Opinion: A Media 'Feeding' Frenzy

2013 Media Tour

Members of the motor sports press corps are hungry for information and getting their fill during this week's NASCAR Sprint Media Tour. (Photo: Getty Images)

For the first day and a half of the 2013 Sprint Media Tour, drivers and teams … and NASCAR’s new Gen-6 racecar … dominated the dialogue.  Without exception, there was excitement, eagerness and high expectations at every turn.

But Tuesday afternoon, it was all about the fans.  NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France held his annual “State of the Sport” presser and covered a lot of ground – tying it all neatly together by saying:

“Everything we’re doing is designed to either make the racing better, or the experience better when you’re at the track or watching on television.”

To paraphrase, NASCAR continues to enhance the fan experience.  Whether France is talking about the next-generation Sprint Cup Series car, faster track-drying technology coming out of the sport’s Research and Development Center or new rules to create closer competition … he’s really talking about rewarding the sport’s wildly loyal fan base.

Daytona International Speedway – one of 12 NASCAR tracks owned by International Speedway Corporation – joined the conversation by presenting plans for a proposed multi-year redevelopment of “The World Center of Racing.”  DIS President Joie Chitwood outlined the effort to provide a better overall race experience for fans (there’s that word again) – including upgraded concession areas, entrances, ticket gates, grandstands and “interactive common areas that allow for opportunities to watch a race from several vantage points.”

To paraphrase, it seems everything – or close to it – will be touched by this ambitious project.

And Tuesday’s mid-afternoon stop on the Media Tour took us to Charlotte Motor Speedway – one of eight NASCAR tracks owned by Speedway Motorsports, Inc.  Topic?

The headline atop the press release reads: “Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Launches New ‘Fans First’ Initiatives for 2013.”  Without foraging through all the details, SMI’s outreach will honor long-time fans, welcome first-time fans and reward the “ultimate fan.”  The last one comes with a $10,000 price tag for an annual membership.

And yes, I believe there is common ground to be found among France, ISC and SMI when it comes to their fans.  Once you get them to the track, you must feed them.

Food, though an afterthought Tuesday at the track, was part of the program.  And it comes as no surprise that the often-resourceful Bruton Smith – SMI chairman and CEO – would be the one to bring bacon and cotton candy together in one glorious cellophane pouch.

Or serve “Coke Tacos” … for which – I was told – the meat was braised with the beverage for six hours.

Other choices on Bruton’s Buffet, which was a sampling of his trackside fare, included:

Jalapeno and Bacon Hushpuppies … pretty tame when presented alongside the two items noted above, wouldn’t you say?

Smokin’ Hub Caps … an odd mix of doughnuts and barbeque.  Really?

Las Vegas Full House Fries … gravy was involved here, which I guess makes it relevant to the South.

Country Fried White Wine Slaw Dog … now what in this picture doesn’t belong?  (No match for the Martinsville Hot Dog, by the way.)

Bristol Brats … again, reading from the press release, “Pork sausage made with dried cherries and Tennessee whiskey, topped with moonshine cherry and onion relish.”  Along with the deep-fried bourbon balls, perhaps this is why there were buses waiting to take media members back to the headquarters hotel?

And for the more conservative palates in the room, there was Lobster Mac & Cheese and Pit Stop Popcorn tossed with caramel sauce and melted chocolate.

After all that, and a Chevrolet-sponsored dinner last night, I’m not sure anyone was ready for breakfast with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing on Wednesday morning.  The menu for the final two days of the tour includes stops at Hendrick Motorsports, Penske Racing, the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Joe Gibbs Racing.

So to fans hungry for the new NASCAR season and a well-fed media eager to bring it to them, I say “Bon appetit!”

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup

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