Tuesday, February 13, 2007

David Poole's 'state of the sport'

On "The Morning Drive," the Sirius Satellite NASCAR Radio show he co-hosts, David Poole played the role of NASCAR chairman Brian France and gave the following speech as what he would say in the "state of the sport" speech that France will give this afternoon in Daytona:

Good afternoon and thanks for coming.
Today I want put aside the normal platitudes and doublespeak you might expect and speak honestly. Our sport faces too many critical issues for today. We are at a cross roads, and beginning today we will chart a new and, I believe, proper path that will buttress our foundation and allow us once again to start growing a sport that, today, faces a number of crises.
We face, for starters, a crisis of integrity.
For too long, we’ve asked our fans to swallow inconsistent officiating and capricious enforcement of rules that seem to shift like sand on the beach where cars once raced under my grandfather’s aegis.
We’ve treated cheating like a family might treat weird Uncle Fred – pretending like everything’s OK because nobody’s really getting hurt. That’s not how a professional sport should be run.
If we are to have any integrity at all, we have to establish a system of rules that can be followed by teams who are eager for a chance to compete fairly and evenly. We have to enforce those rules fairly and without regard to the economic impact of sanctions or other actions on our part.
Every team, no matter how many T-shirts its driver sells, must be treated the same way. It’s hard for us to do that when we have people in our tower on race day who’re also involved with the marketing of our sport. Even if they intend to be fair in every instance, they’re human beings. They can’t help but be influenced by what their actions might mean in the marketplace, not when our company has made that the over-riding priority in how they’re judged in terms of how well they do their jobs.
We’re taking those people out of that impossible situation. Beginning today, we will spend whatever money we have to recruit and hire independent officials with experience at race tracks all across this country to come in and join our officials in forming an independent agency to officiate our races. NASCAR will pay this agency a lump sum each year to pay salaries and expenses and keep these officials trained. This agency will write our rulebook and enforce it and NASCAR will have no influence on that process.
We will, however, insist that beginning with the 2008 Daytona 500 any team caught with a major rules violation before qualifying will be denied the right to race in that week’s event. Any team found to have committed a major rules violation in postrace inspection will lose all points and money earned in that event and will be prohibited from entering the next event on the schedule. This rule will apply evenly, to all teams.
Earlier today, I ordered the creation of a traveling medical team that will attend all of our events and co-ordinate care center operations with local personnel retained by each track. We actually will have two teams, with each team alternating at a given track for a given race. While one team is at a track, the other team will be at the next venue coordinating with local personnel and conducting extensive safety and medical meetings with the people they will be working with when our competitors arrive.
Our sport also faces a crisis in competition.
Let’s be honest with one another. Side-by-side racing has largely become a cherished memory in our sport. We have to get that back. So I have ordered our competition department to call a meeting in Charlotte at which every team member interested in attending can sit down and hear the following message. Beginning in the 2008 season, we will run 10 to 15 percent slower at every track where our cars compete in Nextel Cup, Busch and Truck series events. On July 1 of this year, we will have another meeting at which our teams will present to us their plan for slowing the cars down. If the teams are unable to agree on such a plan by that date, we will formulate our own plan and deliver it to the teams by Oct. 1. But hear this and hear it now, we will go slower in 2008. We can do it the way the teams want us to, or we’ll do it the way we decide to do. But we will do it.
We also have a crisis of emphasis on our hands.
For too long, we’ve been obsessed with television ratings and the image that our sport has with people who don’t even care about it. We’ve tried to cater to people who don’t care about us long enough. That stops, today.
We will no longer, as a company, talk about the championship 365 days a year. We will still crown champions in our top series each year. But the champions will receive trophies and checks for $1 million in Nextel Cup and $500,000 each in the Busch and Truck Series. Money now earmarked for points funds will be redistributed as part of a new formula for determining purses. Television money will also be reallocated in this formula in such a way that performance on the track each week determines how much money a race team and its drivers win.
The minimum purse for every Nextel Cup race, beginning in 2008, will be $7.5 million. No Nextel Cup race winner will be paid less than $1 million for winning any Cup race. The winner of the Daytona 500 next year will earn $5 million, and several other major events on our schedule will pay $2.5 million for first place. There are no more car owner plans or winner circle plans that subsidize the haves at the expense of the have nots. You want to make money in racing?
Race for it.
We face a crisis today, as well, in diversity. Our sport does not look like America, and we know that. We’ve known it for years, and so far we’ve made only pitiably token efforts to change that. Again, that stops today. Beginning in 2008, 5 percent of every purse will be designated to go to fund a program that provides opportunities and, most importantly, a clear pathway of progress for people of color and female drivers to be supported as they move steadily toward competing at the sport’s top levels. We hope our current fans will embrace these efforts, but we say here and now to those who don’t that we will sorely miss them but that we will go on without them.
And finally, but most importantly, we face the crisis of losing the most valuable asset we’ve ever had – our connection to our fans. We’ve stopped thinking about them. We talk about them a lot, but we don’t do much for them – not for the people who support us.
Increasingly, we’ve taken the access to our competitors that once served as our greatest attribute and turned it into a revenue stream. You want to meet a driver or even see one up close? Come on down to the Fan Zone, but it’s gonna cost you an extra $75 bucks. No more. We can’t "upsell" what our fans are entitled to, but at the same time we can’t simply throw open the gates to all fans while our competitors are trying to work.
So, beginning Thursday when Daytona International Speedway opens for the Gatorade Duels, no track will be allowed to sell garage passes. Only people who are working in our garage will have access to this area during times the track is hot. But, beginning one hour after the end of every qualifying session, each track will be allowed to sell for $10 per ticket a pass that entitles any fan access to a two-hour autograph session in the garage. All proceeds from the sale of these tickets will go to create a disability fund to benefit former NASCAR competitors who need financial assistance because of sickness or other hardship. Every driver entered in each week’s race will be required to remain in the garage for this autograph session. This will be the only time during a race weekend when a driver is allowed to sign autographs.
We have a great sport, and it has grown to a point where there is plenty of money to go around. We just need to stop trying to see how much money there could possibly be to make and start trying to see what would make our sport better. That’s how we got as far as we have today, and there’s no reason to go backward any further than we’ve already let things slip.
Today is a new day in NASCAR. I am happy you where here to see this new day come.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just heard you reading this on channel 128 Sirius.........

