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NASCAR's 'Scene' shutting down? The good, the bad, and the ugly of the opening week of the new year....

 Not a lot out there in the Atacama Desert for Robby Gordon, winner of Stage Four of Dakar Rally (Photo: Robby Gordon)

   By Mike Mulhern

   The new season hasn't even opened, but the NASCAR world is already ripe with eye-popping action, some good, some not so good.
   First, the good:
   -- Robby Gordon is doing just fine in the South American Dakar Rally, winning Stage Four of the two week event through Argentina and Chile. Gordon, running a Hummer H3 – apparently with GM sponsorship, though that company is in the process of selling its Hummer division to the Chinese – is eighth overall (one hour, four minutes behind, heading into Stage Five).
     Gordon was four minutes behind at the first checkpoint, seven minutes behind at the second, but he rallied to make up six minutes in the final 30 miles), before something good clicked, and then he made up 6 minutes in the final 30 miles. The leg was from Argentina's Fiambala to Copiapo, and the Atacama Desert (not only one of the driest spots on earth but also one of the coldest deserts).
   -- Jimmie and Channy Johnson are expecting a baby, in July. Let's see, how about a 'name that baby' campaign?
   -- And NASCAR officials are making moves to cut costs in the Nationwide series, with rules limiting the number of crewmen each team can take to the track.
   But the bad:
   -- Another print media publication may be biting the dust. That venerable NASCAR publication Scene Daily, the weekly that was created back in 1982 by legendary Rob Griggs, appears on the ropes, with its owners cutting virtually the entire staff Monday, in a stunning staff meeting.
   The operation is part of the Charlotte-based American City Business Journals, which is owned by Advance Publications (which also publishes Street&Smiths'  various sports publications, including The Sporting News). Advance Publications is a privately-owned company led by major publisher and billionaire SI Newhouse (Vanity Fair, Vogue, The New Yorker, among other well-known publications).
   -- And if you're looking to buy some souvenir tee-shirts and die-cast model cars this spring, well, it looks like the company that owns the rights to team souvenirs – Motorsports Authentics, a company owned jointly by the France family's International Speedway Corp. (ISC) and Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports (SMI) – is also on the ropes, trying to figure out a way to pay off the millions it owes teams...in an era where no one, it seems, is very interested in $25 tee-shirts and other expensive NASCAR souvenirs. The company says bankruptcy is a possibility. ISC and SMI bought Motorsports Authentics in 2005 for $250 million; the company has been recently valued at about $36 million. The company is trying to negotiate settlements with the NASCAR teams with which it has contracts.
   The sport's top souvenir salesman is Dale Earnhardt Jr., but he had a terrible 2009 season and has won only once in the last three years.
   Maybe next week's Daytona's 'NASCAR Thunder' preview may help spark things. It opens at 6 p.m. Friday January 15th, with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano and others on the card. The second round of the 'preview' will begin at 12 noon Saturday January 16th, with Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Sam Hornish Jr., and others, in a session that runs till 8 p.m.
    Nevertheless it is still a very weak substitute for the old Winston Cup Preview held in with a crowd of 25,000 every January in Winston-Salem, N.C. So it is surprising that NASCAR tour bosses haven't changed up the January sports promotion package.

    The SpeedWeeks' schedule for the 2010 season opener at Daytona has been set and it looks like this:
    February 4th (Thursday): Media Frenzy interviews all day, followed by about two hours of Shootout practice at 5 p.m., then drawing for the starting lineup.
    February 5th (Friday): Daytona 500 practice at 2 p.m., for about three hours.
    February 6th (Saturday): Daytona 500 pole runs at 1 p.m., followed by the ARCA 200 (and Danica Patrick's stock car debut), and then the Bud Shootout at 8 p.m.
    February 10th (Wednesday): Daytona 500 practice at 12 noon, followed by Nationwide practice at 3 p.m., and then Truck tour practice at 6 p.m.
    February 11th (Thursday): Truck tour practice at 9:30 a.m., followed by Nationwide practice at 12 noon, and the Daytona 500 twin 150-mile qualifiers at 2 p.m. Then the Truck tour qualifying at 6 p.m.
    February 12th (Friday): Daytona 500 practice at 1:30 p.m., Nationwide qualifying at 3 p.m., the Truck tour race at 8 p.m.
    February 13th (Saturday): Daytona 500 practice 10:30 a.m., followed by the Nationwide race at 1 p.m.
    February 14th (Sunday): the Daytona 500 at 1 p.m.


