Friday, December 1, 2017

Competing with Nascar, A Two-Part Longform Series from Spade Racing--Part 1: The Inventory

We’ve all heard it.

Heck, some of us might have even said it—“If only someone would come along and challenge Nascar, then we’d REALLY have the stock car racing we’d like to see.”  For a lot of fans, someone else either taking control of Nascar or challenging them with a competing series would not only shake things up, but force Daytona Beach to up their game in the management department.

Well, I’d hate to break it to you, but there’s two things you need to understand:
1.) We can be about 99.9% sure that the France/Kennedy family will never sell their controlling interests in Nascar and International Speeday Corporation.
2.) Wanna know what two competing racing organizations would be like?  Look back at the IRL/CART war of the 1990’s.

BUT…let’s take a look at the hypothetical WHAT IF…what if someone DID decide to compete with Nascar—some incredibly rich person or company with a love for racing and the patience to let it grow.  Well, that person or entity would need quite a number of things to actually compete with Nascar at the Cup-level, such as…

—MONEY—this is the most-important thing anybody would need to compete with Nascar.  Heck, its the most-important thing anybody needs to compete with anything.  It doesn’t matter how much a new series would try to spin things about being “cost-effective”, the start-up costs would be astronomical before a single car ran a lap.  On top of that, any new league anywhere (think Major League Soccer) will almost certainly lose money for years—maybe even decades—before they begin to break even.

—A BENEFICIAL TV DEAL—as much as we’re getting our entertainment from other sources now, we still see television as the standard-bearer—just think how much fans have complained with more races being on cable instead of network TV.  A TV partner would have to be willing to televise races live, give them proper support (no random announcers from an off-site studio), and promote promote promote.  Having races on a cable/satellite channel not many people get won’t cut it—MavTV might be great for motorsports, but it isn’t available to the average fan.

—TEAMS and EQUIPMENT—how would such a hypothetical organization operate?  Would they follow the traditional model of allowing anyone with a car that passes inspection to attempt races?  Would they instead own the teams and simply lease them out to interested parties?  Would they have some sort of hybrid similar to Nascar’s current charter system?  Either way, cars will have to be provided by someone, and lots of them.  Then add on all the other equipment necessary—tires, engines, fuel, etc.  Keep in mind that companies might not be willing to provide the sweetheart deals they give Nascar to an upstart company, and you’ll understand by MONEY is the most-important ingredient here.

—TRACKS—on the one hand, we always hear about how Bruton Smith is itching to finally get back at the Frances by starting (or significantly helping) a brand-new racing series to challenge Nascar for stock car supremacy.  But let’s be honest here—as crazy as Bruton is, would he really risk losing his dozen or so Cup races to gamble on a brand-new organization?  While he did it once before (more in PART 2), we’re assuming THIS new organization would actually get on the track.  Its not like Nascar would still be in the mood to deal with him if he would back a competitor so quickly.  Meanwhile, since Nascar essentially owns ISC, those tracks would almost-certainly be off the table.  Any new organization would left to broker deals with a hodgepodge of non-Nascar affiliated tracks to cobble together their schedule.

—DIRECTION—and I’m not just talking about the usual “mission statement” BS.  Any new series would have to determine what they wanted to be like in comparison to Nascar.  How would they differentiate themselves?  Low-cost spec series or unbridled innovation?  Oval-only, road-course only, or a mix?  Plenty of new rules to stay on the cutting-edge, or a return to old-school-style racing?  A steady vision would be needed or things would be changing all the time—you know, just like Nascar.

—DRIVERS—and this is where the biggest variable would come into play.  What kind of start would a new series want—getting in on the ground floor with young, unknown drivers and building around them, or going after big-name veterans from Nascar to make a splash?  Either way carries its own risks—who would want to watch a series full of nobodies vs. a bunch of guys who would be labelled “Nascar rejects”.  Of course our old friend MONEY comes into play here as well, since plenty of that would be needed to either develop drivers from scratch or pry name-guys away from big budget Nascar teams.

—LEADERSHIP—racing brings with it a litany of on-the-spot decisions to make both on and off the track.  Of course a brand new series would bring with it even MORE decisions to be made in relation to the racing product.  Who would be in charge?  Who would set the nitty-gritty rules?  Who would make the calls during races?  Who would organize payouts and levy fines?  A new series could outsource this to an outside sanctioning body, but doing so would likely hurt credibility in the long run.

SO, these are just some of the most-important aspects a brand-new stock car racing series would need.  Remember that 99.99% chance of the Frances ever selling?  Well, I’d say its about the inverse that a competitor would ever come along.

BUT, there was a group that tried to compete with Nascar, in the heady days of the early-00’s.  Next time we look at the story of TRAC, the only recent group to ever attempt to go toe-to-toe with Nascar.