Saturday, November 15, 2008

Max Siegel on a difficult week at DEI

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Normally, the final week of a NASCAR season feels like the last day of school.

After nine months of seeing the same people just about every weekend, it’s time to go back and finally unpack the suitcase and reintroduce yourself to the family and the neighbors.

Somebody always figures out how many days it is until the new year starts in Daytona, and everybody gives a good-natured groan when they hear that number. It’s usually a lot of “Happy Holidays!” and see-you-soon hugs and handshakes.

Not this time.

Homestead-Miami Speedway is not a bad place. We’re not that far from Key West and even closer to South Beach. The weather is absolutely glorious.

But it’s a depressing place to be this weekend. Instead of a sense of accomplishment for those who’ve had a good year and a sense of hope for those looking for better luck next year, there’s a sense of dread. Instead of being relieved to be at the end of a long season, too many people are fearful over what next week will bring.

Nobody really knows how many people in NASCAR will lose their jobs at the end of this season. With Dale Earnhardt Inc. cutting 116 positions this week on the heels of several other, smaller layoffs by other teams, the number is already well north of 200. Some believe that number could be 1,000 – or more – before the bloodletting is done.

It doesn’t really matter, at least not in any human terms, what the actual numbers are. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers when things are this bad and forget that each person losing a job is a person – somebody with a family and a mortgage and a car payment. Not to mention a passion that has driven them to come into the racing industry in the first place, a passion they may have to abandon as teams all across the NASCAR spectrum trim their payrolls.

Max Siegel knows that all too well.

As president of global operations for DEI, Siegel spent his week letting those 116 people know they weren’t going to have jobs once DEI completed its merger with Chip Ganassi Racing. DEI had four Cup cars and Ganassi had two, but those six teams will be streamlined back to four in 2009.

“It was a very tough week,” Siegel said Saturday at Homestead. “It’s gut-wrenching to try to go through and make those decisions. You’re balancing the best interests of the business and the impact you’re having on somebody’s life. It’s very emotional. It’s a very difficult thing to do.”

Nobody likes firing people. But without a merger, DEI might have ceased to exist and nobody would have had a job.

“You go and try to stabilize your business and you’re trying to save jobs,” Siegel said. “On the one hand you feel relieved you’re able to keep people employed that you’re passionate about. On the other side, it never leaves you the impact you’re having on other people.”

What makes it harder, Siegel said, is that the people you’re letting go are losing jobs they really, really want to keep.

“Everyone who works in this sport does it because they love it,” Siegel said. “They make tremendous personal sacrifices. The season is long and you make a commitment and give it everything you have every single week. It’s extremely difficult.”

Siegel said he’s going to stay on at the merged company for at least as long as it takes to get the new arrangements in place. Beyond that, he’s not sure. In this economy, nobody is.

DEI gave severance packages and out-placement counseling to the people it let go. Siegel said everyone in the motorsports industry is trying to help each other out as much as possible.

“We just tried to make sure people were in the best place they could be,” Siegel said.

Still, things were a long way from being easy. “There’s shock, anger, a high level of anxiety, confusion – a wide range of emotions,” Siegel said. “People deal with those in different ways. …It’s sobering what’s going on.”


Anonymous said...

Sadly, DEI is getting exactly what it deserves. They hired Max Siegle, a man who has absolutely NO business running a NASCAR race team. They then allow Dale Earnhardt Jr. walk out the front door. No matter what you think of Dale Jr.'s talent or skill level, you cannot deny the fact that he is a marketing dream. DEI would have Truex with a full sponsorship in 2009, Jr. obviously the same, and likely could have picked up enough money from Jr.'s connections to get a sponsor for a third car (maybe with Keselowski as the driver). Wouldn't that have been much better.

You are looking at the very reason that people refused to shake the hand of Siegle when he relayed the news.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR is slowing falling by the wayside. It's as exciting as watching paint dry. sadly, this city built the Hall of Fame and we the taxpayer are stuck with the bill.

Richard in N.C. said...

I don't think Max S. got enough credit, especially in the media, for what he did accomplish in a bad situation at DEI - and I think Dale, Jr.'s confidence in Max speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

My dad was in HR his whole life. The first time I ever had to fire someone, I called him the evening before the meeting and asked him how he did could I state the business reason (in this case a company policy violation) while at the same time being empathetic to the employee.

