Saturday, October 18, 2008

Helping doesn't always have to be about marketing

How could NASCAR set up a driver development program that would work?

Easily, provided the people who run stock-car racing get over two major phobias.

The first hurdle is the willingness to spend its own money. NASCAR likes to cash checks, not write them. But to do driver development the right way, that won’t work.

The second fear is about having NASCAR itself pick out and support some drivers whereas others are told they have to make it on their own. There are legitimate concerns there, and any program operated and supported in a real way by NASCAR will have to be run properly. But before we start worrying about how to make such a program fair, we first have to overcome the resistance to having one in the first place.

I would take what’s now known as the Drive for Diversity program and expand it greatly.

Every January, drivers from around the country would apply for spots in the developmental program. The same kind of people who now pick candidates for the D4D program would select 50 candidates from these applications. All drivers, not just women and minorities, could apply, but at least some of the 50 candidates would represent all facets of the applicant pool in terms of race and gender.

Those 50 drivers would be brought to Irwindale Speedway in California in January for a two-week evaluation session in the weeks leading up to the annual Toyota Showdown at that track. The candidates would drive individually and in groups, in qualifying and racing scenarios, so their talents could be evaluated as fully as possible.

From that group of 50, the top-30 candidates would be selected to participate in the upcoming season. They would be teamed with current or future team owners who agree to participate in the new program, with each getting the same amount from NASCAR to support the team for a season of competition.

The selected drivers would be divided into three groups of 10. One group would run tracks primarily in the Southeastern United States at tracks like Hickory and Concord that have long supported NASCAR-sanctioned racing at the grassroots level. Another group would focus on tracks in the Northeast and Ohio Valley. The third group would race in the western portion of the country.

The groups would travel to several tracks within their own area and compete against the drivers who race at those tracks each weekend. This would give short tracks events where drivers who’re identified as potential future stars could be marketed, boosting the short-track industry.

At various times throughout the season, all 30 drivers would come together to compete in a race that would be paired with a Sprint Cup race at a nearby track. During Charlotte’s May race week, they would compete at Concord. During Daytona’s July race week, they’d be a Volusia County. They could run at Oxford, Maine, along with a race at New Hampshire or back at Irwindale when the Cup guys are at California.

The season would conclude in September, the week after the 26th race of Sprint Cup season. This would be an open date on the Cup schedule and the season-ending race for the developmental series would be held on Sunday afternoon and broadcast as part of the NASCAR network television package as a showcase event.

The driver who scores the most points during the season – with all of the races where all 30 compete counting double – is the developmental series champion. What that driver wins is a two-year driving contract with a NASCAR Truck or Nationwide series team, with NASCAR guaranteeing that team with the financial backing it needs to compete.

The idea of NASCAR directly sponsoring drivers and teams might sound radical to some, but if done right the process of determining who gets that backing would be based on ability and performance on the track. Instead of hearing about things like marketability we’d be hearing about lap times and victory totals. It could be more about driving cars and less about driving products off the shelves.

And it could work.


Anonymous said...

"Too little, Too Late"

Nice thinking, David...

Unfortunately, your thoughts and words are probably not enough impetus to generate the kind of progressively forward thinking racing will require to overcome the many areas in which it remains socially and operationally retarded.

Sure your plan could work. Unfortunately, it is still easier to bury one's head in the sand, like an ostrich, and pretend problems, differences and inequities do not exist, and the sheer idea that they might will go away if it continues to be ignored.

NASCAR, in its desire to continue to have its own way, will die on its sword before it mainstreams.

Perhaps it should.....

Anonymous said...

you sound just like an average closet racist.

listen here, i just thought this great idea up.

instead of ONLY helping minorities including women we are gonna let a bunch of white males in and then we be sure to have the winners be white males.

that sounds like the people who say, let's cut out all busing. then them uppity negros can go to school close to home. and the good part is if their neighborhood school isn't up to standards they can move out to the 'burbs with us uppity white people.

so when they don't move because they can't afford to, you are covered.

see... not only do you cover your own ass, but when they fail to beat the white males who have consistant rides at home, you can sit back and brag how the best won.

but, it'll never happen because nascar will NEVER spend their own money.

while drivers will spend their own money through their foundations, nascar will always ask for a donation to their foundation before they will "give" help.

