Commentary

Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville Denied STS’ Media Request, A Bad Sign for Short Track Racing

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The pavement short track industry and the free press have developed a complicated history over the past several years.

That history is set to add yet another chapter this weekend as Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville has denied Short Track Scene’s credential request over an incident that happened back in 2014. It’s something that we don’t accept and it’s also something I personally feel reflects poorly on the industry and its overall values.

First, a refresher course:

Back in 2014, I was the Super Late Model editor for Race22.com and essentially broke the story that Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville track promoter Tony Formosa had split his track and the All-American 400 from the Southern Super Series touring division that sanctioned it the year prior.

I received texts and phone calls from several drivers whom heard Formosa explain his decision during a driver’s meeting at a weekly show in July. I followed-up by calling Dan Spence, then acting SSS Director of Operations, whom confirmed the news. I also reached out to Nashville which did not immediately answer.

The original breaking news story can be read below.

http://race22.com/all-american-400-pro-late-model-southern-series/

Formosa’s daugher, Claire, called me the next morning and requested that the story be taken down because her father had misspoke and no decision had been reached, despite the touring series already confirming it. However, as a courtesy, I updated my original story to reflect the younger Formosa’s request — but that wasn’t good enough as the track continued requesting that my “press release” be taken down.

http://race22.com/nashville-says-no-aa400-decision-made-blasts-southern-super-series/

This was all a moot point as the Formosas confirmed the decision to split from the SSS just two days later while also confirming that the event would indeed feature Pro Late Models. I followed through again with this story and wrote the corresponding update.

http://race22.com/all-american-400-confirmed-as-pro-late-model-race/

I also wrote a column, criticizing the decision, stating that “The Daytona 500 is not run with ARCA cars and so the All-American 400 shouldn’t be run with the second-tier crate Pro Late Models” which only further irritated the staff at Nashville.

But editorials are a right of the free press and the decision to write it was based in logic — especially considering that the race will return to its Super Late roots this weekend after two obscure events using the Pro Lates.

The problem here is that Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville was upset that a reporter published something that it didn’t necessarily want made public despite the promoter misspeaking (or speaking too soon) at a drivers meeting.

But it’s not a journalists obligation to answer to their subjects. The press answers to the public. They answer to their readers and the readers demanded accuracy and fairness — something I executed diligently.

I  would not have enjoyed the opportunity to cover NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula1 if I hadn’t acted with integrity. So the notion that my standards aren’t good enough for Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville comes as a great disappointment.

It should upset fans too.

The pavement short track industry has been mislead by entities that serve as “official news websites” and partners while believing that this is also the role of independent media. That’s simply not the case. That’s not meant to be a slight to Speed51.com as I try to maintain a great relationship with Bob Dillner and his passionate staff.

I consider them great friends and valuable assets.

But I don’t write press releases. I don’t set-up partnerships with tours or tracks. This is a matter of journalistic integrity. My role is fundamentally different. That means I will sometimes break something tracks, tours or drivers don’t want getting out.

I will occasionally write something that doesn’t sit well with the industry.

But I’ve always been fair and acted with professionalism. The positive things I’ve written far outweigh the negative and the exposure I provide short track racing through my national NASCAR audience far outweighs the headache I seldomly provide when doing my job.

For example, six months after breaking the AA400 Pro Late Model story and saw Claire Formosa block me from her various social media accounts, I wrote this passionate plea for the City of Nashville to protect that historic cathedral of speed.

http://race22.com/fairgrounds-speedway-nashvile-save-the-speedway-2015-weaver/

I didn’t write this to suck-up to a track that was upset with me. I wrote it because it was the right thing to do — the reason I write anything. And that’s a value to the industry. Ask many of the drivers, promoters and tracks and 90 percent of them will tell you I’ve been hugely helpful.

What we’ve learned here is that Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville only wants media that it can control. The free press is valuable because of its independence. It can’t be bought and journalists are free of political influence. Apparently, that sort of integrity is not welcome at Fairground Speedway Nashville and that is a gloomy development for fans of short track racing.

Short Track Scene will be at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville for All-American 400 this weekend. Now that it’s a Super Late Model race, it has returned to the forefront of what our website is about in Supers and Late Model Stock Cars.

We will pay our way in because the world deserves an honest look at the real humans that work in short track racing but the short track industry needs to do some soul-searching. I hate to justify their decision to not credential me but our readers deserve coverage. It’s why I created Short Track Scene and I will stand up for my website and my professional convictions.

Slighting the media, those hard-working and passionate people whom promote your events for nothing more than the pleasure of being a tiny part of the sport they love is a bad idea. It’s free advertising and in today’s media landscape, that’s hard to come by.

My primary job is NASCAR Sprint Cup racing but I love short track with all of my heart. I spend every off-weekend (like this one) at a short track rather than at home or on the beach. Short Track Scene is my passion. It’s earned a right to be at the All-American 400 and every other short track event it deems important.

This is the third time I’ve had to make myself the story. It’s not something we’re taught to do as journalists. But in this case we are the story. Legitimate journalism is getting stifled by an industry that neither understands nor wants us.

What does it say to you that STS isn’t welcome?

About Matt Weaver

Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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