By admin | May 21, 2013
By Richard Allen
Bruton Smith is up to his old tricks. Once again, he is threatening to move a race away from its long standing location to another track. Most likely, this is yet another attempt by the chairman of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. to gain attention and have a zoning law changed or some sort of tax break or subsidy sent his way.
On Monday, Smith said that there is a 70% chance that the fall race held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway will be moved to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. SMI owns both of those tracks but such a move would require the permission of NASCAR.
We’ve seen this performance more times than most Americans have watched ‘Forrest Gump’.Â In 2012, there was an attempt to get the state of Tennessee to provide funding for a fix of the track surface at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Heck, one time Smith even threatened to move the entire Charlotte Motor Speedway facility to Rock Hill, SC if the city of Concord, NC would not allow him to build the then proposed zMax Dragway.
Trouble is, he seems to often get his way. But there may finally come a time when his gamesmanship doesn’t work. But the truth, he shouldn’t need it at all.
My advice to Bruton Smith and other leaders in NASCAR is to just shut up and fix the sport if they want better revenues. The seats are not empty at race tracks and television ratings down because of all star formats, lack of race dates in Las Vegas or the relative lack of success of “stars” such as Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Danica Patrick.
Seats are empty because the races are not intriguing enough to cause people to plunk down the money and dedicate the time to come and see them. But as usual, instead of trying to create better racing on the track, NASCAR and the networks have their water carriers out on social media and television shows distracting everyone with discussions of better formats for a gimmick race rather than doing something substantive.
If Bruton Smith and NASCAR want fans to fill those grandstands seats again, they need to think more of fans and less about TV networks and prima donna star drivers who fly in on private jets and stay in million-dollar motor coaches.
To do that, the first thing that needs to happen is the racing on the track needs to get better. This is something that has been addressed on this website many times. But just to briefly re-cap, there needs to be a loosening of the rules that restrict teams so much that everyone is driving virtually identical cars that run the same speed and rarely pass each other.
Also, the points accumulating mentality has to go. Drivers and teams spend too much time worrying about how many points they might lose if they take a risk that fails rather than the win they might gain if that risk pays off.
But along with those on-track adjustments, there must be a change in the arrogant mindset of track owners. In a time of economic crisis such as we have experienced over the past few years, ticket prices have remained high at many tracks for the seats that are worth having.
Sure, there are discounts offered on lousy seats that are so low fans can’t see very much. Those “family packs” are offered so that the seats closest to the track are filled to give the appearance of a full house when viewed on television during the tight shots the networks use.
If Bruton Smith wants to move a race or if the most visible mediaÂ members want to discuss the Sprint All Star Race format, then go ahead. But in the end, neither of those things will solve the problem.
If the leaders of the sport want better revenues, they need to stop talking and start addressing real issues. But fans, don’t hold your breath on that.
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