Monkeesfan said...

Here's a bettter idea -

Kick Winston Cup drivers out of BGN and Trucks and require young drivers to spend five uninterrupted seasons in either or both series before even attempting a Winston Cup race; on this same line require teams to run these young drivers for five uninterrupted years before entering them in a Winston Cup race - i.e. no more one-and-done seasons a la Joey Logano.

Anonymous said...

"Every January, drivers from around the country would apply for spots in the developmental program. The same kind of people who now pick candidates for the D4D program would select 50 candidates from these applications. All drivers, not just women and minorities, could apply, but at least some of the 50 candidates would represent all facets of the applicant pool in terms of race and gender."

This entire paragraph is about bleeding-heart liberals choosing minorities for a quota system in Nascar. Instead of the best out of all succeeding, you've got to have 'set-asides' for certain groups of people. Quotas, instead of excellence, has ruined The U.S.

Anonymous said...

All drivers, not just women and minorities, could apply, but at least some of the 50 candidates would represent all facets of the applicant pool in terms of race and gender."

This entire paragraph is about bleeding-heart liberals choosing minorities for a quota system in Nascar. Instead of the best out of all succeeding, you've got to have 'set-asides' for certain groups of people. Quotas, instead of excellence, has ruined The U.S.

Of course they did.

It's like that one the black guy runnin for president.

He was poor and I bet y'all somewhere along the way he was helped by them quotas.

It's a real bad deal when them blacks get free stuff cause they are black and that the only reason.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget a special group for roadcourse only!

Anonymous said...

Whoa! One guy's got it that this is a RACIST idea promoting white males only.
Another got it that it's setting QUOTAS to insure that unqualified blacks are included.
David, you must be on the right track. You're like Faux News - You've achieved BALANCE!
Here's the TRUTH about racing: NO ONE WILL MAKE IT ON ANYTHING OTHER THAN TALENT. That's the nature of the game. Only the best get to the top in this deal. There are no benchwarmers. If you can't cut it you're not there.
There have been some decent drivers come through the program already, women, hispanics, and blacks. None of them made the grade. Not because of gender, race or color, but because they DID NOT HAVE THE TALENT.
I can tell you the story of a young black man. I knew him, and tried to help him (as little as I could) from day one. He had every opportunity to win at the Late Model level. He had the money, the equipment, the people, everything. He did not go any further. WHY? Because he did not have the talent.
Nobody needs to worry about quotas. No driver will make it to the Sprint Cup on quota. Even if they get there, they won't stay there. There are plenty of good white drivers, who won races, who are no longer there because the competition passed them by. Where is Ward Burton? Where is Jeremy Mayfield? Where is Buckshot Jones? Where is Casey Atwood? They had every chance in the world. But they didn't have the talent to make it stick.

WhiteMalesOnlyNeedApply said...

There have been some decent drivers come through the program already, women, hispanics, and blacks. None of them made the grade. Not because of gender, race or color, but because they DID NOT HAVE THE TALENT.

I half agree with you.
In your perfect white world, only white males make it because only white males have talent. The rest just hang around with zero talent waiting to be uncovered as the non-white, non-male posers they are.

I tried, really I did. said...

I can tell you the story of a young black man.
I knew him, and tried to help him (as little as I could) from day one.
He had every opportunity to win at the Late Model level.
He had the money, the equipment, the people, everything. He did not go any further. WHY? Because he did not have the talent.

"He had the money, the equipment, the people, everything."

Oh sure. Another well timed analogy about some black guy you knew.

Why would a guy with
need YOU?

Funny story you made up there.

Did you get the point across about them black people and why they don't make it in lily white nascar?

Anonymous said...


GREAT article and definitely the 'right way' somthing like this would need to be done. But you summarized the problem early in your article:

"The first hurdle is the willingness to spend its own money. NASCAR likes to cash checks, not write them."

It's also about talent.

Add the unwillingness to spend money with the concept that it takes talent and there's your underlying issue.

My guess is that if, through the D4D program that NASCAR found someone that's talented enough to race competitively at the higher levels AND diverse enough for them to be able to spread their marketing agenda at the same time to market a more diverse field of drivers, then they'll do it.

After all, no business ever wants to spend it's own money unless it's pretty sure the return on investment will be positive. It's no different with NASCAR, who for them the ROI is more people watching and more people in the stands.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with most of have to have talent. Even if you don't have money, if you have talent, and lots of it, someone will help you along the way once you're discovered. Not just in racing but in anything.

Anonymous said...

Proportions. That's how you've got to do it.

These are illustrative numbers, not actual ones, but here's how it should work:

If 30% of the population was white men, then 30% of the drivers accepted into this program should be white men. 30% white women, 10% black men, 10% black women, 5% hispanic men, 5% hispanic women, 5% Asian men and 5% Asian women. Again...just for example.

Then, may the best PERSON win. Talent, as many have said, will be the great equalizer. I'm OK with giving some who might otherwise be disadvantaged a chance, but nobody is entitled to a thing.

Once the talent has sifted through the drivers, THEN you can line 'em up to vie for sponsorships.

Monkeesfan said...

Anonymous #7 - though you're right about quotas (and Diversity initiatives are invariably about quotas) talent long ago stopped being the sole criteria for success. You mention Ward Burton, Jeremy Mayfield, Buckshot Jones, and Casey Atwood - thye had the talent. Three of them were blackballed out of the sport, the other (Mayfield) was too much of a cancer in the garages of teams he worked for to continue.

Anonymous said...

Im soooo glad you brought this up here David! Everytime you start this on TMD something comes up and I can't "participate". Is this not a capitolist country? Just say Nascar spends $10 million on this program next year, would the owners be forced to hire one of these drivers? I know thats not what your suggesting, but it is a possibility in your program. Then what happens to the driver if he/she doesn't get picked up? Now he/she has spent a full year in this program and wasnt grabbed up. I don't think that looks too good for the driver. I don't have a problem with any race or gender competeing, but it should be up to the owners to decide who they hire. I think its a bad idea for nascar to "back" anyone. I don't think incentives are the way to get peoples attention, I think they should send out scouts just like other sports teams to local venues and let them do their own homework. But by and large the local dirt tracks around the south are mostly filled with white fans, owners, and drivers. There just isn't much interest from the black community it seems. Just my opinion.

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snapsels said...

Poole your an idiot IMHO!!! When high schools across the country start offering racing the same way they offer football and basketball then you will see the diversity YOU desire!!! By the way when and wherever that happens print it and I will move my family there. Untill that happens face it this sport is for the parents and the people that are willing to take the Bull by the horns and risk thier own personal future to see their dream live or fail. This is a rich mans sport deal with it. By the way how many highschools in the country teach jockeys??? just another sport you can try to pull down to your level of mediocrity

crabber1967 said...

You have an excellent idea there.

Of course, NASCAR will NEVER do anything even close to what you suggest. First, the NIH [Not Invented Here] syndrome, followed by the fact that, as you mentioned, NASCAR would have to spend its own money to do said program.

All that crap racist crap makes me ill. I watched Wendell Scott participate [I say 'participate' as he never had the funds to really race the big teams], even in his era, when it was more likely that he, JD McDuffie, Neil Castles, James Hylton, and others, to get a win as there were many short track races, and many teams chased money, not championships. I watched and hoped he was able to make a good showing, even as the 'black' jokes went through the grandstands.

Championships have only become a big thing as NASCAR tries more and more to make racing like baseball, football, etc.
A 'farm team system' would be great, but teams, like NASCAR, like the "independent contractor" status the teams labor under. And there is nothing comparable in racing to college football.

NASCAR would do well to require drivers to have a minimum amount of time in Trucks or "B" series, or both. Again, NASCAR does not have the will. Better racing will have to wait while NASCAR [the France family] continues to line its pockets with money.







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