Monday, December 01, 2008

NASCAR should include fans in festivities

I am not going to New York City for the Sprint Cup awards ceremony this year. Our newspaper looked at the expense and decided it was something we could do without, and in these tough times I have to say I think that was the right call.

I have never thought that having the banquet in New York does as much for NASCAR as NASCAR seems to think it does, but there's always the chance that I just don't understand it on the level that NASCAR's officials believe they do.

It's not exactly new news to anybody that I believe the banquet is, well, dopey. The drivers come up on stage and are forced to read prepared (and carefully edited) remarks off a Teleprompter. That's not what these guys do and they come off looking stiff, at best, or scared to death, at worst. NASCAR usually tries to spice things up with some kind of comedic element that doesn't work and a musical act that seems awkward and/or out of place.

What the NASCAR championship celebration sorely lacks is a fan element.

I don't necessarily think the fans need to be part of any kind of formal ceremony where sponsors get thanked. I am not sure that's needed at all, but the last thing you need is for the champion to be booed by thousands of fans who don't particularly like that year's winner.

Still, the fans have to be a bigger part of NASCAR's year-end celebrations. The various awards ceremonies are the only major events each year that seem to be set up precisely in a way to exclude fans, and I don't understand that at all.

So how do you do it? Well, the obvious model is Nashville's annual country music Fan Fair. It's a week's worth of events designed to let the fans see, feel, hear and touch the industry's biggest stars and introduce them to some of those who might be up and coming.

You can't have a fan-centered NASCAR event in New York. You just can't.

So where do you have it?

Well, once the NASCAR Hall of Fame opens in Charlotte that's a logical place. You could have it in Las Vegas, for sure. You could have it in Daytona, too, and make it part of a celebration of the season that just ended as well as a look ahead to the new year. You could even have it in Southern California and make the Toyota Showdown at the track in Irwindale, Calif., a part of the week's activities.

There are a lot of ways it could be done that would make sense. The only truly critical thing is you make it less about NASCAR and the sponsors and more about the fans.


Anonymous said...

The way Nascar has decided to celebrate it's championship gives the fans the exact amount of attention Nascar thinks they deserve. As long as lining his own pockets with corporate sponsors is Brian France's main concern, the banquet in NYC is the prefect place to hold it.

Jenny Ellison said...

I agree with your comments! Also, if you're going to have 12 people in the Chase, why not allow all 12 to be included? If you only want 10, put 10 in the Chase. The bottom two in the group deserve recognition, too!

Anonymous said...

David, You might check history. It was a BIG deal when Bill France, Jr. took the banquet to NYC to get more exposure for NASCAR. Being in NYC is tradition.

I don't think the banquet ever was supposed to be entertaining for viewers, but until the last few years it was more laid back and interesting. I think you and your compatriots in the media, especially the newspapers, are to blame for it becoming so stiff and almost boring - since the mean in the media would never let a driver forget making a mistake on stage. Yes, you nattering nabobs of negativism have nutured the NASCAR banquet.

Anonymous said...

at one time, having the banquet in nyc was a big deal. it no longer is. of course the whole thing is ludacris.

have one banquet, one hour long for tv, recorded the next night in homestead or daytona so that the banquet honors all three champions and gets the whole ordeal over with, FASTER

Anonymous said...

As a Nascar fan in New York I never want the banquet to leave here. I can see Nascar stuff for the cost of a train ticket if I splurge or if I drive into Queens I only have to cover the cost of the subway. The nearest track is Pocono and if I want to see a GOOD race I have to go even further. I realize that isn't a good enough reason but its the one that I have got to say.

Anonymous said...