At first, I thought it was for real!

You are the man David

Will White said...

Dave, you have made some excellent points about the state of NASCAR today. I am grateful for your bringing these issues to light.

NASCAR definitely needs to face the reality that races are becoming too expensive, especially since NASCAR more than any other sport has always had blue-collar appeal.

Our great sport needs leadership that will enforce rules properly and consistently. The rules must be laid down in black and white terms, and clearly and emphatically enforced. Above all else, we should protect the integrity of the races.

But your most important point was NASCAR's lost connection to its loyal fans. NASCAR has implemented a playoff format that the large majority of fans dislike, and there is a growing annoyance among loyal fans with regard to volume of commercials during green flag racing.

What has aggravated the problem is NASCAR's continued indifference to fans' complaints. Such indifference reeks of arrogance and is a terrible way to run a sport.

Hopefully NASCAR will put leadership in place that recognizes the greatness of our sport. Thank you Mr. Poole, and all the best to NASCAR fans everywhere!

Terri said...

If only!

Anonymous said...

Any team caught cheating shouldn't be allowed to participate in any activities including racing that week. I agree with what Mr. Poole said in his column as it relates to punishment.

Anonymous said...

My driver may not make the 500, and yet those caught cheating are more than welcome. He qualified more than high enough to make the race. What kind of message does it send to these teams that played by the rules and yet still get sent home because Bill France may miss out on a chance to make a couple dollars off the cheaters.

Sports have rules, they have a fair playing field, it is a must to be a sport. The WWF is entertainment, so which does nascar want to be? The WWF of motorsports or the NFL?
If they don't make that choice soon the fans will....

Doug said...

Excellent ideas all around. Pair that with your common-sense points system and NASCAR would return to being a fan-friendly, competition-oriented affair. Brian France has steered the entire sport towards WWE-proportions of marketing-focused absurdity.

Instead of focus groups and empty, politically-correct gestures towards diversity, NASCAR's brass should be figuring out why the quality of RACING has dwindled while the cost for fans to participate has skyrocketed.

okla21fan said...

Great theory, but there is one flaw.

This would require the governing body to actually make the rule book public and set clear definitons distinquishing 'major' and 'minor' violations.

Do that as well, and the sport will continue to thrive without the gunman on the grassy knole conspiracies.

Wendell Scott said...

Dave read your article on cheating - well as the saying goes if you ain't cheatin' you ain't tryin'. I find it strange that you are so fired up about something that has been taking place for years. Does it make it right nope but it does happen. Whether it be adding additional tubing to a fuel line in order to hold an additional gallon of gas (a practice common back in the early days of racing), or adding a bag of Nitrus to the intake system (ala Darryl Waltrip qualifying for Daytona). I do agree that NASCAR needs to take a stronger stance but they won't because of the $$s involved. Also, if NASCAR would once and for all establish what the rules are and the penalties for infractions of these rules then the racing world would take them more seriously. The continuous making it up as they go is why so many people like myself look at NASCAR with a whatever expression when they talk about getting tougher on those found in violation of the rules.
Do I blame teams for cheatin' nope especially now with the top 35 teams being locked into the race - something I definitely don't agree with especially for the Daytona 500. You gotta take a chance when you have multi-million dollar sponsors out there wanting to see a good return on their investment. Way to get fired up Dave but call me when the powers that be get the same fire in their belly. Now back to the speed channel.

