No. 919
October 18, 2017
 

About The Autoextremist

@PeterMDeLorenzo

Author, commentator, influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established Autoextremist.com on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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Fumes


Wednesday
Jan232008

FUMES #429

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

A New Racing Year, but same as it ever was for Brian France and NASCAR.


Detroit.
I've been waiting for a light to go off in Brian France's head ever since he took control of NASCAR. After all, this is the guy who inherited the NASCAR legacy from his father, Bill France Jr., who inherited it from his father, "Big Bill" France, so there has to be a modicum of sensitivity and understanding in Brian about what NASCAR means in a historical sense and what it needs to do going forward, etc., etc. But then, while speaking to reporters on Monday during the kickoff of NASCAR's annual Media Tour at Lowe's Motor Speedway, NASCAR's Chairman lofted a couple of gems to the assembled media that were baffling, at best. Here's one as reported by the always informative and on-top-of-things Nate Ryan of USA Today:

"We're going to minimize change the best we can, " France said. "We're getting back to the basics."

Minimize change? Getting back to basics? Beyond the obvious Big Change - the Sprint Cup - isn't this the guy who presided over wholesale changes to a schedule that marginalized traditional events like the Southern 500 for instance, in favor of large market events that now struggle to fill the grandstands? Yup, same guy. And isn't he the same guy who has driven the sport toward sanitized homogenization with cookie-cutter cars that have made the manufacturer presence in NASCAR almost irrelevant, and robo-drivers who are admonished every time they indicate that they have a pulse? That's him. And isn't he the same guy who has turned the whole NASCAR circus into a giant marketing/advertising exercise of co-branding opportunities and synergistic business-to-business partnerships, reducing the importance of the actual racing to the point that it has become mere "racer-tainment" and that has ultimately left its hard-core fans out in the cold? Him too.

France also touted a renewed emphasis on heritage and competition Monday, a move designed to remind longtime fans that "this was the NASCAR they fell in love with." Oops. Sure it isn't because the TV ratings numbers are plummeting and the empty grandstands are growing more noticeable by the race? And the fact that longtime (and openly disgruntled) NASCAR fans are walking away from the sport in droves?

The High-Octane Truth of the matter is that "the NASCAR they fell in love with" simply doesn't exist anymore, and Brian France is directly responsible for that.

The problem with Brian France is that he has focused on all the wrong things ever since he took over the reins of NASCAR. Is the Sprint Cup better? That's still debatable. But every single other aspect of NASCAR has declined - and drastically - since he took over. Besides the aforementioned reasons, France failed to see the smoke signals that NASCAR had peaked, and understand that no sport or endeavor could stay as hot as NASCAR had been indefinitely. A visionary would have been able to see the obvious writing on the wall, but instead France buried himself in growth for growth's sake, and he took his eye off of the ball. And now, faced with a mounting pile of bad news, all of a sudden he's gotten religion and is worried about things like the sport's heritage and the essence of competition? That's rich.

The other reason France is getting all nostalgic here and longing for the good ol' days is that this year's Daytona 500 is the 50th running of the event. But rather than be optimistic about NASCAR's next 50 years, France should indeed be very worried, because it's highly questionable whether or not he's got what it takes to guide his racing organization through this obvious downward spiral.

France talked Monday about the fact that there had been enough changes in NASCAR and it was time to pull back and focus on making what they have better. Wrong answer. NASCAR in fact has to make serious and substantive changes now, or they won't be around long enough to have to worry about their heritage - or the France family legacy.

Here's my list of things NASCAR has to do to get back on track for the future. 1. Reestablish manufacturer identity as a prominent drawing card to the series by immediately changing back to stock-appearing and dimensionally correct body work. First order of business? Announce that Camaro, Mustang, Challenger and a nameplate to be named later from Toyota are the only cars eligible for the 2009 season. These new cars would also conform to NASCAR's new rule that any car eligible for the Sprint Cup (or whatever it's called by then) would have to adhere to their street drivetrain configuration - as in RWD. No more front-drive street car "bodies" would be eligible for racing in NASCAR's top tier. And any and all "CoT" safety developments would be incorporated into these new cars. 2. Smaller, normally-aspirated V8 engines (3.0-liter or less) with fuel-injection and multi-valves would be eligible. 3. On-board jacking and dry-break refueling would be mandatory. 4. The schedule would be reduced to 25 races total, through the elimination of double visits to tracks except for Daytona and Charlotte. Also, any traditional and historically important races/dates would be reinstated, like the Southern 500. 5. Within the new compacted 25-race schedule, three additional road races would be added, including races at Road America, Road Atlanta and Mosport. And a points-paying race at Tony Stewart's Eldora Speedway would be run on the dirt. 6. Unless it's a marquis 500-mile or 600-mile event (Daytona, Charlotte, Darlington), no race would be over 400 miles. Road races would be 200-miles or less. 7. The points situation would be skewed even further to favor race wins, with finishers outside of the top 20 getting much fewer points than they are awarded now. 8. Points would be paid for running the Indianapolis 500, and the Coca-Cola 600's starting time would be moved back to accommodate the drivers deciding to run at Indy. 9. Driver personalities would not be crafted, massaged, homogenized or sanitized by NASCAR. It would be up to the individual teams and the direction of their sponsors to act or not act if there's an incident. 10. The France family mindset would be readjusted permanently to one that revolves around the simple doctrine that states that it's about the racing. It has always been about the racing. And it always will be about the racing if NASCAR is to survive and thrive in this new century.

I'd rate Brian France as an abject failure when it comes to anticipating the problems facing NASCAR today. And something tells me he still doesn't get it, because a simple set of pronouncements does not indicate a change in philosophy, it just means that he's reacting to problems instead of proactively doing the meaningful, substantive things that will fix them.

France still has a shot at pointing NASCAR in the right direction, but until he demonstrates true leadership, I'll believe he has the ability to do it when I see it.

Publisher's Note: In our continuing series celebrating the "Golden Era" of American racing history, we have some more images for our readers to enjoy this week. - PMD

mtrsptshist_1894_HR1.jpg

(Ford Racing Archives)
Daytona Beach Speed Week Trials, 1957. A close-up view of a "Battlebird" Thunderbird 312 cid V8 Engine. Driver Chuck Daigh ran 93.312 mph for the Standing Mile Acceleration Trials.


CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS FROM FORD RACING ARCHIVES