In a season where the on track entertainment has been on unparalleled levels, off the track NASCAR has not missed an opportunity to shoot itself in the foot.
Killing the momentum of the great start to the season was NASCAR president (and public face) Brian France endorsing, with present and former NASCAR drivers, Donald Trump for President. Their personal opinions are fine to have, but you can’t do something as the president of NASCAR and not have media and fans associate NASCAR with it. The move led Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, to publicly call France an idiot for making an uniformed decision; and that’s from a company that gives money to NASCAR as a series sponsor.
Then there was the invocation debacle at Texas where a character (Phil Robertson) on the TV show Duck Dynasty thought it was a great platform to preach about what the country needs, all while alienating half its audience. Again, fine that he has that opinion, but in that forum it is unacceptable and something NASCAR should have seen coming. While they do not run the Texas Motor Speedway (who has a history of making bad decisions on controversial issues), they could have had some say in how the invocation should be done. Mainly, don’t talk guns and having a “Jesus man” in the oval office.
Then we go to last week during the media obligation for Ryan Blaney that has again brought NASCAR into the spotlight for not a good reason. Blaney did nothing like pledge his vote for Trump or swearing loudly into the microphone, instead he said the word “velvet” over…and over…and over. Did Blaney watch Super Troops recently and think it’d be fun to do this? Of course not! NASCAR instructed Blaney to do so.
While I’ve been in on some media sessions where the conversations with drivers have gone to silly areas, they at least were not staged conversations. Had Blaney thought of this on his own, it would be one thing, but specific instructions from the sanctioning body on what to do during his session is eye-rollingly appalling to those trying to write actual stories.
Such tactics shouldn’t be so surprising. FOX has nearly daily pieces on Danica Patrick’s yoga poses, so I guess NASCAR is just pandering to its supposed audience. Oddly there are some journalists out there who are actually journalists (not that I claim to be one) and for NASCAR to try to be “catchy” or all the buzz on social media is just sad.
Once you think that three strikes would be enough for NASCAR to wake up, this week happens. The sport welcomed back three time champion and star Tony Stewart, who has recovered from a broken back, for his final season. Prior to that announcement, Stewart “told it like it is” about the sport’s lug nut policy, and after his announcement NASCAR welcomed him back: with a $35,000 fine for speaking out against the sport. Let’s look past Greg Biffle saying the same thing earlier in the week, but really? You’re going to shadow over a big story like Stewart returning with some B.S. fine because you don’t like what he had to say (when it was the truth).
To add more layers on to this delicious cake of stupidity, was NASCAR Competition VP Scott Miller announcing yesterday the sport would look into their lug nut rules. What? So what Stewart said resonated so much with the higher ups in NASCAR that they both fined him and now realize their rule needs to be changed? They need to walk a fine line on this one, as we’ve seen the NASCAR driver council speak up and defend Stewart. How many more times will it take before drivers say “enough is enough” and stage some sort of strike? (Highly unlikely, but drivers and owners seem to be growing bigger balls when it comes to telling NASCAR what they’re doing isn’t right).
The easiest thing NASCAR can do is not another snap chat or dub smash, but let the racing do the talking. If they did that, there would be nothing but great things to be said.