwide series. Shorten the races (Except Daytona 500,Birckyard 400 and Coke 600) each track gets ONE race.(So kentucky and other potential tracks can get added. These and many other problems are the reasons why the people who run NASCAR (especially Brian France) do not have a clue what they are doing. (Oh and darbar Kenseth did win one race in 2003 I can't remember what track though.)

HEATHER said...

Brian France is the epitome of the old addage about family fortunes-"The first generation makes it, the second generation grows it, and the third generation squanders it."
Through a total accident of birth Brian France was handed the keys to the richest sport in the nation and he hasn't a clue what to do with it.

Sophia said...

I'm for shortening ALL races too except the high profile ones.

it's all an endurance contest since you cant just sit and ENJOY the pictures and know what's going on.

Multi tasking is just too much

Sophia said...
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Tom said...

Anon 12:04...
Kenseth's win in 2003 came at Las Vegas.

Anonymous said...

Credit Brian with this: they had to do something about the end of the season. By 2003 the schedule was very long and they weren't going to shorten it. That would be financially devastating to the growth of the sport on TV and in person.

The Chase may not be the best thing, but it created stuff for the media, corporate sponsors and fans to talk about. Gives people hope. Mark Martin might win it this year. No way in the old system. And Mark's doing it by winning lots of races. And no one missed Matt Kenseth's top-five run last week. It was terrific to see guys out of the Chase go for redemption. (Kyle Busch'll go for it in anger, hopefully.)

A lot of people were upset when baseball expanded from 14 teams. And it had playoffs with more than two teams. But I live in Texas and get to take my nephew to see baseball games, and we can hope they'll make the playoffs next year. Likewise, we got a track in 1997, and he loves that too. It's a cookie-cutter track owned by a crazy billionaire to some people, but it's a whale of a fun time for a family.

Sometimes you have to put yourself in someone else's shoes to get a different perspective. The Chase gives certain people hope, but it surely doesn't give everyone hope. I'm sorry if you declined the invitation for hope.

BOB said...

Make everyone happy. Richmond is the end of the regular season. Hand out awards for this at the dinner. Loundon and after are post season races. Give "chase guys" their due, and a bonus to the team who wins the most of the final ten races.

BTW the COT needs alterations, and non-cookie cutter tracks should be shown more love. Cookie cutters are boring. Unique is good.

Anonymous said...

Boy I sure hear a whole lot of complaining but not a lot of solutions. When I hear someone say "I am tired of Jimmie Johnson and that story line".... well, then how about some other drivers step up and win? I am a football fan and I love the 49ers. Doesn't it sound foolish for me to say "Ugh, I am so sick of these Patriots again, It's Tom Brady this, Tom Brady that"... I mean, it is up to SF to step up and win, not the league to fix things so fans like the storyline better.

People are so sick of Hendrick, but they are earning it. They aren't buying their championships. Rick Henrdrick is rich, but he doesn't have more money than Roger Penske. The wind tunnel, four-poster shaker, and equipment available is the same at Hendrick and Gibbs. But everyone wants to just fault one team for doing well, for figuring it out faster, for being better than everyone else.

Elliot Sadler, Michael Waltrip, and Scott Speed fans need to understand that The Chase isn't what's preventing their guys from getting on TV and/or getting mentioned. It's their running position. When Marcos Ambrose is up front, they talk him to death. If he's in the back, they don't. If MIchael Waltrip comes out and starts leading 50-100 laps at Talladega (not impossible), then they will talk him up and show his car a ton. But if he runs 34th and hangs out in the back all day and goes 2 laps down because of a spin-out... it isn't the Chase's fault that he isn't on TV!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you one awesome by-product of The Chase this year: NO JUNIOR!

That's right, no interviews with Junebug, no cameras following the 88 around the track, no giant batch of microphones in Junior's face after a race... barely even a mention that he is a Hendrick driver. They talk about Hendrick teammates all the time but never mention Dale Jr in those conversations.

JD - Can you tell us how they calculate "the most popular driver in NASCAR"? Is it by fan-poll? Is it souvenir sales? I know the 14 has been top souvenir sales lately and with the 88 getting almost no coverage, I honestly wonder how much longer Dale Jr can hang on to the title of "Most Popular Driver." Even Bill Elliott couldn't hold the crown forever. May be time for a new champ. 14? 9? 42?

Daly Planet Editor said...

anon 5:49,

Fan voting, but I think you are missing one point. Although you may not like him, fans of Junior deserve to have his story told in every race.

Just like Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and guys like Marcos Ambrose.

I understand the Chase and why it was inserted. But I doubt France ever intended for the remainder of the field to drop off the radar screen.

There are usually almost four hours of NASCAR TV coverage for the race alone. It is my opinion that perhaps in that time the story of the drivers remaining on the track and racing could be told to satisfy all the fans.

JD

Anonymous said...

All the more reason to shorten the season and end it on Labor Day weekend. Sometimes less is more and it applies in this case. Of course that will never happen, but the Chase has proven it will not overtake the NFL in any kind of ratings fight.

