No. 946
May 16, 2018
 

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Fumes


Monday
Jul282008

FUMES #456

July 30, 2008

No amount of "spin" can salvage NASCAR's Indy debacle.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit.
It was ugly. It was absurd. It was inexcusable. And it was flat-out embarrassing. Other than that, the 2008 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard was a swell event. I will dispense with the particulars about who won (Jimmie Johnson), driving what (Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Car of Today), etc., because it doesn't matter at this point. What matters is that NASCAR and Goodyear conspired - by way of their incompetence and a stunning lack of preparation - to turn the second most prestigious event on the racing organization's schedule into a total and utter fiasco.

That NASCAR and Goodyear tested at The Speedway last April with a minimal contingent of cars and called it good, even when there were indications of severe wear problems on the right side tires - the right fronts in particular - makes it even worse. Goodyear and NASCAR both made assumptions that the premature wearing problem was caused by the "green" surface at the time, and that when the cars unloaded at Indy and started laying rubber down, things would be okay. Well, things were not okay - big time - and the race was a monumental waste of time because of it.

The Car of Today took some of the heat because of its lack of downforce and its higher center of gravity, but again, that's no excuse. NASCAR blew one of their premier events to smithereens, and as always, the fans were the ones who suffered. NASCAR ended up throwing six "competition yellows" last Sunday because the cars couldn't run more than 10-13 laps before catastrophic tire failures occurred, and NASCAR's vaunted "show" turned into a nightmare of gigantic proportions.

Now granted, it wasn't as bad as the F1 debacle at Indy when Michelin teams were forcibly withdrawn before the 2005 U.S. Grand Prix because of problems with their Michelin tires (although in fairness to Michelin they wanted to run different tires that they had on hand but the blockheads at the FIA refused to allow them to, which would have preserved the show for the fans, but I digress), but it was plenty bad enough.

And boy, did the "spin" excuses from NASCAR's chief apologists come fast and furious, including one particularly galling one from Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice-president of competition.

“Not every race is a barnburner,” Pemberton said to the media afterwards. “If you are a good fan, and you didn’t get what you wanted, it’s okay to be disappointed and we can be disappointed right along with you. We’re here to put on the best races we can, and we do a damn good job of it most of the time. Everybody inside these walls works real hard to do that.”

Huh? So we're all supposed to look the other way at NASCAR and Goodyear's incompetence at Indy because they "do a good job most of the time" - ? Do you want to tell the guy who just spent $1500 last weekend (if not more) to take his family to Indy that it's "okay" to be disappointed? How does that work, exactly?

And I'd like someone from NASCAR to please define what constitutes a "good" fan in their decidedly skewed view of the world. Is it someone who spends just enough on NASCAR-approved merchandise when they're at the track? Or is it someone who buys NASCAR's relentless tide of marketing speak hook, line and sinker, week-in and week-out? Or is it someone who just shrugs his shoulders because NASCAR had a bad weekend? I'd love to know.

And what about the statement that Goodyear spokesman Greg Stucker made to USA Today's Nate Ryan, to wit: "It's nobody's fault. It's the package, and that's what we need to understand." This from the people who have been screwing around with the so-called "CoT" for the better part of three years now? What a bunch of bullshit. Heaven forbid accountability ever creeps into the equation when anything to do with NASCAR is concerned.

The Allstate 400 at The Brickyard marks a new low in Brian France's so-called "reign" of NASCAR and his "managing the downward spiral" concept of leadership is starting to take its toll on the NASCAR money-making machine. The empty seats that were clearly visible all around Indy's famed 2.5-mile oval are stark evidence that Brian France and his crack team of corporate manipulators are starting to run out of steam and excuses. NASCAR's standard explanation about this now-weekly occurrence of empty grandstands is that it's the bad national economy, but it's becoming apparent to even the most vociferous NASCAR cheerleaders out there that the "bad economy" excuse is all but used up.

The Allstate 400 at the Brickyard was a disaster for NASCAR, and there's no amount of spin that can paint it otherwise. It's just too bad that the powers that be at NASCAR can't admit it, and can't admit a few other things, too, like the fact that the dreaded "CoT" is turning off fans and the manufacturers, and that their overriding obsession with equalized cars has turned their racing into a complete joke.

Once upon a time - in NASCAR's glory days - it was about the racing.

Then, in NASCAR's modern era, it became about "The Show."

And now, when they can't even get "The Show" right, what's left?


Publisher's Note: In our continuing series celebrating the "Golden Era" of American racing history, here is another image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Ford Racing Archives)
Riverside, CA, 1965. The great Dan Gurney at speed in the NASCAR Riverside 500 at the famed southern California natural-terrain road racing circuit. Dan made 17 starts in stock cars between 1962 and 1970 - recording three pole positions and five wins - with all of his wins coming at the historic Riverside road course. Called the "Motor Trend 500" back then, Gurney won in 1963 driving a Holman & Moody-prepared Ford, then he won in '64, '65, 66 and '68 driving a Wood Brothers-prepared Ford.

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