The Island of Brian France" can be read by clicking on the title. Please take note of the reader comments as well.
At that time, France had been poorly advised in terms of talking directly to the media. He strongly assured the media and public multiple times that sexual harassment allegations made by former NASCAR employee Mauricia Grant were completely false. They were not.
France also reinforced the validity of NASCAR's "reasonable suspicion" drug policy. In a subsequent story by ESPN, former Camping World Truck Series driver Aaron Fike admitted to heroin use on race days. A short time later, NASCAR's entire approach to controlled substances, medication and testing was radically changed.
These days France is surrounded not by public relations or media professionals, but by marketing men. The shift in philosophy away from feeding the media and toward controlling it is company-wide. Marketing folks pick the agenda, control the answers and never get "off message."
Update: On July 7 in the DIS Infield Media Center, France spoke to the press corps. He said he was encouraged by the first half of the season and that the sport would never stoop to gimmicks to spice up the racing. He had no updates on a new TV contract or solutions for TV commercial issues. New technology in development included the 2013 Cup cars and "glass dashboards" for use in the future.
What France had not done was watch the Sprint Cup Series race from Kentucky Speedway on TNT. What he did not see is what his premier product has become on television. He did not see one-third of the racing covered by commercial breaks. He did not have the pleasure of watching Junior and Pop Pop wrestle over Kentucky Fried Chicken side dishes for three solid hours.
This is the island of Brian France. Informed on agendas that serve him, but seemingly oblivious to the real fan issues of the sport. In November of 2010, France was asked in another media session what he would say to fans who do not like his Chase for the Championship points system. "You met somebody who’s telling you that?" was his response to the reporter.
Last year the teams not in the Chase were excluded from ESPN's TV coverage. Unless leading the race, the non-Chasers were sentenced to ten races without TV exposure. Once again the vast majority of the field suddenly became field fillers. Regardless of the actual story of the race, the Chase coverage has skewed the final ten races into a hybrid television presentation that serves no one.
The Chase was created by France to counteract the NFL season. It was intended to draw fans away from regional NFL games because of its play-off nature. Instead, it gave fans of drivers not in the Chase a reason to watch football. How to solve the problem of making TV cover the actual races and simply update the Chase has been an issue France has continually avoided. The annual Chase hype begins with ESPN's Brickyard 400 coverage in less than two weeks.
Social media has been embraced by NASCAR and promoted as a wonderful information platform for fans. Now, real time text service Twitter has become both a blessing and a curse. Rich with information directly from NASCAR sources use of Twitter during live Sprint Cup Series races by fans has boomed.
The curse has come from allowing fans to see just how much race information and on-track action is actually being missed by television. Instead of being a location for fans to simply congregate, Twitter has become a digital complaint board about the sport's television woes. This is a key issue for the sport.
France faces the creation of a new NASCAR TV contract this year. This time, NASCAR owns the digital rights to all of its own product. The question is whether France is negotiating for a new package that includes NASCAR streaming races to laptops, tablets and smart phones. The lack of easily available online content has been one of the most significant NASCAR issues of the last decade.
The last media availability of the NASCAR chairman in January was quite structured. The issues he never addressed were significant. He covered fuel injection, the wild cards in the Chase and suggested the sport had momentum. Those were the highlights. Here is the reality.
Any human being who tried to watch the Kentucky Speedway race on TNT knows what the sport has is trouble. Any fan who followed NASCAR's advice and got on Twitter can see the problems. What the sport needs is fixing. If ESPN walks in with full-screen commercials, endless Chase hype and focuses on twelve teams only, the result is not going to be pretty when the NFL season starts.
We invite your comments on this topic. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.