Now that there’s been time to let last week’s NASCAR Nextel Media Tour hosted by Lowe’s Motor Speedway digest a little bit, a few things are apparent:
This business of partnerships – with the Fenway Sports Group buying into Roush Racing and Ray Evernham saying that he’d like to have a financial partner, too – has to change the sport down the road. You’ve also got Red Bull, a sponsor, owning a two-car Toyota team. The lines are just going to keep getting muddier and muddier, I believe. I don’t know if that’s bad or good, yet. I guess we’ll just have to see.
As is the case with any story in today’s media, it is easy to lapse into overkill. You sort of wind up covering the coverage sometimes, and that’s a bad trap to fall into. But if Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson were in a similar contract position, that’d be big news, too.
The fact that the entire extended Earnhardt family seems to be forced into choosing sides on this deal makes it a story that’s hard to walk away from. And as much as hard-core fans, the people who like to discuss NASCAR every day, hate to hear it, it’s the kind of story that less ardent race fans latch onto and sometimes want to hear more about.
Don’t forget, too, that media competes as much as anybody. If there’s anything remotely new to this or any other big story, everybody wants it first. That turns up the wick, too.
Tuesday night was the Dale Earnhardt Inc. dinner on the media tour. Earlier that day, news of Martin Truex Jr. getting in trouble with the beach patrol in Daytona for urinating on an SUV tire came out and someone asked a question about it at the dinner.
The question was asked in a way that created an awkward situation, and Earnhardt Jr. stepped into that by saying Truex “is in big trouble.” That got a laugh and broke the tension. “I would never do something stupid like that,” Earnhardt Jr. said, grinning at Truex.
It was a little thing, but what Earnhardt Jr. did there was get Truex off the hook. The topic was then dealt with and the discussion moved on. Put in the same situation, Earnhardt Jr.’s father would likely have done the exact same thing.
Every team, every sponsor and every race track should follow that lead, and any media member who complains about not getting a free hat or notepad should be placed on the “rejected” list when it comes time to apply to participate in next year’s tour or for access to tracks this year.
The American auto industry is in Roush’s bloodstream. He’s a car guy, a Ford guy, and has been for so long that it’s part of who he is.
The company he’s worked with for most of his adult life is going through some rough times, and those hard times have hit Livonia, Mich., the town Roush calls home, as hard as they probably have anywhere. It doesn’t make Roush any happier when people tell him how many cars Toyota builds in the United States or how many people it employs, because in his mind every dollar Toyota makes here is a dollar Ford could be making.
I am not saying that I agree with Roush about how feels about what Toyota may or may not do in NASCAR. I don’t think Roush isn’t willing to compete for whatever share of success there might be for him or anybody else in racing. I just think he wants it to be a fair competition and he’s willing to say that out loud.