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Dale Earnhardt Jr. fires right back at Bruton Smith, and suggests NASCAR promoters themselves need to do more to help race fans

Bruton Smith wants drivers to do more to help promote NASCAR racing (Photo: Lowe's Motor Speedway)


By Mike Mulhern


   So what should NASCAR promoters do to entice more fans to Sprint Cup events?
   When promoter Bruton Smith, rightfully anxious about selling tickets in these rough economic times, declared two weeks ago that drivers needed to do more to help promote the sport, Dale Earnhardt Jr. exploded.
    Drivers, Earnhardt insists, are indeed doing their part, more than their fair share even, perhaps, and it's time for those promoters to start promoting, after so many years on Easy Street.
   "Someone said track owners were complaining drivers were negative toward helping out. That is not true," Earnhardt says forcefully. "We do the Winner's Circle (pre-race appearance) program. We are constantly doing things every week for this guy, that guy to help tracks.
    "Shoot, we were in Daytona for the Fan Fest thing, and I read 20 darned scripts about selling tickets.
   "They have to take a little responsibility for themselves.
   "I was thinking the other day they should build their own hotels. That way they can control and bring hotel prices down…and control the hotel price in the region, and make a little bit of money.
    "People aren't coming to the track because the drivers don't care -- People aren't coming to the track because it is expensive to do it.
   "The drivers do pitch in; the drivers do go that extra mile. And we are willing to do more.
    "It is very easy to sit down and shoot a damn 30-second commercial; it is a piece of cake these days to do it. I can it at home.
    "We have the NASCAR tech center (in Concord), where we can do live teleconferences for an hour. Whatever they want.
   "We can push all we can push…but they have to get a little more creative.
    "They can't expect people to spend that kind of money in this economy."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of NASCAR's most eloquent 'philosophers,' though he'd rather just race (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    An example of NASCAR promoters perhaps missing the point – Richard Petty, who won the Daytona 500 seven times, who won the NASCAR championship seven times, wanted a few minutes Friday in the infield media center to promote something. Certainly, the track told him – if he paid them $5,000.
   Now maybe if the media – such as the few that are here – had a few minutes with the legendary driver, they might have a good hook for some stories that might sell a few more tickets.
   But to have to pay $5,000 for that 'right?' Petty declined the offer.
   Earnhardt says every part of this sport is a business, and "they have to do what they have to do. They have to make the choices they need to make to survive. They are a business, they have to make business choices.
    "But there is some gouging in certain areas: Tripling a hotel room for a night is a bunch of bull."
    With so many race teams folding or merging, the idea of a salary cap of some type is being raised. And when one brand new NASCAR driver rolled into this track in a huge, fancy motorcoach, the issue of drivers' salaries is suddenly being heard too.
    With 1,000 crewmen suddenly out of jobs, perhaps drivers are making too much money?
   "I told Rick Hendrick he could pay me whatever he wants to pay me," Earnhardt said. "Rick can pay me whatever in the hell he wants to pay me -- I will drive a race car for nothing."
   Promoters in this sport sometimes use Earnhardt himself in a promotion without the courtesy of a call first, which he says ticks him off "when people use your name without asking.
    "That happens every once in a while. I mean, just ask. 
    "Like the Memphis thing with the ribs; they didn't even say nothing.
    "Texas has done it a couple of times -- putting them billboards up at the track.
     "Las Vegas did it -- where they were give somebody season tickets if I won a championship or something.
    "I like those kind of things, but damn, notify us.
    "And let's get a little more creative.
     "The thing about the track owners is going to get more play that it should. I don't really want to go after Bruton. He is way too big. He's way tougher than I am.
    "I just wish it was easier to go see a race. And I want the fans to have whatever they want: I want the racing to be like they want it.
    "I want the drivers to have such diverse personalities that everyone has a favorite.
     "I want the weather to be perfect….
    "You just want them to be able to go to the race and have a good time.
     "You remember how it was 10 years ago? It seemed like nobody was really complaining about little things like camper parking and the traffic and the cost of a parking pass for the infield.
    "Now these are big issues for some reason.
    "They have to figure out how to fix that."


What is needed, aside from

What is needed, aside from not demanding $5,000 from Petty to promote something, is the tracks need to promote RACING. They need to start paying bonuses that make the drivers go for the lead far harder than they presently do. Superb racing is the best promotion there is.

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