Saturday , July 26 2014
Home / Featured Content / Voices from the Cheap (or Not!) Seats: A Mixed Bag of Corporate Nuts
Voices from the Cheap (or Not!) Seats: A Mixed Bag of Corporate Nuts
Brian France has questioned the need for the RTA. (Credit: Phil Allaway)

Voices from the Cheap (or Not!) Seats: A Mixed Bag of Corporate Nuts

As you may or may not have noticed, I have been away for awhile. First was a four-day binge in Bristol with my two BFFs from high school, Brian and Brian, for the NHRA weekend and a refresher course on which one of us can consume the most beverages without being the biggest a-hole ever. Then it was off to Canada for ten days to debate the merits of American vs. Canadian beverages and to show a few friends up there that, yes, I really do know how to golf if I have my own clubs and they are not feeding my two to their one beverages starting on the first tee. All in all, it has been a refreshing time away even if my liver is still a bit sore.

As I return to claim my self righteous spot in the Cheap Seats, fate has cast me a bone as I returned just in the nick of time to hear what every diehard NASCAR fan dreams of: Brian France speaking publicly! But before I get right on to Brian, (damn! Too many Brians in this column already!), I’d like to comment on a few things that some other France Family Minions had to say from NASCAR’s conjoined twin, the International Speedway Corp. (ISC)

ISC president John Saunders recently had the envious task of trying to explain to investors that, even though Fox television ratings were down 10 percent for its part of the broadcast season, the folks at ISC are not worried in the least and in fact are quite pleased with themselves.

Saunders was quick to point out that viewership among Hispanics increased a whopping 12 percent and viewership among males 18-24 was up six percent  What Saunders didn’t think to reveal in his recent conference call with financial analysts was that, given the state of our southern border, there is probably a 12 percent increase of Hispanics period since last year and hey, they got to watch something. As for males 18-24, well, anything is bound to rise at least six percent at the drop of a hat at that age.

But wait — there is more corporate intellectualism to come.

Brian France gives a press conference at the Bank of America 500 in 2010. (Credit: CIA)

Brian France gives a press conference at the Bank of America 500 in 2010. (Credit: CIA)

ISC reported that Kansas Speedway, after moving its race date from April to Mother’s Day weekend, saw a whopping 15 percent increase in ticket sales due to, and I can’t make this stuff up, “increased attendance and increased ticket prices.”

Now ain’t they a bunch of friggin Sherlock Holmeses? Nothing like raising prices to bring up that bottom line, is there? And of course you had a few more people there in May than you would in April — it’s Kansas City, for Bob’s sake! Ever been to the Midwest in April? Try it sometime, but bring your parka, swimsuit, umbrella, shorts, long underwear and, oh, maybe some tornado repellent while you are at it. Not that May is much more predictable, but really, Kansas in April? Who’s the brilliant mind that thought that one up? And remember, we haven’t even gotten to Brian France yet, but here we go.

As with any Brian France speech, the average mind cannot (and according to the Surgeon General, should not) attempt to make sense of, paraphrase, comprehend or even pretend to understand any of it, lest you appear dumber than the speaker himself. The only thing even remotely safe to do is to actually read it and simply smile to yourself and think, “WTF?” In that light and even though my editors hate me for doing it, I’m going to copy and paste a few bits here for your enjoyment. Please bear in mind that some of questions are as mind-numbingly dumb as the actual answer. I hope none of them were from Frontstretch people!

Q.  I know you’re a big sports fan, Brian, and I don’t know if you’ve been following the World Cup at all or if you’ve been aware of the way it’s resonated or captivated the country.  Has anything about it resonated with you and could apply in a way that maybe NASCAR fans could get excited and do watch parties or perhaps other angles of it have resonated with you?

 BRIAN FRANCE:  Well, my experience with that is it’s always organic.  You can try to do some things everybody does, but when there’s sort of a wave of energy that gets created, and the Olympics brings that right and certainly the World Cup we saw that a few years with the Women’s World Cup, and that was terrific.

