Race Weekend Central

Voices From the Heartland: In France’s World, Dale Earnhardt Jr. & His Fans are to Blame

As longtime readers of this column have come to know, I hate “stupid.” If someone in the world of NASCAR says or does something that is extremely stupid, I have no qualms whatsoever about pointing it out, no matter who they are or what position they may be in. Just ask my editors!

(By the way, is that somewhat related to the fact I have yet to get my invitation to the Frontstretch Christmas party? But I digress…)

Over the years, my pursuit to expose those that are stupid has led some readers to think that I hate NASCAR. People email me and say I should write about something else; or, that I do something I think is anatomically impossible – at least for me, anyway. At any rate, I assure you that that is not the case. I love stock car racing – and if you are one of those that think otherwise, well, if you were worth a page of copy, I’d expose you, too!

However, in the world of NASCAR there is one person that, over the last few years, has been the subject of many of my columns. That person is NASCAR CEO Brian France.

It’s not that I particularly enjoy writing about Brian; it’s just that some of the things he says – with increasing frequency, I might add – are so mind-bogglingly stupid that I feel it is my duty to point it out, so that not one single fan may catch whatever it is that he suffers from.

At a recent Reuters Media Summit in New York, France uttered the following comments that once again make my job very easy.

Here’s the scenario: NASCAR’s CEO was commenting on continued falling TV ratings that are plaguing the sport as of late. In need of an explanation, none other than Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s name came up – unprovoked.

“It would have helped if he would have been competitive,” said France. “He didn’t win an event, and he certainly didn’t make our playoffs. And that’s unhelpful if you’re trying to build ratings.”

So, there it is. Laid out as plain as day from the mouth of the man who can do no wrong! You, Junior fans, are the reason television ratings were down 13% from 2006. Shame on you! But wait! There’s more. What was that that Junior didn’t make, “Our Playoffs?”

Flashback to a January 2004 NASCAR press release explaining the new points format,

MIKE HELTON: This is not a Playoff. Every one of our events will continue to be Super Bowl-type races, with all 43 drivers competing against each other at the same track to win a race.

BRIAN FRANCE: The seeding process is how you finish after the 26 events. That’s the seeding process. You did see that we did reward if you finish first, you have got a 45-point lead over the 10th-place competitor after 26, and five points for every position in sequence – so we have, we won’t call that a seeding – because what we’re not going to call this is a Playoff. It’s not a Playoff. It’s not a single elimination. It’s not a win or lose and you are out. Not a best three out of five. It’s better than all that, because it still has consistency; still has 10 tracks over two and a half months to compete. We think we have got something that’s better than the Playoffs.

I must have missed the press release that announced that Brian has decided that it is a playoff in the last four years – my apologies, and I will try to pay better attention in the future. However, there was one thing that Brian said last week that proves – even though he is not bright enough to realize it – that he has no clue as to what he is doing.

“The margin of error for all the sports to manage their business smarter is more narrow,” France said.

Now, let’s see, double-digit ratings drop for multiple years, two failed attempts to build tracks in places where NASCAR was not wanted, two longtime Series sponsors (Winston/Busch) bailing, soon to be three (Craftsman), not to mention a massive scale-back of Budweiser sponsorship dollars, multiple lawsuits, some settled out of court, some not, yada, yada, yada.

Yep, Brian France is right. There is a narrow margin – and his head is too big and thick to get through it!

Stay off the wall (and too much Egg Nog!),

Jeff Meyer

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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