The Pro All Stars Series (PASS) held its penultimate event of the season on Saturday afternoon at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C. – by all accounts a fantastic show.
But you wouldn't know it unless you attended the race.
That's because PASS's attending media policy prevents reporters from providing live updates from its partner tracks. That includes any sort of telemetry, running order or any other track activity during the races. Media members are allowed to opine on the race, but not detail what they are observing.
This wasn't the first such incident either. I attended the All-American 400 in October, my first-ever PASS event, and was shocked when a series official appeared in the press box and reminded us we were not allowed to provide any sort of live coverage or play-by-play.
When asked why, the official told us it made sense for a sanctioning body to want to control the flow of information. Instead of allowing the assembled media to do the heavy lifting, we were asked to send our readers to the PASS Facebook and live timing pages, respectively.
What makes this so problematic is that PASS's Facebook fan page has just 1,817 likes and the updates during the race vary from seldom to none at all. And the timing website was inactive altogether.
The trend continued on Saturday during the North-South Shootout, when the only update PASS provided on its Facebook was a photo of the results printout following the race. Attending media were again told not to provide live updates and PASS fans were left completely in the dark.
PASS continued to shoot itself in the foot when fans began pelting the Facebook page with complaints and requests for additional coverage. Any comment requesting the media ban to be lifted or for PASS to provide more extensive coverage was quickly deleted. PASS spent more time trying to silence its fan base rather than provide them extensive coverage, paramount to public relations suicide in 2012.
SB Nation reached out to PASS officials and they issued a press release, which included the following passage:
Concerning live updates, we go to many different facilities and the most of them purchase our shows to present at their respective tracks. The vast majority of those facilities do not want to allow any entity to do live updates. This is an entertainment business, but these facilities rely on fans to attend their events and to buy concessions and souvenirs in order to continue operating. Many entities who present live updates have sponsors that allow them to do their coverage, but PASS nor the facilities we race at share in those profits...
To clarify, PASS continues to be fan friendly and is proud to allow fans and teams to send posts and photos to their family and friends. In 2012, PASS decided to post periodic updates on our Facebook page in an effort to give fans around the country more information about our events.
There is a major flaw with this line of thinking. The first is the notion that a PASS fan in Tennessee would be willing to travel to a race in Maine and vice-versa. It has to be awfully difficult to establish continuity or brand identity when you only allow fans to follow the campaign in person, especially when PASS sanctions races in two countries and seven states.
A more flexible media coverage policy would allow PASS to stay relevant even as it tours across the country. As journalists and columnists praise the racing, excitement will only continue to rise and tickets will be sold accordingly.
PASS is an important part of the NASCAR ladder system, providing a proving ground for the likes of Ross Kenseth, Kyle Benjamin and Gray Gaulding – some of the top stock car prospects in the country. That's the foundation of NASCAR's future.
PASS has also been tasked with preserving the legacy of short track racing in North America, running races at legendary facilities like South Boston, Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and Hickory Motor Speedway. It's important fans learn about these too-soon forgotten gems and are given reasons to purchase tickets when PASS comes to town.
There is a market for both PASS's roster and its racing product, and the fans deserve more. The racing is excellent and the public is starved for content. Instead of trying to control the flow of information, be appreciative that people want the content to begin with and allow your media partners to super-serve them.
The current policy has to change while the fans still care.