 Good for them, and it’s been fun to watch.

 OK, other than a few misguided idiots that are suddenly sporting the flags on their cars of the country that their parents, or even themselves, left for a better way of life here in the States, I fail to see how the World Cup has “captivated” our country. But of course, Brian is going to let a dumb question outdumb him! His experience of being resonated or captivated is “organic?” WTF does that mean? At any rate, good for him, and it’s been fun to read!

Q.  Denis McGlynn had mentioned in a story about attendance problems a while back that track revenue had become predominantly, I think he used the term media-based.  Promoters will always worry about selling tickets, but with the TV package seemingly really healthy, does the series at large worry about empty grandstands except for the fact it doesn’t look good on television?

 BRIAN FRANCE:  Sure, we do, and listen, that’s one of the reasons Daytona is making a big investment, to accomplish that, and a lot of other tracks are, too.  Some markets are just more challenged.  Some are doing better than they did last year, so it’s a mixed bag a little bit.  Balanced attendance is up.

 Now, there are some markets that have had a lot of pressure, and Dover is one of those.  But it’s very important because you’ve got to remember something, too:  Unfortunately for our industry, the speedways don’t enjoy the public financing component that almost all major sports enjoy.  That’s a big difference.  So Daytona’s $400 million, and it’ll be more than that when it’s all said and done, when you factor all that in, that’s private – they have to make those investments.  We’re hoping that that gets better balanced over time; in other words, that communities, local governments and so on and states will help grow these facilities like they do other stadiums and arenas.

And just what exactly is this grand plan? Spend a crap load of money to make Daytona and other speedways actually seat less than they do now? It looks pretty good on the corporate books if you can sell, say, 70,000 tickets, at a higher price of course, rather than not sell 80,000 in a 150,000 seat venue and no has to see or wonder about all those empty seats.

And can anyone tell me just what “balanced attendance is up” means? Is that the more sober crowd? Did you notice the little whining at the end about how they (ISC/NASCAR) would like you to build their race tracks for them? Nice.

Q.  TV ratings and viewership have been down for a majority of the races this year.  Are you concerned about that at all?

BRIAN FRANCE:  Well, they’re down for obvious reasons.  You have a very low number at Daytona simply because of running the entire day and not finishing in the evening and then lots of rain and lots of World Cup competition and other things.  But when you go around and really look at it and look at all the digital interests that we have today on devices, and that’s not obviously scored currently, we’re real pleased with that.  When you combine it all up, we’re actually – we’re not off that much even with our challenges.  We’re still not off that much, and we’ve carried, I think, either one or two almost every weekend that we go in, I think seven or eight times we were No. 1 coming in and out of the weekend on television, 7 million viewers a week on average.  We’re pleased with our – we’re never pleased when our ratings aren’t growing at the rate we would like, but we understand that circumstances will always have us going one way or the other from time to time.

Yes, go back and read that last answer again and get back at me when you understand it. All I know is, I’m glad I don’t have to consume beverages against that particular Brian! He’s way out of my league!

Stay off the wall (but on your Prozac, Brian!),

Jeff Meyer

About Jeff Meyer

Jeff Meyer
Jeff is the longest-tenured staffer at Frontstretch, starting his second decade as the resident humorist and pain-in-the-butt that keeps NASCAR (and his fellow co-workers) honest. Writing Voices From The Cheap Seats, every Tuesday, his BSNews! Segments along with alter ego “Stu Padasso” have developed a large following. Jeff makes his home in Tennessee and is a Bristol groupie, camping out for the August night race every year since he can remember.

15 comments

  1. Thanks for your article.

    Best advice on how to deal with BZF’s press conferences I’ve ever read.

    Anyone see the formation of the RTA as an act of survival by the owners?

    Based on the timing of the announcement so close after this State of the Sport (SOS) address sure gives that appearance.

    It’s like “OK, we’ve seen enough. This ship is sinking and we’re going down with it if we don’t do something.”

    How else does so many fierce competitors come together? If something doesn’t change we are all going to lose.

