Tuesday, August 26, 2008

COMMENTARY: While Others Wait, Richmond Gets Busy Promoting

It’s nice to know that the art of racetrack promotion is still alive and well in isolated pockets of the country.

On Monday's Sirius Speedway, I spoke at some length about the public relations goldmine Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards have deposited on the doorstep of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Their post-race shenanigans at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday night have been replayed hundreds of times on every major sports outlet in the nation, giving NASCAR the kind of personal rivalry it cannot buy, at any price.

I talked about how, if I ran Auto Club Speedway, there would be a major PR effort in the next 72 hours to highlight the Edwards/Busch rivalry, and sell tickets with it. Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker was asked about precisely that on The Morning Drive with Mike Bagley and David Poole this morning, and her response was that Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards “sell themselves.”

Two hours later, I received a press release in my e-mail inbox, hyping the Kyle vs. Carl feud. The title of the release -- in 16-point, bold-print capital letters, read, “WILL RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY BE THE SITE OF KYLE BUSCH’S RIVALRY REVENGE?”

While some people wait for the event to sell itself, it's nice to see others put on their promoter’s hats and get busy.

I’m not here to criticize anyone. The marketing and promotional staffs at Auto Club Speedway have more college degrees than I do, and I'm not about to try and tell them how to do their jobs. However, it occurs to me that there are reasons for all the empty seats when NASCAR comes to Fontana; reasons that have nothing to do with traffic, summer heat waves or Wolfgang Puck. There are also reasons why Richmond packs `em in for its twice-annual NASCAR weekends.

One of those reasons lies in the difference between being a promoter, and merely a track operator.

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