  Robby Gordon looks a bit tired four days into the two-week Dakar Rally, through Argentina and Chile (Photo: Robby Gordon).


If this does happen, then

If this does happen, then it's yet another example of the sport's quasi-collapse. With declining popularity has come declining interest to read journals - written and electronic - covering racing. It's also sympomatic of the lack of courage displayed by racing media in offering challenging writing - from my earliest recollection of the journal in its days as Winston Cup Scene I always found it frustrating reading because of its serial lack of coverage that could be construed as unsympathetic toward subjects or at least challenging enough that the reader could come away thinking something opposite of what the story might wish the reader to think. I never saw pieces other than 1991's The Case Against Ernie Irvan where WCS engaged in real journalism.

In the modern era of electronic media, journals that cover subjects need to stop being PR-oriented and start being more balanced, even confrontational when appropriate, in coverage of the sport, because when readers feel they're being given honest coverage, I feel they'll want to come back.

And yes, construe this as a veiled compliment to your own coverage of the sport.

Honesty---that word sums it

Honesty---that word sums it all up. Its a pretty sad world when we have to look to tabloids like TMZ and the National Enquirer to get a ounce of the truth.

The TV was on tonight and a Tiger Woods show came on. They had some of the golf media on there and they knew it was going on all along and just snickered-wink wink when asked about it. That made me sick. Thats whats wrong, these people aren't journalist, they are paid PR mouthpieces to form a image and then marketing markets every dollar out of that image. Sports media (well, all media) has gone to far in accepting and maintaining the "image" for people that dont deserve it.

Did that Irvan story include something about a sponsor dinner where Robert Yates was fuming? If so, I read that over and over and I agree it was a heck of a read.

2010 will be a disastrous

2010 will be a disastrous year for the anachronistic NASCAR.
Times have changed, people's values have be reinvented, and NASCAR racing has become virtually irrelevant and almost completely unimportant in the grand scheme of American life.

As our country attempts to recover from the terrible problems of the last decade, people find themselves in "survival mode", on a daily basis. NASCAR has little or no meaning to their lives. Who cares what some transparent adrenaline junky does or says, and why should precious time or money be wasted in support of foibles with little or no return on investment? Diecast car? $25 t-shirt? Pit pass? Are you kidding me?
Why not flush hard earned money down the commode?

NASCAR purveyors are easily compared to their "bootlegging" predecessors. There should be laws against the continuous rip-off of the lemming-like followers of a meaninglessly wasteful enterprise.
Oddly, those who have followed the sport of racing most ardently, appear to have found themselves the strength and courage to rebel against an inferior product and blatant repetition of boredom.

The party is over! Not even Dale Earnhardt, Jr. winning and Danica, doing whatever it is she is going to do, can save the day.

Look for the demise of more NASCAR related business entities, stunning numbers of empty seats at races, almost total indifference to racing statistics and results, a disastrous decline in souvenir sales and racing memorabilia, and the continued failure of the sport to attract and retain new fans, as former fans flee in record numbers.It is difficult to have compassion for those so bereft of foresight.

Mrs. Goodman, Fort Worth

What is Mrs. Goodman talking

What is Mrs. Goodman talking about?

"The terrible problems of the last decade..." WHAT "terrible problems?" "People find themselves in 'survival mode' on a daily basis." No they don't.

Thanks Mike for the positive

Thanks Mike for the positive news on Robby in the Dakar. He may not always play well and have success in Nascar, but his wins and championships in SCCA, IMSA, CART, SCORE and Dakar prove his superior ability as a driver.

The only surprise regarding

The only surprise regarding struggling race team souvenires is: what took so long. When I was excited about the Grand National Series back in the 90's just before it became the Cup Jr. Series, I followed my favorite up-and-coming driver and bought a t-shirt or three of his. Each one rendered the previous one useless when sponsorship changed or he went to a new team. That was when t-shirts at the track were $20 a pop. Paying for driver t-shirts at that price is ridiculous for something that will be out of date at season's end. $10 for temporary t-shirt is something most fines wouldn't mind, but forking over $25 or more when your most sponsors are changing year-to-year and now race-to-race is a rip-off.

Terrible news about Nascar

Terrible news about Nascar Scene. :( One of the things I looked forward to every week. Would rather they kept Scene and scraped Illustrated.

As for baby names. Saw Cassill twitted to Gluck yesterday suggesting if it's a boy they call him "Chase" Johnson. Someone replied that that's what everyone has been doing for years now. ha ha

Things like the collapse of Scene though do not speak well for the health of the sport at all. I can see losing some of the off beat Nascar magazines and there are probably almost too many websites but Scene was a good weekly. And with the names I saw let go I'm assuming the Scene Daily website may be a goner too; how would they have a racing site without racing writers?

