NASCAR certainly knows how to put on a show. The monolithic racing series has grown to iconic status. The problem with that is the warts become iconic, also. This week, the WO’s (worthless opinions) look at NASCAR with HD. And you know the problem with that. As American writer Dorothy Parker said, “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes right to the bone.”
1. First the serious: NASCAR did an absolutely tremendous job in the aftermath of the NNS last lap accident. They had an emergency plan and followed it. First responders swarmed the grandstands, ambulances were rolling, and the pits were cleared for helicopters. Whatever discussions will come regarding spectators and fencing, NASCAR had plans to address this situation. Kudos.
2. Some on social media were critical of the NASCAR officials’ demeanor in the press conference Saturday evening. It was mentioned that they seemed cold and/or indifferent. I thought they handled it very professionally. In a litigious society that demands instant information that will be parsed for every nuance and hint, the truth is that your PR/communication people have to tread very lightly. Any misstep can be worth millions in the courtroom. Total honesty cannot be expected so soon after the fact. Facts were given and questions were answered as well as can be expected.
3. Tony Stewart’s muted response in after his NNS win Saturday was spot on. It was neither contrived nor delivered for effect. It makes a fellow proud to be a Hoosier. Well done.
4. But not all is shiny and pure in HD land. Sometimes the blemishes cannot be ignored. NASCAR had YouTube take down fan video shot on a smartphone of the accident on grounds of copyright infringement. YouTube later reinstated the video saying that it did not violate copyright. NASCAR backtracked and said they wanted it down in deference to the victims. Sure. That’s why. I’m sure it had nothing to do with possible lawsuits stemming from the accident. Deadspin, bless their sarcastic little hearts, posted an assessment of the situation. NASCAR claims to own the copyright on every picture or video taken at the track. Good luck with that. For all I know, some communications wonk overreacted. Or maybe it’s just another big corporation assuming they own everything. If only the American public didn’t believe in that pesky Constitution.
5. I don’t have the answer for fencing. It’s a dangerous sport for the participants as well as for the spectators. Someday, when a lawsuit, or the threat of one, really scares a major racing series, a solution will be found. Until then we will wring our hands and jerk our knees until the next race. Then the blinders will come back on until the next step toward the government enacting more regulations to protect us from ourselves. In other words, fixing the problem will become the cheaper alternative to settling lawsuits. That time will come. This issue affects NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA, and every Friday and Saturday night track in America. It will not go away.
6. Lawsuits over the accident may be filed, but it is doubtful that any will go to court. They will all be quietly settled. Any racing series is in a no-win situation with spectator injuries. Court is open. The media would be a circus. A lawyer would ask if a series had a contingency plan. If the answer was yes, then it would be shown that the series expected an accident with spectator injuries. Guilty. If you had no plan, then the series would be negligent for not expecting the accident. Guilty again. It’s the situation Yossarian faced in Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22. NASCAR can’t win. It is almost always cheaper, and better business, to settle.
7. Kyle Larson is a racer. He’s young, aggressive, and talented. So naturally he followed the money to NASCAR. It will be fun to watch him move up to the big boys. I just hope he’s a Tony Stewart clone who never gives up the dirt tracks. He certainly went to Tony’s class on how to win friends and influence people on his last lap bump on C.E. Falk in the Whelen All-American Series race on that freaky backstretch track. Milk it, NASCAR!
8. Who says NASCAR doesn’t work on diversity? They had 50 Cent (rapper Curtis James Jackson III) in the pits trying to kiss Fox reporter Erin Andrews as she searched for Danica Patrick on a grid run that made Robin Miller look like a star. I just LOVE the random absurdity of large events. I guess 50 Cent was going to Get Erin or Die Tryin’. Truth is so much stranger than fiction.
9. Of course I have a Danica Patrick comment. She drove a smart race, and other than hitching her star to Greg Biffle on the last lap, did everything right. It was a great run for a rookie on the big stage. Women can drive race cars. Period. She puts on the helmet and takes her chances. Gender has nothing to do with driving. It has a lot to do with endorsements. Sometimes it pays to be a pretty face, and I don’t grudge Danica cashing that check. She’s just “Taking Care of Business,” baby.
10. What else was great about the Daytona 500 weekend? The Winter Indy Tweet-Up (@WinterIndyTwtup) made the weekend. Big thanks to all involved in the effort. The Dallara tour was fun, but I’m going to need some translation on the brew served at Lino’s Coffee in the factory. The two lap 100 MPH ride around IMS may have been the highlight of the day. Finally, it was fantastic to hang with so many other people who share my love for IndyCar racing during the Main Event party at Detour in Carmel.
That’s all I’ve got about Daytona. The racing season is upon us, but we all know what the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” really is, don’t we? If not, here’s a little reminder: