By admin | November 11, 2009
By Richard Allen
In an impromptu interview of NASCAR Chairman Brian France conducted by reporter Dustin Long in Texas the NASCAR boss gave an assessment of the sport he runs and of the coverage of that sport by its media contingent.
According to France, the sport is suffering because some of its major stars, namely Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Carl Edwards, are having bad seasons. And so, their fans are under the misguided perception that the racing is bad due to the winless seasons being experienced by their favorite drivers.
So, letâ€™s be clear. Races being run with virtually no passing has nothing to do with fans losing interest. Races decided by pit stops rather than racing on the track is immaterial. Cars that look exactly alike no matter what brand they are is a non-factor. NASCAR removing all possibility of ingenuity and instead becoming a racing parts distributor is a non-issue. Corporate clone drivers with little if any personality is inconsequential. Inconsistent and unpredictable handling of rules and rule violations does not matter.
Franceâ€™s views show once more how out of touch the leadership of the sport has become. He, the supposed head of the sport, admitted that he had not seen the much discussed broadcast of the Talladega race. How could the leader of a sport not go back and watch a broadcast that was so controversial? For that matter, how could the leader of the sport not be in attendance at virtually every event AND go back and watch the broadcast?
I watch every race and itâ€™s not my job to guide the sport.
Would the commissioner of the NFL not go back and look into such an event in his sport? He almost certainly would.
NASCAR writers are very often accused of taking the easy way by writing stories about Junior rather than digging deeper and finding a real news story. In this case, it appears as though the NASCAR Chairman has opted for the same strategy.
Franceâ€™s laying at least some of the blame at the feet of the sportâ€™s most popular driver has one obvious flaw. What does he then say if Junior wins one of the last two races of the season or opens next year by winning the Daytona 500 and attendance remains low?
Aside from throwing Junior and Edwards under the bus, France reverted to the old NASCAR standbys of blaming the media and the economy for fan disinterest. Apparently, fans would not notice all of the issues mentioned above if television, radio and print media did not bring them up. And for whatever reason, the economy is forcing fans to turn their televisions off as well when they should be watching in higher numbers if they were still in love with the sport.
NASCAR and its leadership are like the little boy sticking his finger in the dam to plug a leak, except there are many leaks. Someday, if the sanctioning body does not start to address the issues that are causing fan apathy they are going to run all out of fingers.
NASCARâ€™s own decision making has led to the issues of the day. Of course, the economy has played some role and the fact that the sportâ€™s most popular drivers are not winning probably does contribute to the fan apathy. But, the real issues are the ones NASCAR itself has brought on. It is up to them to realize and then address those issues.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
Here is a link to the transcript of the Long/France conversation:
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