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ISC making enemies with the media
This letter was mailed to all USA auto racing journalists through the AARWBA association for racing media.

As some of our members may be aware, California Speedway (nee Auto Club Speedway) has decided to charge for meals during the upcoming Cup weekend, October 9-11.

I wish to encourage AARWBA member not to pay the $25, and instead to seek other alternatives.

The issue at play is not the food, but rather the unmitigated greed and a disguised attempt to charge us for access, the first step in a "slippery slope."

If the track had stated that they would no longer serve meals (due to economic considerations), this e-mail would not be relevant or necessary. But turning the Media Center into a profit center is just plain wrong.

The track is owned by International Speedway Corp (ISC), and they are making plenty of money. A few years ago, the fall race had a gross margin in excess of $30 million. But that’s apparently not enough for the controlling shareholders.

The only logical explanation for the instituting a policy to charge media for food is that the controlling shareholders do not want to see a reduction of their dividend, and hence their lifestyle. All of us are taking major hits in this economy, but if they’re successful in this attempt, what else will the controlling shareholders feel we should pay them?

Can you imagine not being allowed to bring your computer or camera to ISC tracks, unless it bore an ISC sticker? And having to pay an annual license fee of, say, $2500 for the privilege? Guess what, folks, that is what will be next.

Impossible you say? Then why do the teams have to pay ISC an annual license fee, in some cases approaching $5000, when they use their own golf carts or other ancillary equipment when they race at ISC tracks?

But that’s not all: the spectators are taking it in the shorts, in more ways than you can imagine, but that’s the subject of another email. So, the media be damned, the spectators be dammed, and so, too, the sponsors.

How would you like to be the Auto Club of Southern California paying a reported $5 million annually for track naming rights or Pepsi shelling out $2 million for title race sponsorship and being associated with a sports property that increasingly alienates people?

Did Auto Club and Pepsi really sign up for a diminishing relationship, such as angering and alienating the media, or aggravating spectators by eliminating the temporary mass transit station (outside the backstraight) for those fans who do not want to be stuck in ill-advised "traffic planning?" Or worse, affiliated with a track where the General Manager was recently fined for not filing two years worth of conflict-of-interest forms with the State of California, for a Governor Schwarzenegger-appointed post?

Why should I have any inclination to include Auto Club or Pepsi in any story I write? Why would I want to embarrass them further?

The argument that "times are tough economically" doesn’t wash. Until I see the controlling shareholders of ISC in the breadline, I have no sympathy. Their mismanagement does not mean I should pay for their mistakes, now or in the future.

Send the message that this is not an acceptable policy -- don’t pay their $25 tariff. The food is not the issue; it’s what they will do to us in the future, if we do not draw the line in the sand. Now.

Also, if you’re so inclined, dash a note to representatives of the track’s "partners," stating how you feel about this situation:

Rick Lalor (Automobile Club of Southern California) - lalor.rick@aaa-calif.com

Jeff Filiberto (Pepsi) - jeff.filiberto@pepsico.com

Thanks, Steve Mayer

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