The poor tv coverage, the lack of coverage of anyone outside the Chase and the media already handing Jimmie the title makes it even worse.

Brian France has his head so far in the sand its not even funny anymore. Remove the Chase, put more emphasis on winning, and get this car more racy and you will see fans come back because the sport will be exciting to watch again.

GinaV24 said...

Applause for this article and for darbar's comments! Absolutely right on the money.

I watch and go to races to see MY favorite driver and this ridiculous "playoff" deal that has resulted in a 10 race champion, NOT a season champion doesn't hold my interest at all.

It's interesting that Hunter says that it was all Brainless's idea -- way to distance yourself from things the fans hate -- and I'm with Bill France Jr -- "are you nuts?"

I couldn't believe it the other day when Mike Helton said "the fans need to give the chase a chance". What? It's been 6 years -- fans have been losing interest over this period of time -- we've given it a chance -- put a fork in it.

It seems that the large majority of fans agree with this opinion. My favorite driver is in the chase, but ESPN's coverage doesn't make me want to tune in to the races -- it's just one long infomercial without any real information of interest to me as a race fan.

RobFromToronto said...

Brian France obviously went the the firm of Willy,Cheatum, and Howe for his managment style..he has almost single handedly made nascar a non-entity in the sports world akin to WWE wrestling due to pure greed overlooking the thing that made nascar mega popular on the rise prvious to his tinkering..the fans are hardcore..i'm 16,17,99 in that order(roush obviously) and while am glad Da Biff and The Duck made it in..am perturbed that Matt is basically non-existant in the eyes of nascar..out of all the things to have happened in Brians tenue..3..THREE things have been good..safer barriers..the new chassis which centers the driver further from impact and Hans...the chase is an utter disaster...the lucky dog is a joke that rewards mediocrity..the top 35 is simply a money scheme to appease sponsors and destroy real competition for positioning..double file restarts is a hasty bandaid to try and create excitement after a mystery debris caution is thrown because JJ got 3 seconds ahead of Smoke...sorry Brian France...am sure your 3 foot poster of Vince McMahon is smiling at you now..but nascar fans stopped smiling long ago..for shame :(

DL said...

Look, I don't want yet another Johnson Cup but how do you fault a team for continuing excellence? Or is it still the insinuation that the 48 team are cheating? If that's the case, how do you explain Dale Jr? What I don't think was expected was for a team to "master" the Chase format. This is why, from the start, I advocated a rotation of Chase tracks every year and to include a road course. But it has gone unaddressed. And Jimmie would probably still have at least 2 Cups, that team is that good.
What peeves me most about the Chase this year is that 4 of the drivers eligible for the Cup don't have a win and to me, that's BS. You can't be a champion without winning.
I think fans of every Cup driver deserve to see and hear them mentioned every race, but it's not going to happen under current contracts. Maybe someday, when NASCAR is showing races themselves on their own channel, they will consistently do stories and acknowledge the 36 drivers in the field (oops did I say that out loud?) but until then, the only way to get coverage is to generate it yourself. Kyle Busch is a driver who understands this, I'm convinced that he compensates not winning with other attention grabbing behavior just for that reason, for show, to get his sponsors TV time. I hear the Mars family is very happy with him.
I'm not happy with decisions NASCAR, and France, have made. But it's ridiculous to say that it's demise would be the end of stock car racing. The tracks would still be there and those owners would still want to make money. The people with the most power are the car owners, to whom the drivers are contracted not NASCAR. If things got truely bad, they would force a change, or I believe NASCAR would no longer have any cars ala walkout. Well, no, they would probably still have Robby Gordon.

Anonymous said...

Brian France has personally destroyed his Grandfather's Company. Since 2004, lets see what he has done:

1. Creation of the awful Chase for the Championship. By artificially creating a tight points battle, NASCAR has given up integrity of the entire season. Drivers now have to point race, even more than in 2003 and earlier. Furthermore, the best team for the entire season is not recognized. Moreover, the races in the last 10, now have greater significance than the other 26 events. Finally, ESPN's lack of self-control lead to overhyping the Chase, focusing on only certain drivers, and ignoring the event in order to adhere to their script.

2. The COT. The cot is a great name for the car, as it makes me fall asleep watching the non-racing action. With the rules being so tight, most of the cars run about the same speed. So passing is difficult to non-existent. Long gone are the days when you could start in the back, and race your way to the front. Now, without pit strategy, and some luck, it is almost impossible. Did I mention that they are ugly, and do not resemble the super late models throughout the country?

3. NASCAR is not a sport. It has become a marketing company that uses cars as it business model. Big Bill and Bill Jr. knew the sport came first. Even with an iron fist, they ruled in the interest of the sport first. Brian does not understand this, and only caters to the corporate world.

4. Pulling the Southern 500 from Darlington for California. Need I say more?

5. NASCAR trying to compete on a national level, while abandoning the roots. Greedy for the corporate dollar, and large markets, NASCAR moved out of the roots of the south east and ventured into Southern California, Chicagoland, and Kansas, all to the detriment of North Wilkesboro, Darlington, and Rockingham.