Pam in NC

I used to subscribe to Scene

I used to subscribe to Scene magazine back from 1995 to about 2002 and quite frankly got rid of my subscription because I felt they became too apt to spew the company-line. And as far as diecasts go,I had collected (and still have for the most part) every paint scheme from every driver from 1994 to 2003. That's ALL of say,Joe Nemechek's schemes for a given year. The problem from me my fellow collector's point of view was that when you release a car,dont re-release it thus negating the value of it (of course you knew certain drivers cars were never going to be worth much). As the teams got more and more schemes and also many different sponsors,it became near impossible to get them all and now as a previous poster touched on (with shirts),why bother when that sponsor will change bfore the year is up. I think the bottom line is that NASCAR has very little continuity-unless you count the constant Hendrick domination as continuity. I'm sure people dont want to continue reading and watching the same team owner year after year. Sorry my post is long. Happy New Yeay Mike!!!

Thanks for the article. I

Thanks for the article. I think that fans leaving and economic woes for the "sport" has been going on since Nextel/Sprint and baby France took over. Diecast sales along with other swag sales have been declining for some time. They used to make 40,000 "collectible" cars of one model and folks balked at the collectability of diecast so they cut the quantity (and revenue) but who wants to pay for six or seven cars a year at $65-$100 a pop. You can't even give them away on eBay where the really desirable cars eventually end up anyway. All the damn cars are made in China anyway, who cares. T-Shirts! How many can you really have? They have been ripping us off for years and it has come to roost now. Ticket prices were outrageous and when times got tough, folks stopped going to the races. I have already spouted off about the Old Winston Cup Preview and the Nextel idiot who attempt to "educate" me on why they should suck up to the Daytona crowd and move all the crap down there where rooms are really, really, cheap and plentiful and where the location is sooooo convenient for everyone to get to. A quick market study on diecast sales before and after please. Let me educate that idiot, you got bought out and the sport is nearly dead because of you passionless idiots, France included. Hell, the "sport" can shut down tomorrow and the France's are still set. What do they really care? If you can't run a business how are you going to increase the emotion and passion that folks have for what used to be NASCAR? You cannot quantify passion and it has definitely left the fans who supported racing.

When NASCAR loses a 35 year,

When NASCAR loses a 35 year, die hard fan, they need to find out why. I am one of many 35+ year NASCAR die hards who has simply walked away.

Souviners and Collectibles

I remember when Maxx Racing Cards and Racing Champions die cast started the ball rolling in collectibles. I recall camping in the pecan grove at CMS (Lowes Motor Speedway to you newbies), where the Sprint Experience is put now, and the only souviner rig in the area was a little trailer called the Red Caboose. They set up at the corner of Hwy 29 and Morehead Rd. That was it. Long time NASCAR fans were so starved...for anything relating to our sport...that we be bought everything. I had buddies who would call in sick to work just to be the first to get the newest die cast car. We had all watched our friends who were NFL and MLB fans wear their jackets, hats, and shirts for so long. Now we had our chance. Basically, demand for anything NASCAR went wild....and so did the prices. So what happened? As mentioned in a previous post, have you ever tried to sell anything NASCAR on Ebay? Did you ever buy the latest die cast car for a Roush driver for $80, then see a vendor the next year selling them new for $25 ea or 5 for $100? And have so many of them stacked up he made aisles out the stacks under a circus tent? How many different paint schemes can a team run each year? How big is the average fans' garage or attic? How much NASCAR can it hold? Worthless NASCAR that probably will never bring pennies on the dollar. Fans are broke, have tons of "collectibles" that really aren't, and they've run out of room.

Of course this "demand" went way past the souviner market. For years I camped all week at Talladega...both races...free. Then they put in some spots with water (for a hefty fee). Then all but a few places (other than the snake pits) are $75 for the week just to pull into a marked space. WTF? I live 75 miles from Charlotte, who began charging to camp in that open field way before anyone else, but went to Talladega just to protest the charging for camping scenario. Then, we're asked to pay for that "field spot" in Jan for a race in May. Ditto for tickets. Do you have any idea what raceweek camping costs in the Fleetwood Campground beside the new dragstrip? Simply put, when stock car racing suppliers, not just NASCAR, had the opportunity, they raped race fans. $100 to get a 30' X 50' spot in an open field? WTF? $100 to sit on the backstretch at CMS? WTF? $5 for a sheet of paper with scanner frequencies on it?? It happened.

