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INDEX OF ALL BEHIND THE SCENES EDITORIALS

Behind the Scenes of Florida Racing

November 7, 1999

               THE PUPPET SHOW

During the course of the 1999 racing season there have been several track owners whose decisions have made me question their sanity, or at least their dedication the sport of stock car racing. Nothing has disturbed me more than the following:

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On JULY the 3rd of this year Bill Green, announcer at Sunshine Speedway, began airing a two hour race talk radio show, "SHORT TRACK USA with Bill Green" from 10 AM until 12 Noon every Saturday morning. A good concept and a pretty good show, with drivers from around the state stopping in and calling in to talk with Bill about their racing adventures. Bill Green had taken over the show in late April from Doug Auld due to Auldís accepting an editor position with a national magazine. Tough shoes to fill as Doug Auld was a very popular fixture around the area, and for that matter still is.  Shortly

after Bill Green took the reins of the show, the station decided on a different format, the major sponsor Dayton Andrews Dodge took a hike and Bill was faced with the gruesome task of finding a new station and selling the show to a new sponsor.

In June Green arranged an agreement with Bruce Miller, a Tampa Bay area chiropractor to become the title sponsor of the now two hour live broadcast.  Miller had been a somewhat active sponsor of drivers at Sunshine and was now putting his name on Bubba Clem, a Tampa radio personality known for his Ďraunchyí morning act on an FM station. Clem was racing Sprints at East Bay Raceway. Seemed like a cool thing, publicity for racing and all that.

By the time October rolled around the Miller sponsoring machine had Bubba Clem driving a Late Model, Dave Pletcher in a sprint, Kim Sheffler-Hays in a Limited Late Model, along with a handful of other drivers, all touting the Miller Chiropractic business.  It was apparent to many by this time that the Short Track USA radio show was a Miller operation, lock, stock and barrel. More and more of the content of the show seemed to be involved with Miller in some way. Whether this is true or not is beside the point. In marketing perception is reality. But the show was consistently improving and gaining listeners as Bill Green balanced between trying to give the short track fans around the state the news and information they wanted, and promoting the title sponsor. Seems on the surface at least like a pretty fair trade.

However, as events have played out over October and November the Miller operation has raised serious questions about the positive effects of his involvement in stock car racing in Florida.  I saw an interview with Jack Sprague, 1999 NASCARís Craftsman Truck champion, wherein he described why it was fine with him to come back and defend his Truck title in 2000 instead of moving up. His sights are obviously set on the Winston Cup. And heís good enough to be there. But as many of us have learned through experience in life, not all money is good money. Sprague said in so many words there were plenty of drivers across the country who were good enough to be in Winston Cup, himself included, but he would not go with a team or situation he was not comfortable with, because it could very easily backfire. And you would never be heard from again. Gently alluding to the fact that racing at that level can be a dirty business. As it can be at the local level.

Bubba Clem makes a pretty fair living Iím told from his radio show. I guess people in America today will buy anything if it somehow gratifies them. On a typical Clem show he spits out direct and indirect sexual garbage and other venom laced trash talk that no sensible parent would find acceptable for their childrenís ears. Not that heís somehow unique, since every major market has a ďshock-jockí these days, and people have become desensitized to that sort of thing.  It does bring  questions to my mind anyway. For instance, would you want to take your kids to the races to see this man and get his autograph? Is this a role model you would like to see your child emotionally hooked up with? Is this the kind of person you want to see representing your sport?

Bruce Miller must think so.

But thereís other questions about this Miller promotional machine. You see this Bubba Clem is running for Pinellas County Sheriff, and is at least portraying the image that itís a serious bid. Bruce Miller is his Campaign Consultant. Interesting.

Thatís right. Kim Sheffler-Hays, one of Floridaís finest examples of positive representation of stock car racing is part of the team with a man who mouths such obscenities to our children that we couldnít begin to tolerate on the KARNAC Message Boards. And theyíre both sponsored by Bruce Miller.

Earlier this week Bill Green was informed by Bruce Miller that his show was being cut back to one hour. It would now be on 620 AM from 10 AM until 11 AM. The reason weíre told by Miller is that since the racing season is winding down, people wonít be into the show as much. Miller should stick with what he knows. He may know how to fix the energy in your body so you donít hurt, but he demonstrated with that reasoning heís clue less about you and me. But it is his money and his decision to make how he spends it.