What an outstanding 5 years!

Anonymous said...

This just in. NASCAR is in discussions with the guy in the turban to sell out. Brian less is not a hastily conceived idea. It has been festering since he first plopped down in the Big Chair. The homogeny fits perfectly with this new world order of racing. The Dubai 500 presented by Atlantis. I like it.

50 yr. fan said...

I like the chase format as it
creates new drama at the end of
the season which sometimes became
a runaway.

The racing is what is boring with
winner take all. I reiterate that
points awarded at interim parts
of the race would liven things.
How many times have we heard the
booth guys say that things are
going to get interesting as the
end nears.

Anonymous said...
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Ken said...

For those that want the races to be shortened, don't hold your breath. Shortened races would mean fewer commercials and less exposure of the sponsors. Both would mean less money. NA$CAR would generate less commercial revenue and the teams would get less money from their sponsors.

Tony would not necessarily be far ahead in a chaseless NA$CAR season because the drivers would have driven the races differently. Drivers would have driven to win rather than to just stay in the top 12 in points. I suspect there would not be a chase if Dale Sr. was racing or still alive because of his influence. He would have objected because points racing was not in his DNA (second place is the first loser). I was not a Dale Sr. fan but I greatly appreciated his will to win and determination.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

JD wrote:
Fan voting, but I think you are missing one point. Although you may not like him, fans of Junior deserve to have his story told in every race.

I disagree. Not every driver can have their story told. Three are some days when things are not going well, a certain driver will ride around in the back all day, and I'm sorry but those drivers don't deserve to have their story told. "Started 30, currently running 32nd" isn't a story, it's a footnote.

I understand, networks too often focus solely on the leader (when he is out front in 'clean air'), often miss some of the drama in the middle of the pack where better racing is happening, and too often fall into a trap of only following 3-4 drivers what seems like all day. But of the many ways to improve that, telling every single driver's story is not one of them. And I know you hate stick-and-ball comparisons with a passion, but we are now in the playoffs/postseason. Just like in other sports, the lower teams suffer dramatically in coverage because their performance didn't warrant attention.

I think getting TV time is a major motivation for drivers to excel. I mean, they have a million reasons to want to win and don't need that to motivate them to be their best, but still it is a real pressure and powerful incentive for them to improve. You don't just give out TV time to because they showed up... they have to earn it. To me, a guy turning laps with a bad car in 29th place isn't a story, he's a statistic.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:53PM,

I completely understand your point but I would take the opposite view.

Excluding the start and park cars, every team that has been running all season has a fan base.

Simply because they missed the top twelve does not mean that during a four hour live TV sports event that team should be excluded.

Why should the story of the race become the story of the chase for the entire event?

Striking a delicate balance has been the challenge for the ESPN team since they arrived.

JD

Tom said...

I think the Chase has been a problem for a couple of reasons.
-It's been tweaked twice in the six years it's been run.
-Other than the initial Chase in 2004, where five drivers had a realistic shot to win the title at Homestead, the other editions of the Chase have had the drama slowly sucked out of them by the time the season finale rolled around.

In 2005, Tony Stewart led Jimmie by 52 points and Carl Edwards by 87. He won the title by 35 over Biffle and Edwards.

In the first year of Championship Jimmie, he was 63 points in front of Kenseth and 90 in front of Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. The final margin was 56.

Year II of Jimmie the Champ was no different. The 48's only real challenger was teammate Jeff Gordon, and he was 86 points behind heading to Homestead.

And of course, there was last year, when Johnson almost had the whole thing clinched BEFORE they got to Homestead.
He was 141 ahead of Carl Edwards (20 points shy), and coasted home to the title.

Go back further, and you see why they thought the Chase might work. We had the last truly GREAT title chase back in 1992 involving Davey Allison, Bill Elliott and Alan Kulwicki. There were THREE lead changes in the final three weeks before Kulwicki came away with the title by just 10 points.

From 1993 to 2003, an 11-year window, the champion had his crown clinched before the season finale SEVEN times.

So for all the good intention of the Chase, we can realistically say it hasn't worked out as it was intended.

Ziggy said...

JD,
Totally agree with your assessment of TV coverage which got me to thinking...

What other sport has it's practice sessions & qualifying televised each week ?? Are these programs just "fillers" for SPEED ?? Is viewership that good ?? I find this strange now that the actual race ratings are slowly tanking.

Ziggy

Anonymous said...

Just my 5 cents worth (due to inflation). Not only does the driver (Jeff Burton) I've been following for 14 years not make the chase, he rarely is visable on the track. Any driver outside the top twelve might as well not exist. In other sports with play-off formats, only the teams that make it that far are on the field. Yet nas$car has 41 other teams on the track, each with companies sponsoring their cars. No bang for your buck when most of the other 31 only get shown when they're euther in the way of chase drivers (shoo fly) or they get in a big wreck (hello joey). The chase is a joke, has been a joke from the onset, and will conti nue to be a joke. Five years ago I never missed a race. Now it's an after thought. Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

I guess JD what you are failing to embrace is that this is the post-season. I know, you don't want it to be the post-season. But it is now. And the other teams are also-rans. And ask them and they will flat-out tell you they are in testing mode, not racing mode. I don't think the 00 car, for one example, cares one bit abut winning a race at this point. They want to test their guys out these next 8 races because they were so close to making the Chase but failed. Frankly, I think it's time for the fan base to grow up a little bit. If I am a Washington Nationals fan and they have already lost 100 games, I gotta deal with them not getting big press or big mentions on ESPN or any kind of real coverage as the teams that excel hog the spotlight. It is not up to the league or the broadcast to give equal time to the also-rans, it is up to the also-rans to aim a little higher and try and make the exclusive spotlight. When you expand a spotlight to cover everyone on stage, it just becomes a dim light.

Anonymous said...

Anon - well, tell Jeff Burton to pick it up and make the Chase. When the 49ers were winning, their stadium was full. When they went on a horrible streak and couldn't make the post-season, attendance dropped. Same with you. Your "team" Jeff Burton isn't running well, so you don't attend as much. If Jeff Burton were in Mark Martin's position, you'd probably go to the races. If you want to see Jeff Burton on TV, tell him to stop qualifying 30th and running 25th. Last year when he was points leader, he was on TV a lot.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Let's break down some math here, folks:

Let's assume a race takes up four-hours of TV and that if you take out commercials, each race broadcasts 44 minutes per hour, which I believe is fairly standard. So we have 176 minutes of airtime and 43 drivers, or about 4 minutes per driver per televised race.

Now you can either distribute that time completely evenly - 4 minutes per driver - but what is more likely, and more appropriate, is that drivers up front should get a little more of that time than drivers in back. So let's say, 6 minutes per driver in Top 20 and 1 minute per driver in Bottom 20.

Well, excuse me, but I bet if you actually counted it up, that would be about right. A guy like Sam Hornish or Casey Mears will probably get a total of one minute combined coverage throughout the day. It might be 30 two-second shots, but he gets his minute.

What is wrong with that? Does Bobby LaBonte, for example, really deserve any more than that when he is not making anything happen on the track? I mean, except cautions. Seriously!

You can't please everyone all the time. If you are a Chicago Cubs fan or a Joe Nemechek fan or a fan of any other team that is light years from winning a title... then less coverage is just something that comes with the territory. You either have to suck it up, become a die hard, and root for your team to improve... or else jump on the bandwagon and become a Yankees fan or Jimmie Johnson fan. But you don't get to complain that your also-ran doesn't get the same coverage as the front-runners.

If you want to see the 12 car all day, you can get 100% coverage by buying a ticket and going to the race. I hear there are plenty available.

Anonymous said...

The sport wasn't broke before the chase was instituted. In fact it was thriving. BF never heard the saying "if it ain't broke don't fix it."
Also I never trust any appraisals of the current state of NASCAR given by BF because he is nothing more than a PR spin-meister.

Sally said...

I can only guess that the 'chase' works if all you care about is who 'wins' the championship at the end of the season. Personally, I watch for each individual race, not the end of the season hype. What the format has done is to minimize each race, only as it applies to the artificially 'close' points after Nascar pretends that the 'regular' season is over. They didn't even try to pick the best, most diverse tracks for their 'not a playoff'. They just chunked the last 10 tracks off the 'regular' season and pretended they were representative of the entire season. Yawn. Since ratings toward the end of the season have been sliding downhill regularly since 2004, it would suggest that many fans don't find it all that compelling. Let's see, just how did they determine the title when Nascar was growing by leaps and bounds? Oh yeah...an entire season was used. Hmmmm....

Sophia said...

Sally

There you go adding COMMON SENSE into this whole new theory of the Chase & why ratings are down/fans disenchanted. :-D

Amen.

Daly Planet Editor said...

The NASCAR that I remember is full of stories from the front of the field to the back.

The issue is not dividing minutes, it is doing what the MRN radio guys do and tell us who is where and how they got there.

Stick and ball analogies do not work because all the teams do not play on the same field at the same time, even in the playoffs.

While those of you stumping for Chase-only coverage make sense, the dilema is how to serve two masters.

The story of the race should not be lost in the story of the Chase.

JD

Anonymous said...

The story of the race SHOULD be the Chase. Why cover teams that are testing and not racing to win? Do you think a guy like the 19 car is going "Whoo, I hope our race trim is fast today, I want to get up front and lead!" or do you think he's going "Okay, next track is a 1.5 mile, let's use today to try two new setups. We'll go a lap down just making the changes mid-race, but hey we'll get some good data for 2010."

The NASCAR you remember with stories from the middle of the field was not as good as you remember. I have no problem with your point about MRN covering the race better... but this is the Chase, baby, and lots of us fans LOVE IT! Tony Stewart, even after running poorly these last few weeks, would have more than 200 points on the field. UGH - talk about boring!

hotaru-raganbaby_6 said...

The focused coverage and media hype on the Chase drivers forces fans of non-Chasers to abandon their NASCAR TV viewing and wait once again for the Daytona 500

That's my reason!

