SBD/Issue 102/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NASCAR Listening To Fans, Sponsors, Teams When Making Changes

NASCAR President Mike Helton Says League
Using Fan Input To Improve The Sport
NASCAR has "made several changes in the last nine months," and NASCAR officials said that the league made those changes, "in part, because it is listening to fans as well as sponsors, race teams and race tracks," according to Bob Pockrass of SCENEDAILY.com. NASCAR President Mike Helton: "We're listening to the whole sport. We figured out a better method to listen (online), which helps us to hear fans. We have got better systems internally to where we can process all that." But he added, "We're never going to have an answer that is absolutely perfect for everybody's situation. I hope what everybody gets from this is we are trying, and we are listening and we have been for some time." Helton indicated that start-and-park teams are "part of the system." He said that NASCAR "must make sure that there is an opportunity for anyone who wants to field [an entry] to have a qualified driver to try to qualify for a race." Helton: "There are teams that are trying to become regular competitors in NASCAR. What you don't want to do is create a situation that prevents somebody from having that opportunity." Pockrass noted the fact that NASCAR's auto manufacturers, "as well as the overall economy, are more stable gives Helton a good feeling going into this season of change." Helton said, "Every season is critical for NASCAR. Standing here in 2010, there's a good deal more optimism than there was this time last year" (SCENEDAILY.com, 2/6).

TRACKING CHANGES: Helton said, "Some of the filtering process takes a while and qualifying what we do and how we get to the point of doing it takes us longer than even we would like and certainly fans or the other stakeholders would like. But I think the big message today is that NASCAR itself and the stakeholders ... are listening and trying to adapt." Meanwhile, YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Hart wrote there are "three things NASCAR does right." NASCAR has a "willingness to change," it "produces the tightest racing in the world," and the league "takes safety seriously." Hart also listed "three changes NASCAR should consider." NASCAR should "shorten the schedule," limit teams to "four cars only" and "give more incentive to win" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/8).

PERSONALITY TEST: In Orlando, Tania Ganguli notes drivers during last year's recession had "become afraid to be themselves." In an economic climate "where sponsors are cutting their budgets, drivers didn't want to offend corporations." NASCAR CMO Steve Phelps: "The sponsors are in a little bit of a box, too. They want to make sure their brand is being represented as well as it can be. Having a driver that's a good corporate citizen is important to them." NASCAR has "spoken to six to eight major sponsors about how an emotional driver could benefit them." Phelps: "What we did was let them understand you want your driver to show emotions, you want your driver to be himself. There are certainly boundaries to that but keeping them in tight box is not the best for the driver. ... If the driver is just going to be vanilla, always have that corporate speak the fan base will start to dissipate." Drivers also are "trying to determine those boundaries," as some brands are "more receptive to bold personalities than others" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/9).

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