His response has stayed with me.

He said, "Oh son, I usually just walk up to them and ask how long they've been with the company...not counting tomorrow."

It's been easy ever since.

Monkeesfan said...

Ryan, Junior's marketability isn't helping him - his own BGN team is laying people off. Junior staying with DEI was not going to help anyone there.

Anonymous said...

Ryan, you hit it right on the money with Seigle & Theresa doesn't & never should have started running the co after her husband passed away. That co was formed for JR & should have stayed that way. NASCAR needs to get rid of thier upper management too, to make it afordable & get it back to the fans as a past-time. LOOK OUT NASCAR.......ARCA & Hooters cup may be your downfall.

Anonymous said...

Ryan and All,

There is more blame here than just the powers that be at DEI. Granted, Teresa and Max were idiots not giving Dale, Jr. what he requested. That goes without saying. Teresa has totally destroyed what Dale Earnhardt founded for his son. Teresa is too jealous of Dale, Jr. to have vision to see that the company should be owned by Junior. End of that story, but there is another side to what is happening in NASCAR, to include Chip and Company . . .

Let's take a good look at the last five years in the Sprint Cup series, as it has only taken that short time for Brian France to destroy the premier series of NASCAR.

First, Brian changes the points system. Basically, he tells the fans and the teams, the season does not really count until the end of the year. If you do real good and make it to the top ten, and now top twelve, that's when it counts. Not to mention, if you are a fan of the remaining teams that didn't make it to the top, your @#$% out of luck. So, you don't HAVE to watch the 75% of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season because the Chase is the only important part. Great point system. NOT!

And I won't even waste your valuable time discussing the new car in Sprint Cup. I want a race with AMERICAN manufactured cars, not a template of some dream team in North Carolina. The car of today, or whatever you want to call it was the second worst thing to happen to NASCAR, after Brian France. On the other hand, maybe it is a tie, since Brian did the changing.

If we buy and race what is made in America, maybe our economy would improve. Yea, wishful thinking, I know. Long, long ago there use to be a phrase;
"What won on Sunday, sold on Monday." Not with Brian France, the current car, and Toyota involved in NASCAR.

For years I faithfully watched each and every Winston Cup / NEXTEL Cup race when scheduled. Our families weekends were planned around the start time of the race. Not anymore. Thanks to Brian France I can't tell you the last time I watched a Sprint Cup race. It's BORING. Clone cars are not my idea of racing.

Face it, DEI is just the first major casualty of the poor decisions of Brian France. TV ratings are down, advertising revenue is down, etc. Now, no testing in 2009.

You can choose to blame Max, Teresa, or anyone you wish at DEI, but the destruction of NASCAR began five years ago, LONG before the economy went to crap! So major blame for DEI's woes goes to Brian France, followed by the stupidity of Teresa Earnhardt. Major woes for Chip = Just Brian France.

Anonymous said...

After reading the post about Brian France, I couldn't agree more. NASCAR under the leadership of Brian France is the same as America under the current president.

It is time for NASCAR's elite team of Jim France, Lesa Kennedy, Mike Helton, and Gary Crotty to evaluate Brian's leadership role.

NASCAR has been through tough economic times before, but the sport continued to grow and grow.
Brian is no Bill France, Sr. or Bill France, Jr.

It is time to replace Brian France, before he totally destroys NASCAR. Step down Brian, so you don't have a legacy like Teresa Earnhardt!

Anonymous said...

Teams that consistantly win, keep people that got them to the winner's circle. Teams that don't consistantly win, layoff people to reduce payroll. You could keep drivers that consistantly finish in the top 25 positions over an entire season and tell the rest, "NASCAR doesn't need you anymore".

Anonymous said...

hiway - I hate to say it but ARCA or Hooters will never take over Nascar. ARCA is being fueled by Nascars money. Hooters of America has backed out of the series due to poor economy. USAR is stuck finding a sponsor and all the teams wondering if there will be another season. Benny Gordon could be the final series champion ever.

Its sad that we sit here talking about job lay offs in nascar teams and not a word about whole series' going under. The camping world series has not released a schedule either so we could very well see 2 of the lower tier series gone next year. There is even more jobs.

Anonymous said...