Yeah, this blantant chase devoted coverage (what I call 'Chaseism') is just irritating.

word veri-cobra. :)

Anonymous said...

These people complaining about their drivers not getting covered are blaming the Chase, but if the Chase wasn't there, they still wouldn't be covered.

Let's look at, say, the 1992 season. No Chase in sight. Do you think during the last 10 races that Ted Musgrave, Morgan Shepherd, or Ernie Irvan were getting any TV time? Well, why not -- they were in the Top 20 and there was no Chase, so NASCAR must have covered them all the time, right? NOPE.

Some people's memories of NASCAR are better than the actual NASCAR that happened.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Yes Brian France is pathetic but it really is not his fault. Like most BF supporters what they are getting from NASCAR is high quality racing when actually it is the manipulative boring racing. The difference is we know better. However fans could buy into this over time because its no fun to boo what was once a good thing.

Lest you doubt me, If you are old enough to remember Chris Berman, Dan Patrick, Bob Ley and Charley Steiner on SportsCenter you know what sports news reporting can be. Try watching what passes for SC coverage today, yet this putrid excuse for sports reporting continues to get good ratings.

If you think sponsors care, get a clue they don't. As long as they and NASCAR for that matter have the money they are happy.

Look folks its been a fun 25 years (1979 Daytona 500 to the institution of the chase). I lived parts of it (I was born in 1989). So cherish the memories of Rockingham,The southern 500 on labor day, and any Wilkesboro race. Smile When you think of Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott. This was good stuff but like any good thing it does not last forever.

Get out to your local track and enjoy racing. There is no turning back.

Yes reality sucks but like is like that.

Mïk said...

A corollary to the TV issue of showing only the chasers is the sponsor diaspora that the media is hand-wringing about. Many sponsors aren't willing to put up the 30-40 million for a few minutes each race.

It's not the chase's fault...it's TV's insistence on only showing those in the chase. Everyone knows that there is racing on the track, but it's not on the screen. The directors need to get their head out of the cameras and get it back on the track. The commentators are talking about incidents a full ten seconds before the cameras get there. They were better in the early days, with LESS cameras!

Shorten the Season?!?! Remove the chase?!? You guys need medication...or less of it. Do you not remember Petty winning by 5 laps? Do you not remember half the field out at the checkers? Do you not remember the champ clinching the title at Richmond? NASCAR is better, the racing is better, and the sport's format is better.

Now, if TV (you know who you are)would only show it.

dupont24fan said...

i honestly do not have a problem with the currency tv system... why would NASCAR talk about your driver if he is running in the 20s anyway??? Its about the Chase now, they should get the attention.If you want to hear about your driver so bad who consistantlt runs in the 20s subscibe to Trackpass and listen to them during the race

Anonymous said...

The chase, like the rest of the 26 races each year, has just become a show with manipulations (ie: debris cautions, inconsistant yellow flags for incidents, inconsistant penalties and very biased announcing). Most of the top 12 drivers like Montoya just drove the first 26 hard enough so they would make the chase. Very few of those 12 actually "raced" each race to win the darn thing. If Nascar wants to be like NFL, then they should give awards for the winner of the regular season (first 26 races) and then start the last 10 races with zero points for each of the 12 drivers and then they could possibly have their phony playoff.

Viewership is down because it has become a show and is very boring to watch due the cars, the vanilla drivers, the broadcast times, the biased announcing, the marketing BF and the appearance that the whole thing looks like it has been manipulated to draw casual viewers. Long time fans just don't care anymore.

Missy

Julia said...

WOW Brian really is out of touch with reality! Talk about delusional! The man has no clue about what is going on with the fans. His stupid chase does nothing to add the excitement he wanted, because it is nothing more then "manufactured excitment". By resetting the points, he creates a fake "close points race" In reality, The Championship is no longer an award for the best driver all season, it now nothing more then a gift to the driver with the best luck in 10 races. Nothing more then that.

Jim Crooks said...

"There is one fundamental truth that France and ESPN have overlooked. NASCAR fans do not change their allegiance simply because their driver did not make the Chase. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth fans do not put on Jeff Gordon t-shirts and pull for the #24. "

JD, you really cut to the truth of the matter with that one paragraph. I think that's the thing that separates NASCAR from stick and ball sports. It's unfortunate that some of the networks involved, and even more unfortunately, the chairman of NASCAR himself seems to not to understand this basic truth.

Buschseries61 said...

Brian France has always been ignorant, so this doesn't suprise me.

I am strongly against the Chase. It may be exciting to some because it adds drama, but has many negatives. The first 26 races drivers are focused getting solid finishes and are afraid to push it to the limit & fall out of the chase. The last 10 races, 31 drivers are in a tough spot. They have to race, but are afraid to mess up the Chasers. The Chase rewards a mediocre 26 races & a strong last 10. In 2004, 2007, & 2008 we would of had a different champion with the old system, a system that rewards the best driver in all 36 races, not just 10. The points hype has become nauseating, lets focus on hard racing instead.

Richard in N.C. said...

