Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Repercussions from LVMS

Attending the NASCAR testing sessions at LVMS was a greatly anticipated event for many Las Vegas NASCAR fans. Those hardy souls that attended this year had many challenges.

The weather was a huge issue for both drivers and fans. Near hurricane force winds played havoc with drivers on the track, and fans in the stands. As a fan, trying to take pictures in 47 mph winds ended up being an exercise in frustration.

The second day had relief from the wind, but the temperatures were miserable up in the grandstands. For two brief periods, the sun beat strong enough for the heavy duty jacket to be unzipped, but the rest of the time was spent with the jacket zipped, muffler wrapped and blanket covering the legs.

The greatest challenge came from the track operators themselves. For some inexplicable reason, the operators first released PR that claimed the Neon Garage would be open to fans. Then, on January 3rd, a newsletter to 'insiders' claimed that was information was wrong, and the Neon Garage would be closed to fans. To add to the confusion, the website at showed a public info release dated on January 9th with a photo caption stating that the Neon Garage WOULD be open to the public.

I sent an email to the motor-sports writer at the Las Vegas Review Journal, Jeff Wolfe, with the above information. He checked into it, and discovered that the Neon Garage was indeed closed, and expressed thanks to me, as he had heard it would be open.

This misinformation coming from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway media office is deplorable. If a mistake was made in the original PR, it should have been loudly corrected with all available outlets. When the local writers are surprised by it, that tells me that the media department is either falling down on the job, or does not care what kind of fallout may happen.

LVMS, and Bruton Smith, have enjoyed sell outs at this venue for years. Rising ticket prices, hugely overpriced food items (at a track where no coolers are allowed), handicap parking that is routed out of the track in a direction that takes 5 hours to arrive back at the strip are issues that will irritate customers enough to not come back, and may cause failing box office returns in the near future. Adding this irritant will not help the cause.

(Let us not even discuss how much warmer fans would have been down in the Neon Garage, as opposed to the grandstand.)

But the real victim in this bad communication? Not only the angry fan, but the person in the gift shop who had to endure the anger of customers who arrived at the track, expecting entry into the Neon Garage. I heard one VERY peeved fan taking it out on the sales shop associate. While the associate was right in claiming to not be the one who made the decision, she was the only person available, and became the target. As a retail manager, I think she did an admirable job of deflecting anger, even when the anger was misplaced!

While the media folks and the track operators sit in their warm ivory towers, the front line in the gift shop took the ire of the customer. Shame on Bruton and Chris Powell! Shame! They did not bother to answer fan inquiries, and they let the gift shop sales person take the flack. And if they don't have a sell out this year, or next...they might want to reexamine some of their not-so-fan-friendly practices.

And for what it is worth, I am driving to Fontana tomorrow, for two days of testing. There, for a five dollar charity donation, I will be allowed in the infield bleacher area. Are you listening, SMI?