But what he did today on the Short Track USA radio show that he pays for is beyond reprehensible. A disgusting piece of arrogance. At approximately 15 minutes before the the first abbreviated Short Track USA show was in the books, Bruce Miller came on the radio, chastised Bill Green for a particular post on Bill Greenís own Message Board, or some other step out of line.  And proceeded to belittle Green for the remaining 15 minutes, interspersed with his justifications for cutting the show to one hour, and essentially forcing Bill Green to apologize on the air. As if he did something wrong. All the man did was inform us of the change in format:

                           
Starting this week, Nov 6th, "ShortTrackUSA" will be cut from it's regular two hours, to only one hour.  Dr. Miller, the title sponsor, has decided to launch a NEW show in the 11AM-NOON time slot. It will be a medical & law, consumer information show. Currently the purposed title is "Professionals Against Fraud". "SHORT TRACK USA" is just getting into a good stride, and gaining listeners daily. I can only hope that such a move on the sponsors part doesn't reflect poorly on myself, my show, and the staff of "ShortTrackUSA".  This past Saturday, Oct 30th, was one of the best shows we have had, 6 guest from all over racing, and a record 16 phone calls from listeners. Thanks for your support, and we will continue to program a quality hour at "ShortTrackUSA".      THANK YOU         BILL GREEN

Even if Bill Green had done something justifying the sponsorís wrath, the actions of Bruce Miller are completely at odds with a concept we share in the racing community.  The concept of Family.  Never belittle those in your care in public. Not original for sure. Maybe I had more civilized influences in my life that Miller. Maybe I donít understand the rarefied air people like Bruce Miller float in. Or maybe Bruce Miller owes not only Bill Green an apology, but every race fan in this state.

Maybe.

I thought Bonnie Hill, owner of Sunshine Speedway, was half crazy when I was told a while back that she had refused to allow the Bruce Miller sponsored Late Model driven by Bubba Clem at her track. What a great publicity stunt I thought. Good for racing, good for the gate, a winning combination.  But the lady who holds her guns on selling $4 beer was right.
Private Property. No Federal civil rights violations. The wanna-be lawman and his doctor were sent packing. You got to love it. She is truly Ďa professional against fraudí. 

How many drivers do you know who work their butt off to race. How many driverís wives didnít get the new refrigerator or whatever, because a new manifold or transmission or some other part was needed. Or the damage done by the idiot last week in turn four has forced you to cut your grocery bill. The stars at Sunshine Speedway are the folks who put on a show every Saturday night. They work hard for and earn everything they get at the track. And they do it, for the most part, without the help of the Bruce Millers of the world. And Sunshine certainly does not need to foist Bubba Clem, as some sort of celebrity ritual, on the fans who came to see the real stars shine.

James Knight at DeSoto battles cancer, scrapes some money together somehow (family again!) and wins the Pure Stock Championship at DeSoto Speedway. John Whitesell, to whom the term disability doesnít exist has fought for five years against incredible odds for that first Street Stock win. Heís still trying.  Richie Anderson, severely burned in a race fire, suffers for the love of a passion that could only be eclipsed by that for his family. These are the stars. A young 15 year old does his school work at AM after a long day in on and around the car that he hopes will propel him to the promised land of NASCAR. My list is very long, but Iím sure for most of you reading this, your list is much longer than mine.

Iím sure Iím not alone trying to reconcile the emphasis on our kids and family an the values they bring to the table with the trash talking political candidate Bubba Clem and his Campaign Consultant Bruce Miller who would would impale the host of a racing show while on the air.

For whatever you may think of Bill Green, he does a tremendous amount of very positve work for racing in Florida every day. And whether he knows it or not he does not  need a Bruce Miller to allow him to do it.

Meanwhile it might be appropriate for Kim Sheffler-Hays to distance herself from these two while she still has her reputation intact. Bruce Miller said on the Short track USA show that he didnít want any bad publicity, obviously in reference to the show and Bill Green. Well Brucie what you did today is the sort of thing that wonít be forgotten.

Be a man and apologize to Bill Green and his audience.

                                                                 -Jack Smith

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