Column: Bruton Smith off the mark

Published 12:12 pm Monday, January 26, 2009

By Staff
I am a big fan of Bruton Smith.
While many dislike his bluntness, his brashness, and his arrogance, there is not a more talented promoter in NASCAR, or any major professional sport, for that manner. Smith, the Chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, tells says what he is going to do and then follows through.
But, Smith is totally out of line with his latest off-the-wall suggestion. During the annual NASCAR media tour, Smith suggested that NASCAR black out races on television in local markets if tickets go unsold. The National Football League has enforced this policy for years, and has had success doing it. The NFL, however, does not depend hugely on corporate sponsorship revenue and exposure.
Smith owns tracks in Atlanta, Charlotte, Richmond, Dallas, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Bristol, and Sonoma. How do you think Home Depot would respond if the Atlanta race was not shown in the eighth largest television market in America with over 2.3 million viewers because the track didn't sell all the tickets? Or how about Charlotte? Or how about Los Angeles?
Makes no sense, Bruton. How many tracks operators could do without the revenue generated from the sale of television rights?
Not many, but I guess Bruton feels that selling an extra $100 ticket to attend a race is more important than the sponsors receiving the necessary exposure to continue pouring millions of dollars into the sport.
Earlier this week, Gillette Evernham Motorsports ceased and Richard Petty Motorsports was born. From the merger of GEM and Petty Enterprises, the new name of the merged company is Richard Petty Motorsports. That makes me happy. The Petty name needs to remain in NASCAR and the No. 43 needs to remain on the track.
Evidently, during the negotiating process, the name of the new company was near the top of the list of "deal breakers." The King was insistent that Petty be included in the new name. The other "deal breaker?" Budweiser logos on either the 43 or 44 car.
An alcohol company has never been on a Petty race car. And even thought Budweiser is one of the sport's best sponsors and the primary sponsor for RPM's No. 9 car with Kasey Kahne, it will not appear on either of the original Petty Enterprises cars.
In fact, Petty Enterprises never entered a car into a race in the old Busch Series. Know why? Because the title sponsor was Busch beer. Richard Petty made the comment that if the Bud logo was on the Petty car, "my momma would come back to haunt us all."