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NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Winston Cup

NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

Allen Bestwick
Benny Parsons
January 18, 2003



Q. What changes can we expect in 2003? What can we expect from NBC when they start coverage in July?

ALLEN BESTWICK: I don't think you can expect many significant changes, the same crew, and same people, hopefully the same results. We had a lot of fun and a great year this past fall and we just look to keep the momentum going and hopefully have a great race for the Winston Cup Championship.

BENNY PARSONS: And if we did, why would we tell our competition at this time of the year?

Q. NASCAR is expected to make the announcement next week about limiting access in the garage. This is a sport that built itself as being so fan-friendly. What are the things the sport needs to do to show to the fans that it is fan-friendly?

BENNY PARSONS: I think the challenge is on the drivers now. I think NASCAR is trying to help them in doing their jobs. The challenge now is for the celebrities in the sport and maybe Allen and myself are no different. They need to set aside an area that the drivers can go to, say, between the garage area and pit road when they go out to qualify, maybe they go out 30 minutes early and sign autographs for the fans. Kansas Speedway has autograph alley. If NASCAR does restrict autograph seekers out of the garage area, then I think the drivers need to go to those areas and spend some time.

ALLEN BESTWICK: Let me just make one comment on perspective where that is concerned. Let's keep a number's perspective in mind. Out of the 100 something thousand people that will be at the Daytona 500, how many of those people are impacted by that change? A thousand? At most, and really most of those people that get those passes get those passes in some way, some how, through a race team, and its sponsors. So, it's going to be incumbent on the race team and owners to make sure that they're still doing the best job they can do to take care of their sponsors' customers who are really the people that we are talking about getting involved. You know, the guy that's in there on a garage pass from Dodge got it through the dealership that he is associated with who got it through the Dodge Motorsports program who got it through the teams, so it's incumbent on the race teams to make sure they work back through their own sponsor structure to take care of those people. We are not impacting a lot of fans. We are talking about impacting sponsors' customers.

Q. From a television standpoint, it seemed in the second half of last year you had a lot of issues to deal with. Is there a conflict between entertaining the fans and educating the fans or does that go hand in hand?

BENNY PARSONS: It has to go hand in hand. We try to be as entertaining as we can. Let's face it. When you get a lot of racecar drivers standing around, they are great to be around because it's a very funny atmosphere. So, why not try to do the same thing on television. But when something happens, then obviously we have to tone that down. And then we become more informative than we do entertaining. So it's a balance that we try to trade.

ALLEN BESTWICK: You are asking for kind of what our philosophy is and you know, journalistically, you have to be 100 percent buttoned up in everything you do. We have a complete responsibility of being as honest and as thorough for the fans as we can probably be. Can you do that at the same time and be entertaining, sure, absolutely.

Q. Do you think that it hurts the sport with the fans, the fact that NASCAR is trying to keep things even (the competition), it hurts the way fans look at the sport?

BENNY PARSONS: I don't. I think it is good that NASCAR tries to keep the playing field level. When the cars showed up and started practicing at Daytona last year, I think we all realized that the Fords, at that time, were at a disadvantage. NASCAR started trimming off the rear spoiler and everyone started screaming about that. And I think the common body or common templates this year is a direct result of speed weeks in 2002.

ALLEN BESTWICK: I disagree with you. I think it is a credibility issue. For people that have been around the sport for 10 or 20 years, we understand what NASCAR is trying to accomplish and we all accept it as part of the game. But for these millions of people that have gotten hooked on the sport the lasts two years, try to explain to one of those guys why it's okay to change the rules in the middle of the game because you're getting beat. Okay, we are going to raise the pitcher's mound because we are getting too many home runs. We are going to do that on August 1st. It is hard to understand why that is done, and I think that causes some credibility questions.

Q. From the driver standpoint, do you feel that things in the garage reach the point where it was affecting the teams and the drivers' ability to do their jobs?

BENNY PARSONS: Yes. I think for the drivers and teams, it was a minor distraction for them because they always had the transporter to hide out in - the driver would go directly from the car to the transporter. But the saddest thing about racing today was the fact that you walk through the garage area and there are no drivers. If the cars were not practicing, there were no drivers around. We go back 25 years ago and you walk through a garage area and half of the drivers were standing inside the garage area. They were part of the scene and they are not now. Hopefully, despite the fact they don't have to sign autographs and what have you, they now will become part of the scene. And I think the drivers miss that, being able to hang around the other teams and talk to the other teams and be part of it of the scene.

Q. Mr. Parsons, having been a part of the sport for many years, do you feel like this is a trend that maybe NASCAR is going the way of the NBA and other sports, a little more in your face or is this par for the course the way it's always been?

BENNY PARSONS: I think the adrenaline is so high with those drivers out there, when they feel they have been wronged they have to show the other driver their displeasure. Ward Burton throwing those heel caps at junior at Bristol and Busch telling Spencer he needs to go to the rear of the field for running into him at Indy. It's emotion. It's true emotion. They don't have to sit in there and wait until they get in some closed garage to start screaming at that guy. They show their emotion. I don't see anything wrong with that.

Q. Is it wrong to have athletes that have that type of passion for winning? Is that good for the sport?

ALLEN BESTWICK: I hope that never changes. The minute the intensity goes out of the competition, the appeal goes out of the competition. If any one of us thought that these guys were just getting out there and having a pleasant drive for 500 miles on Sunday afternoon, we wouldn't be very interested in it. It's the intensity of the competition and those emotions that makes it fun. Who didn't talk on Monday morning after Indianapolis about Kurt Busch and (Jimmy) Spencer? That was the water cooler. So that emotion is part of the appeal of any sport. And if it ever goes out of this sport, then there is big trouble.

Q. Benny, do you see this sport as going back to a driver series or still more of an engineer, with the body the same and how has that kind of evolved the last few years?

BENNY PARSONS: Right now it's engineer and exercise. I think that NASCAR, this is the first step in trying to get these cars back to more in the drivers' and the teams' hands. You know, if you all have the same box, then how do you make the prettiest box or the fastest box or whatever. It's up to the drivers and the team. This common template that you have is the first step in trying to get them back.

Q. So driver talent still isn't going to matter as much this year?

BENNY PARSONS: I think it's going to matter, but it doesn't matter as much as it has in the past.

ALLEN BESTWICK: This stuff is the first step on getting it back. The most encouraging part is that NASCAR recognizes the problem. It didn't get this way in two seasons. It's probably not going to get put back the other way in two seasons. But at least there is recognition there and a plan to move things back the way we all want to see them and that's very encouraging.

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