In essence SpoutsCenter gets ratings in spite of itself - because it has eliminated any competition, and withered from lack of having to be good to be watched.

I feel certain if SpoutsCenter handled MLB the way EESPN does races (i.e., last 1/4 of the season no scores for MLB games between teams out of contention for playoffs) there would be outrage.

In my opinion the way in which the networks, EESPN especially, handle races by focusing on top 20 or so only is not only poor quality coverage, but dumb and shortsighted. Sponsors of the cars in the bottom half of the standings might be more likely to buy TV ads if they thought there was a good chance their car would get at least some modest exposure. I will always wonder how much lack of exposure might have contributed to the end of the Jack D and Jim Beam sponsorships. A good competitor for EESPN ( like a combination of Comcast & NBC) would probably result in great improvements at EESPN.

I think the Chase is too long and should be no more than 6 or 8 races- and I find the idea of rotating some races in and out of the Chase fascinating.

Oh, it keeps bugging me - wasn't the Monty Python movie "Life of Brian?"

Anonymous said...

JD, I think you really quote this article out of context. You leave out how almost every part of the article except that quote talks about how good the Chase has been for the sport, and at one point they even call it "universally embraced" and that the Chase specifically is "drawing more fan and media interest."

Anonymous said...

I actually like the Chase and do not think it should be changed... but if you want to have one change that might balance the focus on the Chasers and others' desire to see the rest of the field: Make all 12 Chase racers start in the back of the field.

Yes, let the other 31 drivers qualify for positions 1-31, then put the Chase racers in seeded order from 32 to 43, and then start the race. You would force the Chasers to do more passing, which they should do since their cars should be better than the field, you'll see more of the other drivers in the action for at least the first half of the race, and... eh, you know what, forget it... you guys will whine about this too. No change will make some of these NASCAR fans happy until a time machine is invented that can take them back to 1976.

ri88girl said...

I have complained about king Brian before many times. What it boils down to is one essential thing.

Brian France is not a fan of our sport. He has never been a fan of our spot. He may or may not have grown up in the infield, my perception is not. But he has no love nor fundimental understanding of either the sport or the fan. The last name is not enough nor are genes as other notable offspring have ampaly demonstrated over the years.

The only remaining person I have ANY confidence in at NASCAR management is Mike Helton nd maybe John Darby. Brian should step down and let Mike and maybe Humpy run the buisness for a few years. Give him all the money he wants, but make him give up his decision making and veto powers. For the sake of the sport someone needs to stage a coup de ta' quickly, like before February.

Anonymous said...

Tell you what, with all the problems of sponsorships leaving, manufacturers bankrupt, teams having to merge out of necessity, and a no-testing policy... I actually think the racing, the level of competition and excitement are much higher this year than next.

Anonymous said...

Duh, much higher this year than last. Not next, that makes no sense. Much more exciting this year over last year.

Tom said...

Mik has it right...
NASCAR's been finishing its seasons in November since the mid-70's. No one seemed to gripe about having the seasons end at Thanksgiving in Petty's day. Why is everyone griping now?
Shortening the season won't be happening. Period.

darbar said...

So many of you are saying that those not in the Chase are just testing and not trying to win, but isn't that the PROBLEM? Why shouldn't these 31 other teams be trying to win? And if they're not, and they're just testing, then shame on them !!! And shame on us for putting up with that crap. And if that is the case, why not just park the 31 teams and have the Chase races be just for the 12 teams?

And I cannot understand how anyone can say this Chase is exciting. When you realize that positions 8 through 12 are already quite far behind first place after only 2 races, and Kahne is behind more in points than a one race total at -189, that does not sound like a great Chase to me.

As far as Hendrick domination, and especially the 48 team, one does have to wonder. Seeing how that team has been caught cheating numerous times, well.... But we all know, big money buys all the cheese, and Hendrick's very deep pockets can certainly buy championships. And seeing how many Championships Hendrick has "purchased" over the past few years, it's got to be playing on everyone's mind. But I still firmly believe that if JJ wins his fourth, the fan base will continue to erode. Why even bother cheering for another driver when you know it's only Hendrick cars that win 85% of the time?

As for those who are equating the Chase and poor performing teams from other sports, sorry, but you can't compare the two at all. Just because the Nationals will have lost 100 games doesn't mean they've disappeared. You still get to watch them on TV. They're still written about in the sports pages. But once a Nascar driver is out of the Chase, you don't hear squat about him. It's as if those drivers don't exist after race 26.

Now about the Chase vs a conventional points system: I say dump the Chase and go back to a conventional system, but NOT the old system. They need to devise a system that awards points in the manner win which CART awarded their points---a certain number of points for finishing first, second and so on. You get points for taking the pole and extra points for winning. That way, you've basically forced teams to race hard to win, or forgo winning the Cup.

But BF's and Helton's tweaking of their rules don't help at all. So what if they can't test at Nascar sanctioned tracks? Big freakin' deal !!! The teams with the big money will still be testing at other tracks because they can afford to, while the poor teams continue to be shut out. Nascar has definitely become the sport of the haves and the have nots, and that's a big part of what's totally ruining the sport.

