Is NASCAR For sale?
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and of course a warm welcome also goes out to he or she lucky enough to have been assigned this column on this day by NASCAR. Just pass it up the line Dear. I had ‘em at “Hello” with this one.
When this week began, I wasn’t sure there would even be a column bearing my byline this week. It’s one of those times that you see coming and just wish it were already over… you know? For two days straight, I'm working between appointments with my dog groomer, two of my people doctors and my Vet, each of which is found in a different town. The rest of the month, the calendar shows nothing at all. Such is life in the Georgia hills.
Because of time constraints and my desire to keep my aged bony fingers on the pulse of the sport, I arose with the sun this morning, decidedly not something of which I plan to make a habit, and fired up the keyboard.
What caught your scribe’s unsuspecting attention just yesterday (Tuesday) was a rumor, stated almost as a fact, which said NASCAR is for sale. Now, I’m as used to the regular garage rumors as the next person, but this one isn’t one of the “usual” accusations of cheating or the divulging of a “secret” as to who is leaving whom to drive for whomever next year. No, this one is startling in its simplicity, not to mention its impact.
The first thought that crossed my mind was “laughable”, but the more I considered the possibility, the more I found I wasn’t laughing. Let’s just look over exactly what has been happening right under our collective noses that we have calmly overlooked by not doing as so often advised…“Looking at the big picture.”
FOX and NBC are contracted to share broadcasting duties for a duration of 10 years, which started a year ago at the 2015 Daytona 500. Team owners have sought for decades to acquire franchise rights that would give a team some value other than wholesale hardware. For that same length of time, NASCAR has refused to consider such a move, claiming that teams are merely independent contractors, free to come and go as they like. This year, those teams enjoy a Charter system, which grants 36 of them a guaranteed start in every race. The charters may be bought and sold at will, with the only question being that of price.
The drivers… those persons most visible to the public and most associated with any team and/or sponsor, now have their own Council, with its own elected hierarchy, to carry driver concerns, thoughts and even advice to the powers that be. In other words, a Union, which has always been a word not spoken in NASCAR circles.
Promoters of every track on the circuit, regardless of ownership, have come on board in agreement with guaranteed money percentages from both TV and gate. It would seem at first glance that the future is so bright it will require shades. I’m reminded of a line from a very old Red Foley song. “… and all is Hoop-da-looley in my Renfro Valley home.”
But upon closer inspection, is it as good as it looks, or are the changes merely cosmetic? When one wants to get top dollar for a home, the first thing one must do is make the home present well… fresh paint, better landscaping, and all the things that show. All that seems to have been taken care of by NASCAR, but none of it changes the fact that fewer and fewer “fans” are coming to the tracks or even making the effort to turn on their TVs. Cosmetics can only do so much, and lipstick on a pig has never been proven to work effectively.
So, maybe it’s all for a good cause, or maybe it’s all for show as someone may already be in the yard affixing the “For Sale” sign to a post. If a sale is imminent, or even in the plans somewhere down the road, no one is talking about it… yet. It would, however, go a long way to explaining something strange that escaped the lips of Brian Z. France, the Chairman and CEO of NASCAR last week when interviewed by FOX Sports commentator Chris Myers.
Cup Series Title Sponsor hunt:
Q. The title sponsor, Sprint, has been for Cup a tremendous ally, and it runs out this year. Who's the next title sponsor for the Sprint Cup Series?
BRIAN FRANCE: Several companies here as a matter of fact this weekend, a number of companies taking a very hard look. It's a very special asset in sports. It's the only thing you can own outright. So we have a lot of interest, and we just want to make a good decision as we go down the stretch and choose our next partner.
“The only thing you can own outright?” What does that even mean gentle readers? I’ve been mulling it over for days now, and until yesterday, it refused to make sense to this orderly mind. Now, perhaps it makes perfect sense, when taken in the context mentioned here today. So… is NASCAR for sale? I have no clue, but I heard it and it seemed like a good thing to pass along for discussion and maybe even a giggle or two.
This scribe is flat out of time for today, so as a closeout, I’ll leave you with that Red Foley song I mentioned earlier and something brand new from Blake Shelton.
Welcome back NBC! It’s been far too long and we’ve missed you!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!