Anonymous said...

Love to know if Brian France saw. We should all email Nascar a copy. I'm disturbed they don't known they need to get past the $$ and deal with some issues. Good job, David.

Anonymous said...

David, I enjoyed listening this morning, and it was great to read it again.

There is no doubt the fans have been forgotten, and not just charging to enter Fan Zone. But what about later starting times on the east coast, that will cause families to either arrive home extremely late at night, or pay to stay another night in an over-priced hotel.

This is definitely not the sport I grew to love, or the sport Bill France Sr. created, but one that corporate America has become a part of.

The almighty dollar has taken over the judgement of those in charge in Daytona Beach. I just hope its not too late to fix it.

I'd vote you in as CEO in a hearbeat! Is that possible?

Excellent job David. Thanks for a reality check.

Shirley

Jo said...

Oh, David, if only...

Anonymous said...

David,
You will be condemned as a heretic. Welcome to the club!

Anonymous said...

Well written, David. I agree with pretty much everything you've said.

Now the only thing that was missing is moving the Southern 500 back to Darlington on Labor Day where it belongs.

Anonymous said...

What NASCAR really needs is some competition. Not within NASCAR, but outside competition in the form of another stock car series. Maybe THEN they'd listen to their fans. I propose Ford and GM and a few owners take the actual production V8 RWD models they offer (and maybe even Dodge), take the glass out, roll-cage them, build the snot out of the engines and RACE! It would have to start small, but they should do it soon and together. I know Nascar has a virtual monopoly on the tracks through ISC but there's still a handfull (you know, the ones sueing Nascar?) they could use. Start small, elect a board for rules and race alot of Saturday night races so as not to interfere with the "big boys". With the way Toyota is upping the ante money-wise and the current lack of it by the other makes - this makes sense. GM and Ford each spend a rumored 140 million dollars a year, and for what? It's certainly not helping to sell those specific models. Pull out, start your own - and KEEP IT AMERICAN.

Anonymous said...

I read your commentary and agree with a lot of the points. Selective enforcement of the rules is not new, however. If someone or someones car is found to be outside the rules during qualifying, yeah they should have a chance to fix it but they start at the back. If they break the rules during the race they should go home without $$, points, etc. at the least. Maybe even be put on probation or suspended. If suspended no points can be earned at all. Oh, and throw some fines in there too. Do this enough, stick to your guns, it'll hit em where it really hurts and it will stop or they'll get real good.

Steve said...

Its a good thing David is only a journalist. If he were the prez of NASCAR, it would be like IROC, boring and sponsorless!! Stick to writing and leave the leadership to those who succeed. Definitely a humorous article!

Paul said...

I AGREE!!! You are dead on! I was a little tired this morning on the way to work and heard your state of the sport. I was glad to find your blog so I could link to it from my NASCAR blog.

Paul

Anonymous said...

Amen.

bf said...

just you try and get in the gate now mr poole...brian france

rer3 said...

David, I am almost 51 and have been following NASCAR since I was knee high to a radiator. I have given up my tickets to Daytona because of several things. From the price of parking to the price of souvenirs. The lone remaining American sport has been sold out for $$$ to line Brian France's pockets. NASCAR is in the "Perfect Storm". TV ratings down, track tickets sales down and Ford, Chevy and Dodge sales way down and now comes Toyota. Add in the most inconsistent penalties in any sport. I am sick of "if you ain't cheating your not trying." Why not stay legal and beat you competitors straight up.
NASCAR has ignored me, the race fan who attended these races when NASCAR was ignored by the prima donna sports writers and most of America. Fans at my age have more money to spend than fans in their 20's and 30's yet each race has some "punk rocker" who takes up time better spent on getting the latest news from the garage. Well I have had enough. Give me the NHRA. No provisionals and real side by side racing.

Anonymous said...

OK, Im rolling around on the floor laughing. How nice it would be if Brian said all that, but I dont think he would even think it, even if he were drunk.

Canadian Curmudgeon said...

I heard this on your morning drive show and read it again here just to make sure I got all the points...I have to agree with your views..The part about marketing people in th tower quite frankly left me stunned and questioning nascar's intregrity...Excellent article

Anonymous said...

How about the god damn debris cautions? Can they go too?

Anonymous said...

Brilliant

Anonymous said...

Fantastic list of things Na$car should do. As we all know, this list makes too much sense for Na$car to implement.

The only thing Dave forgot was bringing the Southern 500 back to Darlington.

wrongheaded said...

