No News Is Good News
October 12, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Over the last several days, several of you have written to say that our staff of writers and columnists has been a bit too negative lately. “Too many stories about what’s wrong with racing and not enough features about what’s right,” said Gary Welborn of Tampa. “Maybe you should look for another sport to cover if racing is in such bad shape,” wrote Mary Ghoriad of Medinah, Illinois. “Lay off CART,” was the simple message we got from an anonymous reader.
While I don’t agree the overall tone of what we write and say on RacingOne every day is overly negative, I do agree 2001 has been one of the most difficult and controversial seasons in racing history. It’s hard to not be critical or harsh on a subject when it is warranted. I’d like to think we are fair in our assessment of the racing world and it is our duty to give it to you straight, in an “unfiltered” manner, which is our mission.
It just seems that, in the words of Saturday Night Live icon Roseanne Roseanadanna, “It’s always something.” Every week there’s a new issue, statement, disagreement, argument, fight, dispute or just plain bone-headed move to report. In only the last six days, we’ve had these gems:
· NASCAR, which is far and away the leader of the bone-headed moves category this season, puts a gate on top of the cars in victory lane to keep drivers from jumping on the roof as part of their winner’s circle celebrations. God forbid any emotion would be shown or that the fans may catch a glimpse of their hero’s jubilation. No, a contraption that looks like a giant Lego set now needs to go on the roof immediately to halt any spontaneous show of delight.
· Oh and while we’re on the celebration topic, don’t think about taking a victory lap with the American flag after winning a race like Sterling Marlin did after Sunday’s win in Charlotte. The sanctioning body claimed it was unsafe for Marlin to take the lap because there were so many people on the track. But we really know it was because the car needed to get to victory lane right away for the post-race celebration, I mean sponsor plug ceremonies.
· CART, who has been right on the heels of NASCAR in the bonehead race, finally decides to release its engine rules for the 2003 season, only about eight months later than necessary.
While the switch to a normally aspirated formula similar to the IRL’s is good news for open-wheel racing in general, CART failed to discuss the repercussions with either Ford or Honda, effectively eliminating both manufacturers from participating in the series after next season.
Without the involvement of those two giants, CART will be left with in essence one manufacturer (Toyota) to supply engines for the entire series. And the marketing support that both Ford and Honda have provided for the series over the years will be gone.
· Wait there’s more from NASCARland. Lowe’s Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler threatened to tow NBC’s satellite trucks off track property and cut the network’s cable feed for not properly referring to the speedway’s corporate name during Saturday’s Busch Series race telecast.
Since Lowe’s hadn’t ponied up the proper advertising dollars, NBC called the event “Busch racing from Charlotte,” rather than the proper Little Trees 300 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
It was eventually worked out and the network referred to the speedway with its proper name Sunday. This little tussle came on the heels of FOX blurring sponsor logos off the cars at Daytona and Cracker Barrel filing a lawsuit against FOX for dropping its name as title sponsor off the March race in Atlanta.
Boy, you’d think all these minor details would have been worked out before NASCAR signed the new gazillion dollar television contract.
· And finally, while yet another driver lost his life, the world’s most successful sanctioning body sits idly by. Yes, Blaise Alexander died in an ARCA race, but the RE/MAX Series cars are virtually identical to Winston Cup, Busch Series and Craftsman Truck machines, a design that has been proven to be woefully unsafe.
Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin, Tony Roper, Dale Earnhardt and now Alexander have all perished in accidents that were similar in nature and deadly in results.
Yet any new safety measure, whether a head and neck device, shoulder harness or reinforced seat, has come from the drivers and teams. Outside of a multimillion-dollar investigation and elaborate presentation to explain nothing, NASCAR hasn’t made an iota of a move to make its cars safer. Nothing, nada, zip. No soft-wall development, no chassis redesign, no crush panel added to the front bumper, no mandate of the HANS device.
Oh, by the way, NASCAR parent company International Speedway Corporation reported a 23 percent increase of total revenue for the third quarter of 2001 and two members of the France family were listed as members of the Fortune 400.
At least there was good news for someone in the racing world.