Anonymous said...

Hendrick bought all his championships? Bwahahaha. I suppose he bought the adjustments needed during the race to make his cars go faster. In fact, I bet he paid off the other crew chiefs to lose on purpose! Yeah, that's it.

Give me a break. Some people are so jealous of success that they will dream up anything in order to deny winners their proper glory. Hendrick bought his championships? Holy moly.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and NASCAR has become a sport of haves and have-nots? Ha... I bet that line would have gone over real big when Petty had factory support and others worked on their own cars. Give me a break!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Great comments, keep them coming. Got a LOT of folks reading them.

The key to our discussions is to allow everyone to state their views and keep the topic rolling.

JD

Anonymous said...

4 hours in no way should guarantee coverage in my opinion - same with golf - i want every one of tiger's shots on air - not everyone's story at the expense of the big guns

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 7:35PM,

That's interesting. Long before the Chase, the TV networks took great pains to go through the field like MRN and update all the drivers.

The reason was that they understood that casual fans like yourself are not the group that needs to be served.

It is the fans that have loyally followed one team and driver since February who are important.

Once again, just because those drivers did not make the Chase should not mean that they are purposefully excluded from the national TV coverage during a four hour race.

JD

red said...

here's my problem with the chase: drivers now play the points game so they can get into the chase and then continue the game thru the 10 chase races. i can't blame montoya for "racing for points" b/c that's what's been set up for a team to be successsful. i blame nascar for setting the parameters for the teams and for not rewarding winning so that teams no longer take that shot and go for the win instead of the 2nd place finish.

the chase doesn't reward the body of work, across all 36 races. it encourages teams to focus on points, not racing to the front and to the flag.

as for the tv coverage: it can't be said enough -- there are 43 teams on the track each week. it is important to at least do a few "thru the fields" each race so fans of every team can find out where their team stands on the track. it's important to mention lucky dogs, lap downs, S&Ps, who's in the garage for repairs but expected back soon, who's having issues, who had a bad pit stop or a great one. all of this matters to the nascar fan, regardless of whether it occurs to one of the chasers or not.

i don't expect my driver to get tv coverage when he's struggling in 22nd place or so. but i cerainly woud like to hear a field recap a few times each race so i know where he is!

and if a chaser is struggling, that's a story that needs to be told as well -- but not to the exclusion of covering the non-chaser who may be having an amazing run! balance is called for each and every week of the last 10.

bad tv = plummeting ratings. bad tv comes from espn as they continue to butcher the last 10 races each season. dover (altho' 100 laps too long) was not a boring race for me. i saw some great racing, some amazing passing, some "bat outta hell" moves -- but i'm thinking folks who didn't get to the track never saw any of that. and so the preception is that the racing stinks when, in fact, what stinks -- big time! -- is the broadcast.

the chase is what it is and, for me, isn't the problem. the issue is that the race broadcasts treats the non-chasers as if they are all S&Pers, who mystically disappear off the track as the race continues. and the chasers get rewarded for just keeping the fenders on the car, donuts off the doors, and bringing it home carefully each week.

"conservative" and "racing" don't belong in the same breath.

and by the way: brian france is a nitwit.

Mïk said...

Red-

I hate to knock ya off your soapbox but, NASCAR's top level started out as an endurance. Many a racer has lapped the field, only to drop out due to mechanical issues or an untimely wreck.

The winner spent the race going fast enuf to lead, but slow enuf to finish. That was 'Cup' racing then. The winner today doesn't have to be so careful and, as fans, we expect him to go fast because we know the cars are tougher now.

But the race is, was, and will always be a marathon that rewards those who play conservatively. That is the nature of NASCAR Cup racing and, we, as fans, need to decide if we want endurance racing or demo derbies.

The exciting racing that everybody is clammering for and wants to make 'Cup' racing into, is happening at your local track. If that's the racing you want, go there and those drivers (or their ilk) will follow. Trans-am almost became that, until they imploded.

The race goes to those who face the realities of the race. Chad/Jiminy do, so they win when it counts. You think that 'slow start' was being off? Chad was probably testing for 5 races and saving it up for the end.

Vicky D said...

I think every driver/car should be mentioned during a broadcast. They have fans/family/teams and most likely sponsors who need it. When sponsors decide to spend their money elsewhere I would think Nascar and ESPN would want to show them to keep them in the program. If Bill France were still running Nascar it would be a different animal today. And the comments - well let them win races to be shown on tv doesn't quite make sense to me. There is only one car that wins a race each week, there are 42 other cars that aren't and they need some love.

Richard in N.C. said...

Bob Margolis did a fascinating article late last season in which he said he had talked to about 50 fans in the stands at a race and the vast majority thought the racing was good or very good. The problem is that the networks don't try hard enough to convey the excitement on the track - and a sizeable part of the media are fixated with always finding something to criticize about NASCAR. It does occur to me that it is easier to prepare to cover 20 racers than 43.

Kellie said...

