NASCAR Economics 101: My Rant on Brian France, NASCAR Tracks

Jen PrestonSenior Analyst IFebruary 8, 2009

"Last year I stood at this podium and pledged we would hold the line on major changes, and we have," NASCAR President and CEO Brian France said during the annual media tour in Charlotte, N.C.

"The sport and the fans have been through a great deal of necessary change over the last 10 years. Now we're in a period where we're letting those changes mature, and you know, the changes are working well."

Yes, of course Mr. France. Laying off over 700 people, teams struggling to the point of having to combine operations, and your own Daytona International Speedway keeping concessions closed and only selling front stretch tickets for the July race are all swell changes.

Really? Who gave this guy a microphone?

With the Daytona 500 just around the corner, it's time to take yet another look at the economy, because even "The Great American Race" is suffering.

Tickets, which haven't sold out yet, are at the lowest they've been since 1995, a mere $55 per person. Tickets at Texas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Talladega and others are also declining.

"In tough times like these, strong people tighten their belts, put a little extra zip in their step, and focus on things they do best," France said. "In our sport, nobody does that better than our drivers and teams."

Teams are only doing as well as our fair president says because they've merged: from Ganassi and DEI to GEM and Petty, teams are coming together simply to stay alive.

But hey, these are good changes. And it only gets better.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. showed absolute outrage this past Thursday when he released a "profanity-laced response to NASCAR track promoters" after Bruton Smith blamed drivers for poor attendance.

"S#@!, we were in Daytona and I read off 20 damn scripts about selling tickets," Earnhardt, Jr. said. "I don’t know. They have to take responsibility for themselves.

"I was thinking the other day they could build their own hotels. That way, they could bring the hotel prices down and control the prices in the region and make a little bit of money.

"People aren’t (not) coming to the racetrack because drivers don’t give a s#@!. People aren’t coming to the race track because it’s expensive to do it. Drivers do pitch in and drivers go that extra mile, and we’re willing to do more.

"It’s very easy to sit down and shoot a damn 30-second commercial. It’s a piece of cake these days. I can do it at home.

"We got that NASCAR bake sale. We can do live teleconferences for a f#@!ing hour, whatever they want. So, you know, we can push all we can push, but they can’t expect people to come out and spend that kind of money in this economy."

He's absolutely right. This is NASCAR and the economy's fault, not the drivers. No other sport will let you get right down where the drivers are before race time, and hardly (if any) have autograph sessions that begin in the afternoon and go into the dark of night...for free.

NASCAR has taken way too long in lowering prices for the fans. Where were all these cuts last summer, when gas was $3 to $4 a gallon?

"We're going to make this more affordable," (Daytona) Speedway president Robin Braig said, describing the price reduction as a "very, very difficult" decision. "The Daytona 500 was the last place that this company would have gone to drop pricing."

It was difficult to lower prices? And we wonder why fans are so upset?

Look, I know NASCAR has a business to run. They have executives that need millions and millions of dollars for their mansions, private planes, and enough to get those fabulous $50,000 curtains for their spacious office.

Brian France may have suspended bonuses in the front office and ordered a hiring freeze, but with NASCAR doing nothing to help teams while these people still get paid millions...does he really think that's a solution?

NASCAR may be pledging that this is "The Year of the Fan"...but their words are speaking much louder than their minimal actions.

Thanks to the Sun Sentinel, Daytona Beach News-Journal, The Salt Lake Tribune and the Orlando Sentinel for the quotes and information used in this piece.