I live in the NY area, and am a Nascar fan. Maybe once I saw a showcar at a location, and I can tell you no native New Yorker even slowed down to give it a glance. The large crowds at the "lap around NY" they've been doing for the last few years. I would say over 50% of the crowd was because people weren't allowed to cross the street.
The banquet is held in NY for one reason and one reason only. The people who spend the most money... the sponsors. They're all located on Madison Avenue or Park Avenue, this is where they all have their marketing teams and such, and to appease them, the banquet is held in NY. Nascar probably feels it is doing it's fans a favor by having a race in their nearby towns. How do they decide where they race? Where is the biggest market. They are not in Loudon because of the fans, but because of the Boston market.
Fans are nice to have, but Nascar needs the big ticket sponsor.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR banquet in NYC is junk. Always has been. It has NEVER been a big deal in NYC - it was only a big deal to NASCAR to be in NYC. Nobody there cares. I've lived there I know. How much money will be spent this week for this charade that could be held in any decent hotel in Charlotte (or hall of fame in the future) for 1/3rd the cost, if that.

Monkeesfan said...

Why should fans want to be part of the banquet, anyway? It shouldn't be a media circus to begin with and it absolutely does not belong in NYC. I see no need for a fan element in the banquet.

Anonymous said...

Once again.....

In the grand scheme of life and things, what does it matter where the banquet is held?

Fans already know NASCAR governors, owners and drivers only care about them, with regard to the cheers heard from the stands in which revenue producing seats are located.

Right now, a lot of those who used to care do not give a crap about NASCAR or anything about it.

The "sport" has exhausted much of its popularity by taking its supporters for granted.

NASCAR should really enjoy its 2008 celebration.

2009 might be a "real downer" of a year, with little to boast or toast about.

Mike Hutton said...

Why does the sanctioning body even hold the banquet in the first place? Does the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL orchestrate any sort of celebration for their champions? No. (Other than the post-game trophy presentation immediately after the deciding game.) The winning team returns to their home city, and is usually given a parade to celebrate their achievement with their F-A-N-S !!

Others have correctly pointed out that tradition, sponsors and the almighty dollar are the reasons for the NYC event now. Well, traditions come to an end, the sponsors already get plenty of recognition and NASCAR and the France family already have plenty of cash.

I don't have the solution, but would have to favor two proposals often suggested: 1) Charlotte in connection with the HOF somehow; or, 2) Daytona pre-season.

Anonymous said...

Race Tracks
Someone Please call me when the real nascar returns.

Anonymous said...

Racing banquets are all about marketing and hyping.
Award shows are the perfect examples of “LIPSTICK ON PIGS” or in racing, “LIPSTICK ON GREASE MONKEYS”. Participants are flaunting their exaggerated personas as a two-hundred pound schoolgirl wearing a strapless gown arriving at the prom.
NO, award banquets are NOT necessary. Take the money they spend and donate it to public infrastructure projects in the name of the racing fans. At the first race of the following season have a brief ceremony at the start/finish line crowning the reigning champions. Anything else is embellishing.

Anonymous said...

I am a close friend and co-worker with a person who drives a semi for the company that "produces" the banquet. By produces, I mean all the decoration, backdrop, staging, etc. He drives it up there and they put it together and have the banquet/awards spectacle, take it down and brings it back. Anyway, he confirms that the people of New York hate the hoopla and the shutting down of midtown Manhattan for the lap and hoopla. He also confirms an earlier poster, the poc you see of the crowds are not people wanting to watch the Nascar stuff, but people P.O.'ed because they can't cross the street to get to work. It is just a poor place to have the banquet. He also has trucked the staging to the Portofino for the Trucks, and to Las Vegas for the Nascar Weekly Racing Series. By far, Vegas is the most accommodating to the fans AND Nascar. Nascar will never leave New York (EVEN THOUGH THEY SHOULD) because the prima donna wives of these driver's want to shop in New York before Christmas.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who used to produce the after show dance for all three banquets. The driver requests a band for the party he would book them and set it all up. He told me it kept getting squeezed by sponsors and not the teams. The banquet is for the Sponsors and big wigs to have a reason on the corporate dime to take the wife to NYC for Christmas time.. It was and never will be for the fans. It is all for the CEO's of the sponsors and team CEO's..

Anonymous said...

IMO New York is the last place they should have a celebration. What has NY ever done for the drivers and teams? I quit watching it several years ago because the drivers were just robots repeating words just as they do every time they have their face in front of the camera. Michael Waltrip being a prime example. Tony getting the monkey off his back was the highlight of the ones I tuned in!

Anonymous said...