Claire B Lang reported tonight on Sirius Nascar that the 48 and 5 cars of Hendrick were taken to Nascar's R&D center and tested after last week's race. Lang reported that it was found that those two cars, and I don't claim to understand this issue, were way too close to Nascar's tolerance issues and the teams were told to not bring those cars back to the tracks again. Makes you just sit and say, hmmmmm especially for those who've mentioned the past "issues" of the 48 team and suspensions.

Anonymous said...

Just got done watching today's Marty Smith interviews with Rick Hendrick today on NASCAR Now. Having watched those interviews, it is now especially hilarious to read some of the comments in this thread about how Hendrick buys his championships. That man's story is one of someone who started with NOTHING, and who made it to the top with a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. That some people want to deny him his due because he is more successful than their favorite owner/driver is disgusting.

Also funny is all the talk in this thread about "points racing" as if it were just so easy and the CHase racers were "only points racing" and that's why they are in. Well, if that's the case, then it should be pretty easy for some other drivers to come up and beat them, right? Puh-leaze. If you think guys didn't points-race during a full season, you are nuts. To me the eptiome of points racing is when you are in 2nd and you think "I better just hang onto second and take the points rather than risk going for 1st and ending up 20th in a crash." Guess what - that happens in a 36-race season as much as a 26-race season, and if you don't believe it, just listen to Rusty Wallace or Daryl Waltrip talk about the seasons when they lost the title and how they made adjustments the next year to finally clinch it -- it was "points racing", as if trying to get the best finish is somehow a bad thing.

I feel so sorry for so many of the NASCAR fans who post here. They seem trapped as fans of a sport they hate. In other words, they love NASCAR so much that they can find almost nothing right with it. Very, very sad.

Anonymous said...

How about this for a Chase Only incentive?

The 12 Chasers get points based on their finshes-no change there>

BUT, chasers win NO MONEY for the chase races.
ALL the prize money goes to non-chase finishers, with a super-prize fund to a non chaser if he wins a race.
Now THAT will reduce the "please and thank you" polite passing etc that goes on now.
Want good racing?
Give teams an incentive

glenc1 said...

I think a lot of this comes down to what kind of fan you are. I am a race fan first...whether 'my' driver is in it or not, I still follow the racing pretty closely because it interests me (that is, if TV or radio can in any way portray that). Other fans who are listening to only their driver on the scanner and turn it off if they wreck or blow up...they're just a different kind of fan. Not a 'bad' fan, mind you, just different. It's all well & good to say that to get mentioned teams need to win, but even if you're 100% right to believe it, that doesn't keep that element of driver fans (who comprise a large group, I think) interested. And in the end, that's what a business wants to do, keep its customers. If Brian doesn't care about that...well, that's pretty sad. I hated the Chase to start with, but I've learned to tolerate it. To be honest, I enjoy the last few races *before* the Chase starts the best. As for points racing, that's been going on for years. I would simply award more points for wins, and no points if you finish below a certain point (that would eliminate the wounded cars running laps.) And it would curtail the 'haves' who have 100 crew members and endless extra parts to fix the cars. But in any case, I haven't seen much leadership ability out of Brian.

I still don't believe start times will affect ratings a lot (maybe a little.) If my team is on at 1pm or 4, I'm still going to be watching both.

Anonymous said...

anon 3:13am, may I point out that the same Rick Hendrick, who started out with nothing as you say, plead guilty to more than one felony charge, one having to do with mail fraud and others with bribery of Honda officials. He got lucky and was pardoned by President Clinton.

Hendrick, 51, was fined $250,000 and sentenced in December 1997 to 12 months' home confinement and three years' probation in connection with an ongoing government investigation into a bribery scandal at American Honda Co. He also was ordered not to have anything to do with his auto dealerships or NASCAR racing operations during the home detention.

Richard in N.C. said...

glenc1 - good thoughts. I think they should also increase the number of points for ending in the top 5.

I still think there is a big question of whether the broadcasts are really capturing the excitement on the track.

Also I don't think Brian F. always gets completely fair coverage. More and more I sense there are old veterans in the press corps who harbor a grudge against his father ( who scared the bejesus out of them) and they are getting their revenge on Brian and the NASCAR of today.

Bill Safire died last weekend and he coined the perfect term for today's NASCAR press corps - nattering nabobs of negativism.

Harry said...

IMHO, the biggest problem in NASCAR racing today is the "black box" that is NASCAR's corporate ownership. They explain nothing, they counter no accusations, it's like trying to get an answer about why things are done the way they are done out of a health insurance company. I wish the drivers and/or owners would form a union(s) ... I imagine things would be much more evolutionary if that were to happen.

Richard in N.C. said...

I believe a big part of the mystery of NASCAR is because a big part of the media can't figure out the right questions to ask or don't care what the answers are. A couple of months ago in the heat of the Mayfield saga Brian France met with the press for about an hour (Daytona I believe) and apparently no one in the media asked any real probing questions about the drug policy , how it was developed, and who was involved. The following week the press was back at it complaining about the NASCAR drug testing policy - despite having whiffed on their opportunity to ask Brian F to explain it in detail. In many cases the press does not want to clutter up their NASCAR bashing with actually having facts.