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 Columns & Editorials

December 20, 2002

Who Will Stand For the Racers

The Importance of the Media Revisited

By Jack Smith

One of the recent topics on the Original Florida Stock Car Racing message board focuses on Sunshine Speedway.

The poster that started it all said: "I saw on the pinellas county channel that they are going to break ground for the new road in june 2003. This means that the track won't get to race all season. What's up with that?"

A concern that we have heard expressed quite a bit recently by members of the Florida racing community, in response to media reports that Pinellas County is buying the speedway property. There has indeed been a fair amount of publicity about the sale in the area.

Is this a rumor? No it is not. If you don't believe us call the Pinellas County Commission and ask yourself.

Is there a time table?

Will the track last the 2003 season?

Should we plan on building a car for Sunshine or instead consider DeSoto, Citrus, Auburndale (god forbid) or elsewhere?

If you have a question like that we suggest you call Sunshine Speedway and ask the owners. It will then be your decision to act based on the trust you either have or don't have in their answers.

There is a bigger point here, however.

In the aforementioned thread on the message board, Rick Bristol states "I never said I was and expert and musical tracks is not a game that is planned. I just said that you run your little enterprise here like you want regardless of people rumors and opinions so the Hills and Sunshine Speedway can do the same......"

Not so at all. As a matter of fact in 1997 through 1999 KARNAC did in depth marketing surveys of the audience to get ideas, opinions and emotions regarding many issues that affect the racing community and it's members. Those opinions were sought then and they are still sought today, although by different methods than broad surveying. When one is involved in the business of entertainment, getting the opinions of your potential audience is of paramount importance.

Rick Bristol states "again you say what you think and thats all great....And its amazing how you and your views and opinions change about drivers, tracks and promoters when it fits you better."

Of course views and opinions change over time. To not be able to change one's mind or point of view is a sure sign of ignorance and worse. I challenge anyone to cite examples of "your views and opinions change about drivers, tracks and promoters when it fits you better" and consider the statement a poor effort to deliver a cheap shot, which is quite consistent with many staff of race tracks when confronted with uncomfortable feeling that someone may be shaking the foundations of quicksand upon which some managements of racing facilities stand.

Rick Bristol states "and the tracks must run as they see fit ...no not every owner and promoter does what is best for the drivers been shown at most everytrack at one time or the other but there are some good ones that do a pretty good job of it"

I could not agree more. However to ignore situations that are detrimental to the racers and try to paint a rosy picture when there is slime running down the glass is aiding and abetting the destruction of the sport you profess so much love for.

When an owner destroys the business reputation of the race track in Polk County, when a track operator packs up and leaves St.Augustine in the middle of the night with the sponsor's and racer's money, when the racers are lied to by an owner about points fund money or purses, when championships are paid for in advance, when changes are brewing and racers spend hard earned money to prepare a car only to find out the track was scheduled to close all along, when 50/50 monies are improperly accounted for risking potential arrests and convictions and horrible media, when greedy carpetbaggers come in to play their con games on the racing community, when the safety of the racers is short changed, who is going to be there to speak the truth and stand up for the integrity of the sport?

Rick Bristol states "Hey did you know that I have heard that DeSoto is for sale , and that there are several that are trying to buy it from Mr Sarpriacone and that he won't pay out the points money and will be buying another track and will be dropping a division next year......wow the rumors go on and on and if they are true or not we will only know when they either happen or don't ....hmmmm ? I will tell you what when you know all the answers to those rumors please let us know ok...."

This is another attempt to be cute. KARNAC.com never has and never will support the furtherance of rumor mongering and Bristol knows this. It is an insult to Rick Anges, Jane Smith, Jack Smith and dozens of other contributors and above all it is an insult to fans of Florida Stock Car Racing.

This year alone we tracked down, debunked and published facts on hundreds of rumors started by all sorts of folks. One of the primary and best source of rumors is from the owners and promoters themselves.

Bristol may be still under the mistaken belief that myself, Jane Smith, Rick Anges, and the dozens of others that make KARNAC.com a reality every day are somehow a bunch of desk bound computer nerds.

Keep thinking that, it makes for a good laugh every once in a while.

And the point of all this is the Hills, if they had a clue about public relations would ensure that news and announcements were circulated through all the various media, so that the racing community had the real story, not just the spin that they can get published in a local paper.

But then if they had a clue about all this they would have ensured that Internet media outlets (whose audience is far greater today than they care to confront)over the last several years had information about the racers and the events at Sunshine Speedway.

I guess folks tend to fear what they don't understand.

Poor communication is the protein that rumors live off of. The breeders of rumors are everywhere abundant, but only the improper use of Public Relations can supply the life force for their propagation.

As long as race track and racing series do not take seriously the use of good writers and publicists, and for those owners who don't see the value of paying for quality in the media game, those race tracks will continue to suffer the consequences of inconsistent attendance, dwindling car counts and poor relations in the community.

There are several in Florida who are succeeding at the media game and are improving daily the esteem of their tracks in the local community. There are several more who are on the edge, but still resist opening their pocket books. Then there are more than half who are stumbling blindly, stuck in the past and or listening to very bad advisors.

Is the original poster at the beginning of this essay asking a rational question or just trying to stir up a rumor?

Who knows? Go the message board and ask him?.

Have an opinion on this story? Post a message on our Message Board!
or send a letter to the editor!



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