The piece was mostly centered around Earnhardt Jr.'s status as a commercial icon and previewed an ad for sponsor GoDaddy.com that will feature fellow Hendrick/JR Motorsports driver Brad Keselowski, but as we've come to expect from Earnhardt Jr., the driver didn't hold back when asked about some comments made during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Media tour just a few weeks back.
Those comments centered around Speedway Motorsports, Inc., chairman Bruton Smith claiming that the drivers need to do a little more to help sell tickets in the struggling climate that faces the 2009 season.
Earnhardt Jr., ever the guy to give a straight answer, fought back in a fashion that seemed like he was getting pretty tired of being told to get more emotional or physical on-track.
Upon hearing that during a break in his commercial shoot, Earnhardt fired back with a message of his own.Sure, there's quite a few race track employees that came on when NASCAR experienced its massive boom in the 1990s and 2000s, but there are more than a few folks in the industry that have worked through much leaner times. Regardless, Earnhardt Jr. carried on.
"The race track owners want drivers to do more? Yeah, right. They need to go back to work," he said. "They forgot what it's like to sell tickets. That's their problem. They ain't had to sell tickets for a long time and none of them remember how or knew how or ever learned how.
"They need to get back to working hard and doing their promotions and putting packages together for race fans. They don't want to cut the ticket price but they probably should and get these hotels to quit gouging these people. They can dump that responsibility on drivers all they want but the responsibility really lies in their hands to sell race tickets and they have to get creative in doing it. We already do a lot. We do [bleeping] plenty and they are full of [bleep]."For the most part, I can't help but agree with him. Ticket prices for many events have skyrocketed in the past 15 years and unless you're staying an hour or more away from the track, it's tough to find a hotel without a 3-night minimum and a $200/night rate.
And its certainly hard to dispute that the drivers already put on the best show they can because, let's face it, mailing in a race simply doesn't win a championship.
Have drivers gotten too meda-saavy and become experts at managing their reputations? At times, that's a hard dispute to make, but can you blame a driver who's hotter than a volcano after a race but won't talk to the cameras because of the scrutiny he'd receive over the next week for commiting such an act?
I find that a tough one to pull.
NASCAR has a lot of changes in store for its sport in 2009 thanks to the ever-worsening state of affairs afflicting entertainment industries as a whole, but I don't foresee any drastic reputation changes making a huge difference in ticket sales.
It is indeed time for both the tracks and the sanctioning body to step up and make sure they offer the single-best show a race fan could get at any given tracks. And if the drivers add to that with some spice of their own, well, that's just a nice topping.