The 2016 edition of the Charlotte Motor Speedway NASCAR Media Tour concluded on Thursday. Despite significant changes to Xfinity And Camping World Truck series competition announced at the beginning of the Tour, those changes have since been overshadowed somewhat by comments from Tony Stewart regarding NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and a head-scratching driver change announced by Tommy Baldwin Racing on Thursday. I’ll tackle the Stewart statements later, as I continue to scratch my head over the whole TBR/Alex Bowman saga.
It seems like only yesterday — okay, maybe about a month or so ago — that Bowman and TBR seemed to be preparing for the 2016 season. Bowman drove for Tommy Baldwin Racing in 2015 and the pair even announced a 2016 continuation of the relationship not all that long ago. They even went so far as to pose for 2016 preseason photos.
I guess Tommy Baldwin had a change of heart, because early on Thursday, the NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner announced that TBR and Bowman had parted ways. Later that same day, the announcement came that Regan Smith would be the team’s driver this season.
If that wasn’t surprising enough, here’s where the head scratching comes in: Bowman found out about his firing when a lot of others, including industry outsiders did, via a Twitter announcement of his firing.
On Friday morning, Bowman called the “Tradin’ Paint” show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and said, “I went to the gym yesterday morning on my way to the shop to go work on my midget, and I refreshed Twitter and Twitter says I’m fired.”
Baldwin remained silent for hours, but Friday evening, he finally released a statement that read,”"The business of NASCAR is no different than any other professional sport. There are a lot of moving parts and pieces behind the scenes that fans and media don’t see. Decisions are made carefully over a period of time and are influenced by many factors.
“As the competition and business models change in NASCAR, it’s the responsibility of teams to make decisions accordingly. We felt that we needed to make some changes, and the driver was one of them.
“The circumstances surrounding Alex’s release via social media was unfortunate and certainly unintentional. The culture of doing business in motorsports has become more complex and involves many parties, such as agents, business managers, attorneys and sponsors. A comment in passing may be overheard and subsequently conveyed to the media.
“Our intention, as it always is, was to follow business protocol and notify Alex and his management of our decision. Again, it’s unfortunate that confidentiality was compromised, and the news delivered in this manner.
“Alex Bowman is a talented, young race car driver. He has a good future ahead of him. We appreciate his time with us and wish him well.”
Baldwin started by tackling the issue of Bowman’s replacement, but that wasn’t what seemed to have feathers ruffled. The real issue was how Bowman’s firing was handled. Baldwin eventually got to that topic, saying that word of the firing got out before intended. That may be so, but shouldn’t Bowman had already been notified by that point?
According to a Smith interview, talks with him to take over the No. 7 TBR ride began on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Bowman said he spoke to Baldwin on Wednesday and everything was fine, or so he thought. Shouldn’t Bowman have at least been told that the team was in talks with another driver?
And even when word leaked out via Twitter, shouldn’t Baldwin have at least reached out to Bowman before an official team announcement — maybe before he publicly announced his team’s parting of ways with Bowman, or maybe before the official announcement of Smith’s hiring?
That didn’t happen, either, because the late-day driver announcement came on Thursday. On Friday, Bowman said he still hadn’t heard from Baldwin. Really ?!?
I understand accidents happen, and maybe finding out of your firing could be a result of word being leaked out for reasons beyond your control. If that’s the case, here, shouldn’t Baldwin have at least reached out to Bowman as soon as possible, at least before public “official” announcements? I would think so.
Social media can be a good thing. I use it, and I have a pretty good feeling you do, too. But this whole saga of social media gone wrong. And once it went wrong, it just snowballed because of bad decisions. I understand that news can leak out, and I get how it can happen. But, Mr. Baldwin, maybe you should’ve tried to put the fire out more quickly and with Bowman, personally, not by just releasing a statement a day later that seemed to do nothing more than make an excuse for the initial wrong to Bowman.
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