    Hope they make a difference.

    Thanks again.

  2. I live in a islated place where “its all good”. I was in a meeting with my sons class and these idiot parents wanted total transparency to their young children in regards to a private matter regarding a teacher leaving. One which was none of our business but had to do with a health issue. Boundaries and respect is what I teach my family. Anyhoo, a parent comes out wanting to know why they shouldn’t discuss X,Y and Z with their young children..”because after all the truth is organic”. Holy Cow, at that point I professed at nightime meeting to a root canal appointment and left. My God, I have learned anybody bringing the word “organic” into a converstaion that doesn’t involve fruits or veggies, is out of their freaking mind, and it appears what we all know..BZF is. Good article.

  3. Sounds like Brian is practicing to run for president of the US in 2016. He has mastered the art of saying nothing with a lot of words and spinning bad news into good news.

  4. Excellent read… Love your humor and biting insights ;-) I can’t believe the sport I’ve followed for 44 years has come to this… plastic cars and plastic drivers.

  5. funny post/article, I enjoyed the read.

    I was hoping someone with a quick wit was going to review the ISC report and the BZF noise.
    ISC is public where the Frances are the controlling shareholders, right?
    So they only do a report to cover the legalities and not convince share holder not to re org the board?
    and BZ only has to basically remain conscious?

    Although I thought the ISC report was usually given by what’shername FranceKennedy. Are they trying distancing her?

  6. I think it is time to let loose Brian France, FOX and Sprint. I doubt 11 Seasons of Apatheic Racing deserves “more time”.

  7. maybe attendance and tv ratings are down, but I think the overall product is really good again (as opposed to the way things were back when the cars had those Indy rear wings). The cars look better, much better actually than they ever have imo, Dale Jr.’s winning (which is nothing but good for the sport), there’s a bunch of up-and-coming studs in the stable to keep the sport “fresh”. The racing (on track) itself to me seems really good currently. Just my 2 cents…(enjoyed the article though)

  8. Speaking of clueless, Fox is spending a bundle of money to televise nascar keeping the Waltrips amid a drop in ratings ratings. Maybe there are other decision makers in the corporate world that are information challenged.
    One last thought, I noticed that the prize money for JJ was in excess of 127 thousand for finishing near the bottom. How can the drivers win so much money with a declining spectator count and declining tv ratings? Go figure!

  9. Yeah, things are so great that ESPN and TNT couldn’t wait to get out. It’s absolutely amazing to watch nascar sink when justa few years back they were the top draw and fastest growing. Now they’re a low draw and slowly dying. They have seriously become a joke in the sports world.

  10. Don in Connecticut

    What an idiot. If he were not a member of the Lucky Sperm club, he would be pumping gas at a 7/11. I wonder how long the rest of the family will put up with his stupidity. (can you say Tony George?)

  11. Sorry, Jeff, but the first question to Brian obviously came from Summer Bedgood.

    I know a few CEO’s and I can promise you they are not the clueless tool (sorry, Jay) that Beezee France is. Most CEO’s have good business sense and strong leadership abilities. Then again those qualities were job requirements since they didn’t just inherit a family business. A chimp could do a better job of running a business than Beezee, and without throwing as much poop at his audience.

  12. Amazing how the corporate guys can spin things that are wrong to make them seem to be “right”. In the world according to Brian and apparently the guy from ISC, too, attendance and ratings being down isn’t a bad thing at all!

    I just know that on a personal level, my interest in NASCAR has fallen to the level of casual fan. Do I still watch? sure, but I no longer sit down to watch entire races – even when the weather is bad and I’m inside, I seldom sit and watch the whole race and going to races has fallen way down on the priority list as far as how I am going to spend my money and vacation time.

    But it’s all good, right?

  13. I’m serious here, Brian France is delusional and that does not bode well for NASCAR. (Or maybe he just spouts all that bull organic to hide the fact that he is not very bright and in way over his head.)

  14. congrats for not using the word ‘tool’ or clueless once in your article… I’m sure it was a challenge.