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DATE News (chronologically)
08/27/08
NASCAR
NASCAR throws manufacturers a bone  Regular readers of this column know that I'm not a big fan of the NASCAR marketing machine. I respect the drivers and the talented people working on the teams, but I find that the France family-led obsession with driving the NASCAR brand and "the show" - to the detriment of tradition, common sense and pretty much everything else - to be pathetic and one that's contributing to the myriad problems the racing organization is suffering with now. The visionary leadership of "Big Bill" France and Bill France Jr. has been replaced by the wildly ineffective posturing and arrogance of Brian France, who has embarked on a career path of managing NASCAR's downward spiral, and who is directly responsible for much of NASCAR's burgeoning slide into oblivion.

The arrogance being perpetuated by Brian France's reign is having a direct impact on the relationship Daytona Beach has with the Detroit Three manufacturers, too - the companies that fed the NASCAR money machine in its formative years. The fact that the NASCAR leadership first woke up to the seriousness of the Detroit manufacturers' financial woes in informal meetings at The Brickyard several weeks ago is a testament to just how out of touch and self-absorbed the powers that be in NASCAR really are.

At Indy, Brian France and Mike Helton were given a triple shot of reality by representatives of the Detroit manufacturers, and the message was crystal clear: We will be cutting our NASCAR programs, and not only that, we expect NASCAR to be more responsive to our needs and desires as far as the kinds of cars we want to run and the kinds of technology we want to use. NASCAR immediately scrambled and promised one-on-one meetings with the manufacturers to hear them out, but the die was cast, and "business as usual" was no longer going to cut it with Detroit. And this situation is not only ongoing, but it's fluid, and many new developments and changes will be revealed in the coming months.

But in the meantime, what does NASCAR do to signal to the Detroit manufacturers that they "get it" and that they're listening?

They announce that The Budweiser Shootout at Daytona next February 7th will have a new format that places the emphasis on the four manufacturers in NASCAR's Sprint Cup series. The field will be comprised of 24 cars representing the top six teams from Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota based on the final 2008 car owner points. NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter, trying to spin this announcement to the media while giving a clear message to the Detroit manufacturers in question, had this to say: "This could not be better timing. It's no secret that the manufacturers need all the exposure they can get right now. This is a good strategic move in that direction."

Hmmm. Good strategic move, Jim? And why would that be, exactly? Could it be that the manufacturers are bristling over the cookie cutter "CoT," the car that has leveled the playing field but turned off hard-core fans and the manufacturers alike? Could it be that this is the first attempt by Brian France and his minions to give notice to the manufacturers - and the Detroit Three in particular - that this is the "new" NASCAR, the one that actually listens and will be responsive about their concerns?

If it is, it's a half-assed attempt and one that will fall on deaf ears in the Motor City. The Budweiser Shootout is a publicity stunt, a manufactured event designed to line the coffers of NASCAR. It has nothing to do with the manufacturers, and there's no amount of spin that will convince anyone otherwise.

It's clear that with this move NASCAR is grasping at straws. They don't want to give the manufacturers what they want (see Peter's previous columns over the last few weeks - ed.), because that would mean they would have to relinquish control - which is anathema to their very core - so they're going to try to dance and schmooze their way around it like they always do.

But that's not going to cut it this time.

Throwing the manufacturers a bone when they want to change the menu will prove to be a dead end for the powers that be in NASCAR.

Stay tuned, this story is just beginning. Autoextremist.com

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