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?.
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or send a letter to the editor!
The Thrill is Gone At Auburndale Speedway
By Jack Smith
One word that conveyed a mountain of meaning to fans of stock car racing in Polk County, Florida.
Bill Martino was gone; and the new promoter who came with such promise in late 2000 was J.T. Beard, a supposedly well-to-do entrepreneur from California who had made his fortune in the storage business.
A new sun was rising over the little quarter mile speedway and 500 race fans volunteered in a "massive clean-up effort" at the track in October 2000. New wood for the bleachers, new PA system, paint and lighting system, all pointed to a new era at the "little speedway that could".
As we approach the two-year mark on Beard's adventure into stock car racing it is becoming increasingly clear that rough times are indeed here for the foreseeable future at Auburndale Speedway.
Now I hate eating crow, hate the taste of that foul fowl. Which is why I usually make damn sure have my stories straight.
Last November John Barker wrote a piece for the Ledger, Lakeland's hometown newspaper, in which he made the case that Auburndale Speedway was in trouble.
Among other things he made the following observations:
"racing at Auburndale Speedway is still a bit questionable, because strong management still has not taken center stage."
"One thing for sure is track owner J.T. Beard must step up and make some key changes regarding rules being the same for every driver in each class. If not, there's sure to be a driver rebellion of sorts."
"The gates here could swing shut for good unless the entire Auburndale team is on the same wave length next season."
I took Barker to task on each of those points and defended Beard this way:
"Perhaps Barker is still irate over the outsider J. T. Beard buying the track. For those unfamiliar with the details, Beard bought the track, the property, and the whole shooting match. He's not leasing the place to make a quick buck. J. T. Beard is in fact looking to reduce his commitments to his other businesses so that he can devote full time to the track in 2002, and has made tremendous improvements to the physical plant while learning the inside of a stock car short track. New pavement, much better lighting and improved safety features combined with keeping the place clean and neat are some of the improvements Beard has made. For next year's season Auburndale has also made a strong commitment to community involvement and bringing many new sponsors on board. J.T. Beard has been quite clear in his statements about the kind of facility he wants. The emphasis will be toward putting on entertaining shows that draw a wider range of race fans and audiences. "
Barker was right, and I was wrong. Fact is, I was deceived by a smooth talking purveyor of deception.
The track was paved all right, but the paving company still has not been paid even though courts have ruled in their favor.
Beard has numerous other lawsuits against him and several more pending suits from individuals and businesses, many of which are so sensitive we can’t yet discuss them.
He is in the middle of a nasty divorce that has become part of the Saturday night landscape at the track, he is in what may end up being a major lawsuit involving his own family as they discover more and more of his financial misdeeds. See, sources indicate to us that good ole Carl Beard Jr. (AKA J.T.) actually has no money of his own to speak of. He may have used the assets of Beard family up in Virginia to get control of the speedway without laying all the facts out for the Trust.
That's the short hand version.
There are many questions we would like to have Beard answer for the race fans, but he refuses to answer our e-mails or return our phone calls.
Among the questions are:
Did he have the permission of the family trust to commit funds for the purchase of the property?
When will the back taxes be paid?
What has been his motivation for banning so many racers and fans from the track?
Why did he really ban scanners at the track?
Does he still deny he tried to lease the track back to Martino and or others?
What justification is there for not allowing certain parents of children racers to participate with their children's activities at the track?
What is his relationship with the young man arrested on felony drug charges involving Beard's property?
Did he really steal the Rental Truck and use it to conduct speedway business?
Why has he refused to pay the paving company for the work they did and for which he has been receiving benefit?
Why does he express verbal contempt for the racers and fans at the speedway?
Where did the points fund money go for the year 2001?
How much is in the points fund now and are you willing to back up any such claims with bank records?
Are you paying speedway employees under the table?
Do you employ children in violation of State laws?
How can anyone justify having young children running on a racetrack, which everyone knows is a dangerous activity without safety equipment and personnel on hand? Could you live with the death of a child brought about in part by your own lack of concern? Why is this allowed?
Yesterday a youngster of eleven or twelve years old and another young racer from the Kids Club were involved in a serious accident at the track during practice. Daniel McClain sustained back injuries and was transported by ambulance to a local hospital. No safety team was available to help and the ambulance had to be called.
Most folks outside the racing community would consider this child abuse. I do, and a half-dozen non-racing friends I have contacted concur. Both the adult members of the Kids Club and Carl Beard Jr. should take immediate action to remedy this situation.
My guess is that Beard has none of his own money to back this speedway venture and is just in racing to make a quick buck off "these stupid people".
The promise for the fans and racers of Auburndale Speedway was so high two years ago, but castles built on quicksand don't last long.
The car count continues to tumble as racers move on to other tracks with less contentiousness and fans are staying away as the entertainment value fades. Promotion of the track has become less and less. Special events are becoming a ritual of one big monster truck a handful of demo derby cars.
Are fines the drivers and unaccounted for and 50/50 money becoming an income source to replace lost revenues from proper operation of the business?
Can the situation at Auburndale be reversed without new ownership?
We don't think so.
In any event the thrill is gone, and it's gone for good.
This time we asked the questions, next time we'll begin to answer them.
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