First off- Toyota builds all but a few of the vehicles it sells here right here in America. Next, the profit from these cars goes to the company stock holders, many of whom live right here in the good old USA- nuff said. Nascar is dying because technology has long since surpassed the entire concept of the series(and stock car racing in general) and the costs of tring to "control" it, is what will/is driving away fans as well as competitors. The economy is just speeding up the process.

Anonymous said...

Technology has long since surpassed the entire concept of people moving a ball to score points within a designated area, but professional football, basketball and baseball are still in business. NASCAR will no longer be a factor in anything after Jan.20,2009.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR is suffering from a terrible national economy...and from alienating its fans by abandoning its roots. But those, to me, are not connected. It's hard to seperate right now how much of NASCAR's decline is due to economy and how much is due to greed and poor decision making.

I admit that all good things, for the most part, have evolved over the years. And like or not, the NFL is quite a success story. But how much has the NFL "evolved" over the past 50 years? It just seems that NASCAR is always changing something to try and please a sect of people, or to make more money. Examples:

1. Green/White/Checkered finishes. For about 50 years all NASCAR fans knew when they bought a ticket that there was a chance a race could end under caution. But then a bunch of irresponsible drunks (not fans) threw beer cans on the track at Talladega and NASCAR started green/white/checkered nonsense. No, we're not going to let you test, but we'll darn sure see to it that at least 10 or 12 teams total race cars so we can have that "exciting" finish. If you want to increase safety and save the teams money, do away with such silliness.

2. NASCAR has totally abandonded its roots in the name of money. Toyota has never even made a production, V8, push-rod engine. Rockingham had some of the best racing stock car fans have ever seen. Darlington had been run on labor day for 50 years, and was NASCAR's first superspeedway. I'm sure that no one will agree with me, but let's get back to the "stock" car of the '70's. Not really stock, but they did resemble the cars on the street. And if your company makes a car that sucks, too bad. No concessions. Go back and offer a production version of something racy. Where do you think Superbirds, Daytonas, and Monte Carlo SS cars came from? Can anyone actually believe that the sportiest car Ford can put on the track is a Fusion??? Dance with the one who brung ya. When budgets start crunching, it'll be the same bunch showing up at the track as it was 20 years ago, and the casual fan will be long gone.

3. Take a lesson from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (note I did not say IndyCar series). Start traditons and stick with them. Do not abandon them in the name of money. Does the Indy 500 have a title sponsor? NO. Has that track sold out naming rights? NO. Have they stuck with raceday traditions dating back tens of decades? YES. NASCAR has become so wishy washy in the name of greed that they have divided their fanbase. What we have now is IROC. And I'll argue you to the mat on that one. Why not just have each team sign for a car each week, like they do restrictor plates at Daytona and Talladega, and the place super-strong sponsor magnets on the car they are issued? All the teams need are raceday equipment and personnel. No shop, no cars to buy, no testing, no shop personnel expenses, no expensive transporters. Just let NASCAR bring them in each week on car haulers and issue them out. And since most of the tracks are the same, just run every race at Charlote, er, uh, Lowes, and cut down on travel expenses. Oh wait, now we're alienating markets...You get the idea.....

Bottom line...stay true to your roots and traditions and let people either take it or leave it. Otherwise, every time you change one thing to make one group happy, you're losing the support of all the others. Seems to me NASCAR has only changed to put more money in their pockets and hasn't cared who they let down.

Tiredawg said...

Brian, if no one else agrees with you they are blind. You hit the nail on the head. Maybe you should apply for baby B's job. At least you are in touch with reality and real stock car racing.

Anonymous said...

Brian -

I must say you make a lot of good points but at the same time you made a mistake and i must say everything must go out the window with that one mistake.

Indy has a title sponsor. This past year it was called the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Anonymous said...

David, I don't always agree with you, but here I must give you an attaboy. Your post is the only article I have seen so far that made any mention, one way or the other, about whether the team being discussed was providing any sort of severance. Your compatriots' failure to address severance in their articles is either lazy, sloppy, or intentionally biased.

Anonymous said...

Wiseguy -

Actually you made the error. Brian was discussing the Indianapolis 500. The Allstate 400 at the Brickyard is a NASCAR event. The Indy 500 is an Indycar event.

Anonymous said...

The best comment on the page... Anonymous should have used his name.

"After reading the post about Brian France, I couldn't agree more. NASCAR under the leadership of Brian France is the same as America under the current president.

