It's "Black Monday" in NASCAR. Although it's been all quiet so far, crew members are still worried for their jobs. And they have every reason to be.
North Carolina has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation at seven percent. Ford stock is now at $1.75. General Motors will be bankrupt by next year.
Not to mention the fact that the now extinct Dale Earnhardt, Inc. has laid off 116 employees to go with Hendrick Motorsports' 14 and Bill Davis Racing's 40, plus their entire engine department.
It's a scary time to be working in NASCAR, and the fans are struggling, too. Attendance at races is down by ten percent. Gas over the summer was well over $3.00 a gallon, and hotel prices are not going down anytime soon.
NASCAR plans to save money for teams by banning testing at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks. Could they be doing more? I have a few suggestions for the higher ups at America's most popular motorsport to save the teams and fans some money.
1. Limit tires in the Cup Series
NASCAR has already taken this measure in the now Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series. Not only will it save teams millions of dollars over time, it'll add an extra little bit of strategy to some otherwise boring races (*cough* California *cough*).
2. Cut Pay for Drivers
Obviously, the drivers are very important to an organization. Let's look at their pay checks for the 2008 season a little closer, though. Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson made $7,180,786 in winnings this year- that's nearly $200,000 per race.
Joey Logano only started three races this year and made almost three hundred thousand dollars. That's $87,475 per race.
"I'm going on the record and say the drivers make too much money," long time crew chief Brad Parrott said. "They need to feed some of that money back to the team owners so they can pay the people that are out of jobs, because without the teams the drivers wouldn't be anything.
"I know the driver does a good job, and he does hard work in the car. But if you look at his pay compared to the average crew member…."
"If one driver can give up 10 percent of his salary, that would keep a lot of people in jobs."
"I know drivers don't want to hear that, but I think there are some drivers out there who understand that."
Cutting a driver's pay—even by a small margin—could help teams cut costs in this struggling economic time.
3. Sell companion race tickets as a package.
This will definitely help struggling fans, not to mention the attendance rate. Buying my Nationwide and Sprint Cup tickets together may not save me a lot, but on an expensive race weekend it'll pay off later. If it works at Kansas for the Indycar-Camping World Truck Series weekend, it could work anywhere.
4. Bring jobs to the fans
The jobless rate here in America is growing thanks to a poor stock market, where everyone from banks to Circuit City are laying off employees left and right.
Why not have sponsors like CareerBuilder, Monster, Career Search and local employment agencies set up tents outside the tracks? Not only would it be good for their business, but struggling NASCAR fans could get back in the work force. And Mr. France, more fans working will equal more money in that pocket of yours.
I know you like the sound of that.
5. Show NASCAR ID, ticket—get money off hotel room
Best Western is the "Official Hotel of NASCAR." If you're a member of their "Speed Rewards" program, you get money off your hotel during your fast paced weekend. You can also cash in points for free NASCAR gear.
Teams should definitely look into getting their crew members on this program, to save money. Over time, that money saved could buy another seven post rig, pay for more wind tunnel time, and leave more money in the wallet of team owners.
Those are my suggestions to a struggling NASCAR on how to help teams—and help the teams help themselves. Who knows, some of these could actually be used to save a bit of cash next season?
Do you fans have any other ideas?