By admin | May 7, 2012
By Richard Allen
Whether it is intended or not, the message a number of NASCAR elites seem to be sending to their fans of late is that they should be ashamed for not enjoying the product they are being given. And further, raising any sort of questions or concerns about parade racing, debris cautions or a lack of drama equates one to a blood thirsty savage of some sort who will never be pleased until carnage abounds.
To be clear, when I say ‘elites’ I am referring to NASCAR officials, drivers, track owners and certain other high ranking personal entrenched within the sport.
To many of the people listed in the positions above, racing fans’ cries for more excitement, more drama and more intensity equates to only one thing- wrecks. No matter what concern is raised, immediate chastisement will ensue with claims that fans want crashes and destruction. It’s as if those at the top levels of the sport have a filtered hearing device that only allows them to hear the word ‘wrecks’ no matter what fans may clamor for.
This past Sunday’s race in Talladega provided and excellent example.
After that race, driver Martin Truex, Jr. went to Twitter and stated, “I guess the fans got the cautions they wanted today. Goodnight.”
But the clear leader of sarcasm in post-race commentary was Tony Stewart. “I’m upset that we didn’t crash more cars,” the defending Sprint Cup champion remarked. “I feel like that is what we are here for. I feel bad if I don’t spend at least $150,000 in torn-up race cars going back to the shop. We definitely have to do a better job with that.”
And he went on to add, “Like I said, if we don’t crash half of the field by the end of the race, they really need to extend it because that’s what the fans want. They want to see that excitement. I feel bad that as drivers we couldn’t do a better job of crashing enough cars for them today.”
Stewart’s comments may have been more of a backhanded jab at NASCAR’s often reactionary policies than the spectators, but clearly, the word excitement and wrecks were used interchangeably and the fans were most prominently mentioned by the driver.
Many fans and media are laughing off Stewart’s comments and calling him a master of wit and sarcasm. However, if one of the Busch brothers had said the same things in the same tone of voice, there would be an uproar. The fact that many like Stewart bought him a free pass to chastise fans for daring to complain about the lackluster racing that has been dished out to them this year.
But it isn’t just drivers who dish out verbal barbs to any who would dare to question the product being offered. NASCAR officials are also known to get in on the act of trying to pick a fight with those who they most rely on.
As reported by Jeff Gluck of SBNation.com, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton delivered some strong words for those who would question debris cautions. “Sometimes, some people are a little more needy than others and they want to see that(debris) for whatever reason,” he said. “And whatever their thought process and beliefs with the governing body, they think they need proof.
“Sometimes you see (the debris) and sometimes you don’t, and that’s based on TV coverage, basically.”
Are the people at the top of this sport even aware that they cannot exist without fans? And more importantly, are they aware that criticizing and name calling are not very good strategies for gaining and maintaining a fan base?
The NFL has not blamed issues currently being dealt with regarding the New Orleans Saints on blood thirsty fans “who are obsessed with hard hits and injuries”. That league seems to be aware that insulting fans is not good for business.
NASCAR’s most visible representatives need to learn that lesson because their current strategy of attempting to shame fans into liking the current product does not seem to be working. And there are lowered television ratings and grandstands once filled but now covered by tarps to prove that.
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