It is time for NASCAR's elite team of Jim France, Lesa Kennedy, Mike Helton, and Gary Crotty to evaluate Brian's leadership role.

NASCAR has been through tough economic times before, but the sport continued to grow and grow.
Brian is no Bill France, Sr. or Bill France, Jr.

It is time to replace Brian France, before he totally destroys NASCAR. Step down Brian, so you don't have a legacy like Teresa Earnhardt!"

I agree whole-heartedly!

Monkeesfan said...

Brian In SC -

1 - The economy is not as much a reason for the sport's problems as some want to blame it for being. Even when the economy was humming along the sport's costs and economic model were and are untenable; even before this year only a few team owners were making any kind of profit out of racing.

2 - You're wrong about GWC finishes - NASCAR did the right thing in making races end under green; the problem is not letting drivers race to the line, which has put the wrong winner into victory lane several times, notably at Talladega in 2003, '04, '05, and '06.

3 - Of the items you list on "abandonment of its roots," some were worth abandoning. Rockingham and Darlington were and are overrated - too small, lousy surfaces, and bad racing - and no, sliding around and "beatin' and bangin'" do not qualify as quality competition - and their demographics dried up - when Rockingham reopened in May 2008, the audience for the comeback race appeared to be less than what Stafford Speedway draws for a Friday night event.

The sport's destiny was superspeedways and that is its true roots.

Run what you brought had died out when Glenn Roberts died - the cars evolved away from "stock" because they had to. The cars of the 1970s were racecars first to last. I'm tired of this whining about "cookie cutter cars" and how they don't "look" like something off the streets. "What we have now is IROC." So what? The lesson of racing is that the technology arms race never benefits the sport. Even F1 is finally understanding this.

4 - Citing Indianapolis ignores that the 500 was the epicenter of the atomic war Indycar racing underwent, which makes nonsense of the "stick with traditions" argument.

The bottom line is the sport needs 50-lead-change racing and more than just six teams winning races - it needs 13 or more teams winning races as it had in 2001-2, it needs its older teams to win again as well as newcomers to break through.

Anonymous said...


I guess we can just agree to disagree...since you seem to have a bone to pick with every point I made...

No, G/W/C finishes, in my opinion, are a joke. As I said, they cost teams money and endanger drivers. I miss racing back to the line too, but is it worth getting someone hurt over? G/W/C flies, but let's race back to the line. Are you kidding?

Where were you during the 70's and 80's? Did you not see a race at Darlington or Rockingham? Granted they are in the middle of nowhere, but produced some excellent races. Sure Rockingham had trouble filling seats. So would Chicago or Kansas if you had races in FEB and OCT. Give The Rock a Cup date in April or May and see what happens. And by the way they are superspeedways...both over a mile in length.

Why does the IRL / CART war negate the traditions of the Indy 500? Regardless of the split, the traditions still hold.

I said dance with the one who brung ya, not run what you brung, you dingbat.

As for the IROC comment...who cares? I care Monkeesfan....the S in NASCAR stands for stock, not spec!

And lastly, I'll bet you this...every owner in NASCAR is, over the long run making money...either that or they're shutting down. Don't kid yourself.

I'm not sure if the issue between us is personal or what, but why do you say such?

Anonymous said...

I have wanted to speak since July when my husband was let go from his job at CGR after many years of employment. My husband was let go with no real reason other than the no sponsorship for the 40 car. That is understandable that there just is not the funds to keep running a team with no sponsorship. My questions are: Why was my husband let go when all he ever did was his job plus? Why is the people that are in charge of sponsor relations still employed? Did they do their job? Obviously not. Why are the crew chiefs still employed? Did they do their job? Obviously not with an average finish of 35th place? Why are the drivers making millions ( yes millions) of dollars to drive these cars when they do not perform? They still have their jobs... My husband was not late, did not goof off, never called out unless he was deathly ill (actually worked with walking pnuemonia once) but he lost his job..... Explain this to me. Why has no reporter looked in to the reasons of all these layoffs? You should not have to worry in any profession that if you go to your job and do your job every day that you will lose it because someone that is paid more and does not do their job can't do theirs.... I hope the fans come to a relization this is all a trickle down effect and by putting more money into NASCARS pockets by supporting the it will come back on them.