C'mon Poole you're fallin down on the job. Combine Nashville's Fan Fair and NA$CAR and you get "Sound and Speed". Check it out at Not sure how successful it's been but it's coming up January 9th.

Anonymous said...

The banquet is NOT for fans! Why do people get so exersied about this? If the champion loves it--leave it alone. I read on Jayski today how much Jimmie Johnson and his team love to have the week in NYC. He said that NY was amazing and they can let lose and have some fun. I know that Jeff loves living there part of the year because he can be "left alone."
They are surrounded with NASCAR fans for 10 months. Let them go to the big city and have some fun.

Jeff Gordon says it's more important now to be there, the media capital of the world. He should know, his car, the 24, is worth (according to Forbes) more than the entire Petty Enterprise.

Fan Fare is a lot of fun. But country music fans love all singers. They don't care if the new guy comes from New Zealand (Keith Urban)--no booing or throwing beer cans.

But NASCAR fans don't slways behave. I just have a feeling that Jeff would not feel that safe (or have fun) in that environment. I have a feeling that much of his fan base is not in the south. I live in California and the 2 most popular shirts and jackets are the 24 and 8 (for Jr).

As far as the prepared statement from the drivers, it's a good idea. I have to attend awards banquets every year. I always tell the recipients to be prepared. For some it might be the only award you may every recieve, it will be on film and you don't want to look like a bafoon in front of all your family and friends.

With you tube, drivers should especially be prepared, and if that means written notes, so be it.

I'm glad for the drivers they are having fun.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned country music's extremely popular summer event, "Fan Fair." Well, whether by coincidence on not, this past summer one of the two annual NASCAR Nationwide races at Nashville Superspeedway was held during the same weekend as Fan Fair. This made for a unique opportunity for NASCAR to strut its stuff on the streets of downtown Nashville. Not only did drivers do organized autograph signings for fans during the afternoon, but while listening to pre-race interviews on the radio the next day, we heard that several drivers stayed around into the night to have dinner in the clubs and to meet their favorite stars.

Now, I'm not at all suggesting that the banquet be moved to Nashville (Heaven knows I've been around long enough to know that will never happen) but what I'm thinking is that along with your great concept to include race fans into some part of the overall celebration, NASCAR could hold it in conjunction with some other event that perfectly compliments its whole philosophy... such as what happened when Country Music fans also got the chance to meet NASCAR drivers in Nashville during 2008.

Anonymous said...

Never understood having it in New York either. NASCAR wanted to build a track there and it was voted down.NASCAR,go where you are wanted.

Anonymous said...

The banquet itself is for the drivers....and it is nice to have it shared on TV. Of course, it was much better when we didn't have 'canned' acceptance speeches.

This year's entertainment should be a bit better. Though I'm not sure who the comedic relief is supposed to be.

As for the rest in NYC, my kids and I are off to the city on Thursday. Personal, I don't give a flying leap what the New Yorkers think about it (anymore than I would care about what the people from anywhere else would think about it being where they live -- a lot of people that live near the tracks could care less about NASCAR being there, too). Yes, it's about the sponsors. But the program at Hard Rock was good and my boys enjoyed being able to see and do some of the activities (including watching Juan Pablo get interviewed for Sirius Radio). The cars in Times Square are well-placed. And there is always the hope that we just might get a glimpse of a driver somewhere in the crowd of people.

It is what it is. And if people want it to be something else, they are never going to be satisfied!


Anonymous said...

Hello...If they wanted the fans to feel included it would be on a channel most of us get. ESPN Classic is not it. When one of the NW races could only be broadcast on ESPNC it was simulcast on Speed so it could be seen live. One can think that they thought it was important enough to be broadcast live. They must not think that the Banquet is worth that.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR is doing a lot of activities for the fans this year, more than ever before. There are activities happening Wed. - Sat and various places around Manhattan. There will be showcars everywhere and on Thursday there is a large Tailgate Fan Fest outside on 43rd St. at the Hard Rock and then also inside the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square there will be NASCAR related displays. Got to to check it all out!

