Wednesday afternoon (March 2), NASCAR announced the Hall of Fame induction ceremony would be moved from May to January beginning in 2012. Currently held the Monday following the Sprint All-Star Race and prior to the Coca-Cola 600, the move will set the ceremony aside from any racing event in the hopes of giving it “a life of its own.”
“After holding the inaugural Induction Ceremony in May of 2010, we quickly decided a move to January would give this event a life of its own and would ensure the inductees garner the appropriate amount of attention from the fans, the media and the local community,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said in a release. “In addition to this being the right move for the inductees, we also feel like making this a standalone event will greatly benefit NASCAR fans across the country that are itching for news in the early parts of the year.”
Tim Newman, the chief executive officer of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority – the organization that oversees the NASCAR Hall of Fame – echoed France’s sentiments.
“The NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is the Academy Awards of NASCAR,” he said. “We believe we can complement the star-studded main event with a full slate of activities that will draw fans from around the country. Race fans already flock to the Queen City in May and October. We plan to work with NASCAR, Charlotte Motor Speedway and the many motorsports businesses in the region to develop January into another must-visit time for the race fan and another opportunity for us to fill hotels, restaurants and attractions.”
Yet looking at those two statements, it seems this move was done more to benefit the city of Charlotte, along with the hotels and businesses in the area – not the race fans or the actual inductees.
By moving the date of the induction ceremony, fans visiting the Charlotte area for the annual May race week will no longer be able to witness history and be a part of the ceremony. Instead, NASCAR and the CRVA are hoping people will flock to the area in large numbers during the winter – call me pessimistic, but I just don’t see that happening.
Race fans may go out of their way to be a part of a special NASCAR event, but trekking across the country to see this in the dead of winter just does not make sense. If held this January, much of the country had been battling unending snow storms and terrible winter weather. Even in the Charlotte area, snow and freezing rain made up the majority of the forecast in January.
The May date appeared to be a perfect time to hold this ceremony, since race fans were already in the area and the weather is typically cooperative. As Newman points out, “race fans already flock to the Queen City in May.”
With the Memorial Day Weekend holiday, many race fans spend their summer vacations in the Charlotte area watching races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, going to race shops and until next year they were able to witness some of NASCAR’s greatest inducted into the Hall. Now? They’ll have one less thing to do on their visit.
Instead, what this move does do is situate the induction ceremony around the media tour and National Motorsport Press Association’s own Hall of Fame induction.
During the media tour, hundreds of media outlets – many of whom do not cover the sport on a week-to-week basis – flock to the Charlotte area as teams host them in sponsor-filled PR blitzes. The fans are not invited and in most cases are turned away if they show up. That week, fans are bombarded with news coming out of the race shops as they roll out their new driver lineups, new sponsors and new ambitions for the upcoming season. With everyone over the offseason holidays, January tends to be a news-filled month in NASCAR, but Mr. France must not be paying attention.
The NMPA Hall of Fame induction ceremony – one that has been taking place since 1965 – also takes place in the month of January. Often overshadowed by the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the induction of those into the NMPA now run the risk of only being overshadowed by the larger, NASCAR-run induction ceremony at their Hall of Fame.
In addition, Newman points out by moving the ceremony the hope is to “develop January into another must-visit time for the race fan.” Is this truly in the interest of the race fans yearning for something in the weeks leading up to the season-opening Daytona 500? I doubt it. The move appears to be exactly what Newman followed that sentiment with, “another opportunity for us to fill hotels, restaurants and attractions.”
NASCAR and the CRVA can claim this decision was made to placate the fans’ desire for something in the offseason and to shine a brighter spotlight on those being inducted; however, it just smells of nothing more than a push to bring in more money to make up for the revenue shortfalls experienced since the Hall of Fame’s opening.
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