NASCAR Doesn't Get It

Janelle JalbertCorrespondent INovember 3, 2009

TALLADEGA, AL - NOVEMBER 01:  David Reutimann, driver of the #00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont Chevrolet, lead the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on November 1, 2009 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In a lengthy blog post last night, Ramsey Poston, NASCAR Managing Director of Corporate Communications took the completely wrong approach to addressing the dissatisfaction of NASCAR fans with the race at Talladega this past Sunday.

Instead of saying how thankful NASCAR is about the fact that all drivers got to go home Sunday night, Poston takes a defensive and dismissive stance. He cites that loop data shows more than 13,000 passes occurred during the Sunday event. Bull. A pass on the loop data does not mean action on the track. When the pack did run more than single file, multiple passes could be logged every lap without cars noticeably advancing or retreating. A pass that enhances racing results in noticeable moves on the track not a .001 second lead for .0000001 of a second in 34th place.

Whether NASCAR likes it or not, if the fans don't like a race, they go elsewhere. Hence, the drop (yet again) in Cup ratings. Not all of NASCAR racing is suffering as the truck series had its second highest viewership of the season.

The difference? One possibility is that the truck series drivers continue in the old school tradition of doing their talking on the track, rather than in the media. Another is the fact that the CWTS races are shorter, so they are inherently seen as more exciting as a whole. There have been cries from multiple fronts calling for shorter Cup races, but NASCAR has continued to ignore them. Since ticket prices are pegged to the distance of the race, and not fan satisfaction, shortening races remains unlikely.

What I believe was most offensive in Poston's diatribe was the fact that he failed to acknowledge the danger Ryan Newman was in or the fact that NASCAR was thankful that no major injuries or fatalities resulted. If the accident had been like the Spring race, where a fan was injured, the response more than likely would have been far more humane. Just compare the NASCAR PR after the April race and this week to see where NASCAR's sympathies really lie.

Newman was still in a post-crash adrenaline rush when the media blitzed him coming out of the care center. Under the circumstances, it looks like Newman handled himself remarkably well, and NASCAR has mis-characterized Newman's comments because, quite possibly, they see truth in his statement.

Newman did not say that NASCAR doesn't care about the drivers' safety. Newman said, “It is a shame that not more is getting done. I don't know. I am the only guy out there with an engineering degree. I would like to have a little respect on my end.” Newman's issue was the fact that NASCAR has failed to include what ultimately makes the race go every weekend: the drivers. He was saying that NASCAR does not respect the the drivers enough to take their input into account (or even consider asking for it).

Now, Poston argued that the enforcement of the bump-drafting rule was due to several "veteran drivers" requesting it. What on the surface would appear to refute Newman's comments, that driver opinions are not welcome, actually serves to strengthen the argument for one simple fact. A select group of drivers were said to have had enough clout for NASCAR to change how they were approaching the officiating.

The elitist and reactive nature of NASCAR's approach to dealing with issues is what drivers and fans have issue with. If NASCAR had veteran drivers coming in saying that something needed to be done, as the sanctioning body for all drivers at the track this weekend, they needed to call a town hall at the track so all drivers could have a voice. Granted, you can't make everyone happy, but at least you can acknowledge that they are talented and knowledgeable in their field and listen to what they have to say. Who knows, they could actually make NASCAR's job easier.

Not once have I heard a "thank goodness everyone went home to their wives" from NASCAR. As a result, the credibility of all NASCAR's charity efforts has been diminished in my eyes. Afterall, if you can't be humane to your own, how can any one believe you care for strangers?