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of NASCAR and a fan of the 48 team. I have never felt the banquet was for the fans necessarily and that doesn't bother me. I do watch the banquet though and wish if they are going to show it on tv let the drivers say what they want (and media hush up about it) and get some better entertainment. I like tradition so leave it in NY if the drivers, owners, sponsors want it there. I know it's a treat for some of the wives and other teammembers to get to go somewhere different and celebrate.
It would be nice if, once the Hall of Fame is open, they do some type of fan fest Championship celebration with driver appearances at some point but otherwise the drivers and teams do appearances and signings all season long so they deserve some time to just enjoy on their own.

David, go join Claire B. visiting with the fans up there in NY this week. Sounds like there are right many who are having a good time up there.

Anonymous said...

The complaints about NASCAR in NY remind me of the complaints the past 28 years about the NFL Pro Bowl in Hawaii. The fans complain that Hawaiians are not football fans--the stadium is half empty. And it's true--but the players that go LOVE Hawaii. They go there for a week and bring their families. Many players say that if they had it at a regular stadium, they wouldn't go. It's about being in Hawaii.

red said...

anon @10:33 PM: with all due respect -- NYC in december ain't no hawaii!
i'm just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

from anan@10:33 to red

you got me as far as NYC is no Hawaii! Very true.

But my point is that if the drivers, crew members, owners, and sponsors of the winning car like NYC, forget what the fans complain about. The fans do not go to the banquet.

Anonymous said...

NEW YORK !!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

anon@2:21 comment about teams caught cheating not participating in the Chase--sure would open up the Cgase.

Penalties 2008 -Those in Chase
Carl Edwards
Penalties 2007- Those in Chase
Jeff G
Jimmie J

I don't hold my breath that NASCAR would ever enact such a rule.

red said...

anon @ 12:48 PM said (in part):
"But my point is that if the drivers, crew members, owners, and sponsors of the winning car like NYC, forget what the fans complain about. The fans do not go to the banquet."

anon, i completely agree that the entire banquet moment is not intended for the fans: it's clearly intended as a reward to all involved in bringing a particular car into the top 10 for that season. and that's not a bad thing. in addition, the banquet can (usually!) be seen live by interested fans.

as you state: the banquet itself isn't intended for the fans and they're not invited to attend, except via the broadcast of the ceremony. but the events the precede it most certainly are solely for the fans b/c i doubt any driver really wants to do still more appearances in his "official" capacity. the champion certainly should expect that but the other (or 11, however one counts this!)? probably not so much.

so, maybe nascar has to figure out a way to reward the top X teams each year and also loop the fans into the celebration. nyc is expensive: on that, we all agree. so maybe have the banquet there and the fan celebration somewhere else, some other time.

for me? well, i don't watch so it's all a moot point.

Anonymous said...

from anon 12:48/12-2@4:27pm

This is what Marty Smith wrote today:

"I love coming here. I love everything about Manhattan in December. Nowhere else on Earth produces this feeling, whatever this feeling is. Excitement. Bustle. Exuberance. Relevance? I don't know.

Whatever it is, the residual electricity could light the big tree down the street. Charlotte is home. But Charlotte doesn't feel like this."

" Anyway, I understand fully why the sport's brass continue to make Manhattan its championship home. It's pretty and it's fancy, and it's the media and financial center of the world, and people dress well.

Dreams are born here and die here. I love NASCAR in New York. I think most folks involved in the sport do, because it signals the culmination of yet another fruitful campaign. "
If you read all the things and places Jimmie and company have done, not possible in Charlotte. Most of his time has been in media/business activities, not fan based activities. DW also had an article on having the champion's week in NY, and how much he loved it. When you have all the ad agencies for the Fortune 500 companies in NY, you have to stay relevant.

Racing is very much a part of Charlotte, but there are more active drivers from California than any other state. How about the fans from Florida, Georgia, Texas, Nevada, California, etc.? Why should it be there? If Charlotte cannot embrace winners like Jeff and Jimmie, why should the celebrations be there?

As far as the complaints on showing the dinner live, even the ESPY's are not shown live. The program is on Wed. and they show a shorter version 4 days later. And this is ESPN with the who's who in every sport in the universe. I would not say they are not respecing Tiger Woods.