But I may not be as bitter as you think. They raped us because we let them. We paid it. If I didn't pay it, somebody would. No more. It's really as simple as supply and demand. With the sport's popularity on the slide, demand for anything NASCAR is down. Prices went up with high demand, they'll have to come down for less demand. And until they do, entities like Motorsports Authentics, et al will suffer.

In this supply and demand scheme I have one thing to say as I leave NASCAR in my rearview...."Ain't payback a bitch?"

Now, why is demand down? Does anyone at the HQ in Daytona Beach know what the "S" in NASCAR stands for? I believe it's "stock". Not "spec". Two pivotal moments in NASCAR history started the slide. The first one was back in the early to mid '80's when NASCAR gave its first concession to a manafacturer who was fielding an uncompetitive product, as in "Since you've turned your Cup eligible model into a brick, we'll let you run less spoiler." That, my friend, eventually resulted in the COT. The other pivotal moment came, sadly enough, at the 2001 Daytona 500 when we lost Dale, Sr. Safety became the byword, the focus, got to be safe, safe, safe, damn the quality of the racing, or what we do to the cars...it's ok, it's in the name of safety. Don't get me wrong, we got SAFER barriers and HANS devices, and put helmets on pitcrews. Great stuff. We also got yellow lines, lucky dogs, HOT passes, shock rules, gear rules, etc. Yeah, I know the yellow line rule came before Dale's death, but it came. As unpopular as this opinion will be, here it is. People love to watch the Blue Angels. Why? People love auto racing. Why? Because it's people defying danger. If there was no risk, everyone would want to do it instead of watch it. If you don't agree, be sure to listen for the upcoming announcement ref to rules at Daytona and Talladega, which by the way compromise 90% of any NASCAR highlight reel for the past 20 years. Say what you want, restrictor plate racing is exciting for fans. Drivers who complain about Talladega need to remember why they're making $5 million this year vs. $40,000. Driving Talladega is one of the reasons partner.

Recovery. What will it take to get me and my group back? (Assuming of course that you want, or better yet, will take, us back)

Lose the greed. Tell the car makers to either mass produce competitive models or suffer the consequenses. No concessions. When those cars roll onto the grid on Sunday, let's at least make them look like their street counterparts. Lose the greed. Bring back free camping (no hookups). Do you not make enough on tickets and TV to put in a few bathhouses, water spigots, and dump statons? Lose the greed. Instead of following the NFL with crazy ticket prices, be a leader and bring back a $30, frontstretch, upper row ticket. Lose the greed. Common fans put the execs in the suites, not vice versa. Dance with the one who brung ya.

Media stuff. NASCAR. No more threats to drivers about limiting their COT comments. No more threatening reporters with access limits if they do not say what you want them to. Flipside. Media...are you listening? No more drivel or free PR work for NASCAR. The websites, publications, etc. that will survive will "tell it like it is" and be fair about it. No more kissing NASCAR's ass, but no "I'll hammer NASCAR just to bring in readers / viewers." Case in point. No more bullshit attendance figures or avoiding showing empty seats on TV. It is what it is. Who are you fooling? No one.

Race back to the flag with common sense. Give the teams back the ability to set up a car i.e. shocks, gears, etc. Stop dictating! If you want to be safe and save a life, end the green/white/checkered crap. You are running up the cost of the sport and you are going to kill someone. For 50 years fans knew when they bought a ticket a race could end under caution. Fans....deal with it. Enough bullshit caution flags. Just let the race play out. Boring, whatever, recover your integrity. It is what it is. If you follow my suggestions, boring won't be a problem. (Ha, how arrogant it that??? Sorry, I jest). Realize that 25 cars on the lead lap does not mean 25 contending for the win, especially with the bs caution flags. Only 10 cars on the lead lap is ok, as long as they are battling for the win.

Well, now that I've fixed NASCAR, guess I'll have to move on to healthcare reform. Just kidding. If you made it to the end, thanks for reading.

I have tons of old Grand

I have tons of old Grand National Scene papers and Grand National Illustrated magazines, tons of posters. All of this is from around 1979 to 1994 or so. I lost allot of my interest in NASCAR years ago. I was tired of moving this stuff around from place to place. I put it on craigslist thinking someone would buy it all for around $75.00, I couldn't give it away. Next week I am taking it all to the dump. Lots of good points made here. NASCAR is paying the price for becoming too big too quick.

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