Dave, you are right on the money. Let's make this a fair sport for everyone involved. Lets not stop at the major violations, they need to redo the qualifying too (its too complicated and favors some teams over others). Make it fair, you get your run and line up according to who's fastest. None of the other BS and crap. UFC Odds

Andy said...

David,
You can't tell me that on any given day, on any given car you can't find some violation significant enough to justify a discussion about applying a penalty of some kind. Otherwise your asking me to swallow the fact that, except for Kahne, Kenseth, Waltrip, et.al. the other cars are in perfect alignment with the "Book". Come on! I'll wait until Earnhart, Stewart or Gordon have their butts parked and then I 'might' believe France is trying to "apply the rules to everyone" Actually, the only way I'll believe any of the 'drive by the rules' stuff is if NASCAR hires an independent car auditor with no connection to anyone who will apply rules without any financial loss to the company. In the meantime, like many NASCAR fans, I will keep "slip, slidin' away" to make more room for the affluent folks as the cost for racing fans gets greater.

Dave said...

Slow the cars down??? This goes against the purpose of racing.

NASCAR doesn't need Affirmative Action, either.

Also, Let's quit calling it Stock Car racing. The cars now have no relationship to the cars sold at the dealership, so take the Make/Model off of them.

Monkeesfan said...

Some good ideas there, David.

My own take.

Monkeesfan said...

dave, comment #28 - the purpose of racing is to get to the checkered flag first - why is it necessary for these cars to be faster than 160 at a place like Charlotte?

Anonymous said...

David, great post and great points. Nascar has lost a lot of old time fans with the way they run the sport these days. They're trying too hard to race in Mexico to worry about the folks back here in North Carolina that made this sport great. Also, one thing you left out: When are drivers going to give straight answers? They're more scripted than politicians. You ask a driver how the car is running and you get a Award Acceptance speach in return. When are we going to get some drivers that give it to you straight? Now, I just turn down the sound or turn the channel. I know who your sponsors are, I see them on your driving suit, I see them on your car and I see them when you purposefully turn your drink to make sure that the label is facing the TV camera while you drink it.

Anonymous said...

Mr Poole,
Why can't you get this message across for we the fans? or in my caase former fan, this week at 'TONA has made me cancel everything I had planned to attend this year having to do with Nascar.
I can't see doing they they did to Matt & Kasey and the rest and doing nothing to Jeff Gordon, but sending him to the end of the line, let him keep his win, let him keep his crew C. and points that did it for me.
I thought they were setting an example this week, they did on just exactly whey they are the joke they have become.
Thank you for having the backbone to stand up and say what no one else will say.
Its a sad day for my entire family we will not be taking any part in nascar this year or any in the near future.
I wish France could see what he has done to SO many people. By his favortism for Hendrink, Jr, and Stewart. I like JR and Tony but I can't abide their being aloud to get by with things no one else can. Matt Kenseth would still be sitting at home if he had ran Stewart up the wall at "tona then bragged about it. He would also have been stripped of his win and at home if his car had been 1 inch lower than it should have been. I can't take this anymore. One more fan gone.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Poole, If someone who thinks like you were to become part of the sanctioning body of NASCAR, racing might stand a chance. What France and company seems too dense to realize is that all the gimmicks in the world are not going to make up for all the fans they are driving away with NASCAR's dying credibility.

There is a lot of talk about what is wrong with the sport, but the main thing that needs fixing is the obvious manipulation of rules/punishments/caution flags/ etc. in order to create artificial results. NASCAR must think the fans are stupid not to notice what is going on.

The current "cheating" debacle is only the latest in a long string of injustices. Kenseth and Kahne get docked points before the season even starts for a minor qualifying infraction which would have given a questionable aero advantage at best. Yet Jeff Gordon is given the benefit of the doubt with a rear panel an inch too low during a race, with which he gained a probable advantage of 1.5 to 2 mph. They determine the 24 teams' infraction to be unintentional when they just gone done saying that "intention" is not a factor. No points taken! It's almost as if NASCAR is trying to hold certain drivers back, while giving their favorites a leg up on the competition in any way they can.

Take last year's 500 when Stewart was allowed to slam Kenseth off the track after blabbing all week long about rough driving! Again, slap on the wrist. As someone else here noted, does anyone think Kenseth would have gotten off so easy?

Punishments are handed out according to who you are. Fans are noticing, and they are getting fed up. Many have stopped watching NASCAR for the same reason they don't watch WWE, because it's not "real". It has become about putting on a show rather than genuine competition. Unless your driver is one of the chosen few, he doesn't stand a chance to ever reach his full potential because the playing field is not level.

Thank you for an excellent column and I hope that somehow it is seen by someone with the power to make a difference. Please continue to tell it like it is, you are a breath of fresh air and one of the very few motor sports writers (unlike most of the media lap dogs) who are not intimidated by NASCAR.