A Voice For The Fans ~ Mr. France, The Fans Would Like To Know… by: PattyKay Lilley
A Voice For The Fans ~ Mr. France, The Fans Would Like To Know…
by: PattyKay Lilley
Good day race fans, and welcome to RacersReunion, a site we know is read by folks that matter. Good day also to the NASCAR representative reading this edition of “A Voice For The Fans.” It has become my policy, and indeed my pleasure, to discuss with the fans things they feel deserve the attention of NASCAR. In an attempt to get it right before writing, rather than having to apologize later, I also visit many other Internet sites and take note of what the fans and other writers are discussing there as well. Not surprisingly, the topics of discussion run fairly true throughout.
My points for today will be addressed to Mr. France, as he is the CEO and therefore in charge, but please, Mr. Helton, Mr. Darby, Mr. Pemberton, or anyone else with authority, feel free to jump in.
Mr. France Sir, it’s me again, PattyKay. It’s been a little while since our last talk, but the fans out here have never stopped talking. Since I know you read my columns fairly regularly, I thought I’d just round up some more of their thoughts and comments and pass them along for your edification.
The fans have heard Mr. Pemberton mentioning and seemingly intimating an end to the race guarantee presently granted to the top-35 in points. This, Mr. France, is a positive step and the fans are applauding that it is on the drawing board. Every fan I’ve heard from or read in other places is behind this measure.
Surely Sir, you must realize that with the ever-shrinking number of full-time teams, the point has been reached where part-time teams are now among those receiving a guaranteed spot in the race. The fans see that as unnecessary and unfair. The age-old and simpler method of “The fastest 43 race” is by far the most popular fan suggestion.
Another thing that has received a great deal of popular response was the addition of the Grand-Am race on the road course at Indianapolis. Fans today are far more receptive to road racing than those a generation or two removed. Personally, this fan, though of some age, has always enjoyed the Cup cars on the road course… not a street course Sir; the two are distinctly different. There are, in fact, a lot of us out here that would love to see maybe another two road courses added to the Cup schedule, perhaps in place of two races on 1.5-mile tracks. It would lend more sense of balance, don’t you think?
Now Sir, as long as we’re speaking of Indianapolis, there is one point upon which I cannot place enough stress, as the fans seem united as one voice on it. That is the moving of both the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series away from Indianapolis Raceway Park. (Yes Sir, I know about the Lucas Oil thing, but you will find far more fan support if track names are no longer allowed to be sold to the highest bidder. I’m really trying to be of help here and I have to relate that the fans do not like, nor do they use, sponsors’ names for a track they’ve known for many years by its own name. It was IRP for as long as it’s been in place, and with no disrespect intended to either O’Reilly Auto Parts or Lucas Oil, in the minds and hearts of race fans, it will remain IRP.)
Along that same line of thinking Mr. France, it was a mistake to bring the Nationwide Series to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At this point, it matters very little whose idea it was to do that, but the size, or lack of it, of the crowd in the vast grandstands that comprise Indy can only be described as laughable… or pathetic; I’ve heard both. Add to that the fact that racing in that series has always been great at IRP, but was anything but great at IMS, a track best suited for the lightweight, streamlined cars of the IndyCar Series. Even the Cup cars don’t perform particularly well there. How could one expect better of the secondary series?
Please Sir, put it back the way it was. IRP is one of the tracks that fans actually still look forward to with great anticipation, and has always played to a full house. Oh, and did you see the standing-room only crowd at Iowa this week? 56,000 fans for a Nationwide race. That’s more than some Cup tracks have managed this year. Short track Sir… think short track.
As I write this, the second Pocono race will begin in a short time and fans wonder if you will be there this time. At the last Pocono race, you were in Montreal rather than being where your own premiere series was racing. Last week at Indianapolis, one of NASCAR’s two most important races of the year, second only to the Daytona 500, you chose to be in London rather than at IMS. Mr. France, the fans are asking, if you don’t care about the Cup Series, why should they? Please believe me when I say that this attitude is prevalent and is part of the reason for the empty seats we’re seeing more and more of as time goes by.
And harking back to London for just a moment, it seems you did another press conference over there, and during that conference you made a statement that what you want supersedes what any “purists” on your staff might prefer.
“I overrule them, quite frankly, because I have to,” France said. “We can’t have four strategies going on. There aren’t a whole lot of people who don’t want to see more lead changes, or a photo finish, or slamming and banging coming out of the fourth turn.”
Sir, if one stands back and reads that one statement, it appears to impart the idea that you, and only you, are what matters, and let that be the end of conversation. I pray that isn’t so, and that there is some other explanation for your seeming belief in your own omnipotence. One fan singled that statement out as defining all of the problems that face NASCAR today, and many others stand in line to agree.
Your Dad and Granddad knew well that the money they stood to make and did, came from the fans, and they treated those fans well in every instance. Today’s fans feel that you have changed that “Family” feeling and allowed NASCAR to outgrow and disregard the fans. Again Sir, I’ll remind you that those empty seats are growing in number, almost exponentially, and no Sir, it is not all to do with the economy. That excuse has worn thin, as fans take their money to other sports and other venues.
And now Sir, it’s time to address the “Elephant in the living room.” This subject has been under discussion since the Firecracker 400 at Daytona, on every forum board, in every sports bar and around every water cooler where race fans congregate. It is at best, a delicate subject, but one that is on the mind, lips and fingertips of fans of all ages and description. Loosely put Sir, it is NASCAR’s “random” drug testing policy.
At this point, I prefer to omit the names of anyone involved in banned substances, present or past. That is not what the fans are discussing, and guilt or innocence is certainly not for me to decide. No Sir, what the fans are scrutinizing is the word “random.” To that point Mr. France, no one seems to be able to recall a single instance of a random test coming back negative. This is a point that deserves serious consideration. Would it not be in NASCAR’s best interest to release the names of those that “passed” the test, as well as those found lacking? That would lend credence to the idea of “random.” Without that, the appearance of prior knowledge or even vengeance cannot be ignored, and I assure you Sir, that it is not.
Following those same lines, it is the general understanding that the tests are said to be “blanket” in scope, meaning they can be and are administered to drivers, crew members and anyone involved with NASCAR racing, supposedly as a matter of course. If you’ll excuse me, this is where it gets a bit delicate Sir, but the one thing the fans are in complete agreement on is the desire to see the blanket policy truly blanket the entire sport, and Sir, they tell me that means all the way from top to bottom…
The final point from the fans today is one that has been around for eight years now, and it concerns the thing you call “The Chase.” Sir, to say that most fans don’t like it would be like saying, “It looks like rain” on the 38th day of the Biblical flood. The fact is Sir, the fans hate it. The Chase does not generate excitement, as planned. It makes a mockery of the rest of the season, and accomplishes nothing but loss of sponsorship, and that can be readily seen throughout the NASCAR garage. Far and away, the most popular adjective the fans attach to the word Chase is “Stupid.” That pretty much says it all Sir. Oh, and not once, anywhere, have I seen or heard a single fan wishing for or even mentioning a glass dashboard.
Fans, I think that is enough for today, but I promise, if you keep talking, I’ll keep writing it. Meanwhile, be well gentle readers and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!
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