Senior PR flak: Worry about selling out the Daytona 500 before boasting how many football stadiums fit in infield

Daytona Int's Speedway flak Lenny Santiago brags how many football staium fit inside the infield / Headline Surfer®At left is a tweet from the Twitter account of Lenny Santiago, senior spokesman for Daytona International Speedway, on the vastness of the track's infield.
 

DAYTONA BEACH -- You know it's pure public relations when they're bragging about how many football stadiums they can fit in the infield, but not a peep out of them why the Daytona 500 is not a sell out.

And hasn't been for a few years now. Let's start with the product on the track. Jimmy Johnson with six Sprint Cup championships. How about the tandem racing? The gimmicks with The Chase?

Better yet, how about the fact that Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the most beloved racer since his legendary father was killed in the 2001 Daytona 500, hadn't won the signature race in a decade until taking the checkered flag in February, after a massive rain storm no less and long delay.

One thing about PR flaks is they don't know to quit while they're ahead.

Take Lenny Santiago, for example. He's not just a public relations flak, he's a "senior PR flak. So this must give him added credence in pushing the $400 million Daytona Rising, without ever mentioning, of course, that lots of funding has been straddled onto the backs of local taxpayers.

Actually, the job tittle Lenny Santiago uses on his Twitter account is "Senior Director of Public Relations for Daytona International Speedway - the World Center of Racing and Home of the Daytona 500!"

Now that's important!

But onto his tweet. Santiago bragged, "15 FL stadiums fit inside @DISupdates with room to spare."

He even has them numbered 1 to 15, though he doesn't identify any of them in the tweet. 

Note to Santiago: You might want to sell out the Daytona 500 before you boast about how many football stadiums fit inside the infield at Daytona International Speedway. Let's face it. February's Daytona 500 was hardly a sellout .

Attendance is even disclosed for the WWE's pay-per-views like Wrestlemania and Summer Slam. But not for the Daytona 500 or any race or track venue for that matter sanctioned by NASCAR.

Note to Santiago: You might want to sell out the Daytona 500 before you boast about how many football stadiums fit inside the infield at Daytona International Speedway. Let's face it. February's Daytona 500 was hardly a sellout Attendance is even disclosed for the WWE's pay-per-views like Wrestlemania and Summer Slam. But not the Daytona 500 or any race or track venue for that matter sanctioned by NASCAR.

No doubt, Lenny, you'll, you'll get quite the crowd for the Coke Zero 400 under the lights at Daytona on July 5, and that's because Dale Earnhardt. Jr., won February's Daytona 500, but the nighttime race won't be a sell-out either.

And with those multicolored seats, it will be hard for the Goodyear blimp to distinguish the seats filled with people and the empty ones holding their beer coolers.

Oh sure, you can blame it on the ongoing construction for the $400 million Daytona Rising.

Now that your boss, Lesa France Kennedy, has showered the local politicians with oodles of campaign cash for their re-elections, maybe you can invest in more of those soft walls so if Kevin Harvick or another Sprint Cup driver driver crashes into one of those areas not covered by the soft wall technology, they won't have to endure as much injury or God forbid, worse.

After all, it is restrictor-plate racing where it's not a matter of if, but when, the "big one" happens.

For those reading this who aren't hip with the lingo, restrictor-plate refers to an item put in the carburetor to slow down the air intake and limit speeds. What it does is bunch the cars together and when there'a crash -- wala - the big one!

Restrictor media-credential reporting

Then again, Lenny, I won't be able to see much of the race from my ticket-paying spots in the grandstands and the infield. Imagine that: As a reporter I'll have to buy tickets to report on the race because you've denied me media credentials.

But I'll manage to cover the race with those restrictions. Call it restrictor media-credential reporting.

It's NASCAR, because you are beholden to these media credentials, whereby if Lesa France Kennedy or her brother, Brian France, doesn't like what you are reporting, they simply lock you out.. Unless, of course, you are a big-time media outlet like the Orlando Sentinel or ESPN or the New York Times.

Then again, I haven't ever seen a Times reporter here in Daytona. The media room does have lots of press outlets, though there are lots of sponsor representatives and a slew of Daytona Beach News-Journal representatives, who serve as the local marketing agency for Speedway President Joie Chitwood, III, and his no-relation name-sake, Daytona Bech Police Chief Michael Chitwood. The latter is the city's loud mouth top cop who was silenced for once by an armed robbery robbery last year during Speedweeks at Dick's Sporting Goods, right across the street in broad daylight.

Yes, Lenny, you had me fuming on Friday with your phone call, in which you labeled me a "liar" for attributing a quote to you from Speed Weeks when it should have been Bike Week in a story published March 11, and headlined: Nothing new has been released in 5 months since two speed bikers were killed in a Team Hammer event at DIS. Here is a link: http://headlinesurfer.com/content/413358-nothing-new-has-been-released-5-months-two-speed-bikers-were-killed-team-hammer-event.

It was an honest mix-up of special events but your quote was accurate. That you used this as a basis for denying me credentials three whole months after the fact shows your pettiness and that other forces are at work.

And your other claim that you had a complaint that one of your staffers found me stretched out on the floor when they arrived in the media center at 6 a.m. is equally lame. You never said there was a time when the media center was off limits not was anything posted. It was my first time there after being relegated to the outside media area for five previous Speedweeks. So what if I was stretched out with my computer in front of me before dawn. Working overnights is par for the course for many new media outlets.

The bottom line is you and your bosses are just like the local politicians who want to control what is reported. But this reporter refuses to kowtow. If you haven't figured that out by now, then you never will.

I've already checked into the legalities of fighting your refusal to grant me media credentials for the upcoming races and the reality is it's not worth the time, the money or the effort. Several lawyers and other legal experts I've spoken with have advised me that since the Speedway is a private venue the first amendment doesn't really matter. What does matter, though, is the embarrassment you subsequently cost yourselves from the headlines in the search engines.

Daytona International Speedway denied new media credentials / Headline Surfer®

I've already checked into the legalities of fighting your refusal to grant me media credentials for the upcoming races and the reality is it's not worth the time, the money or the effort. Several lawyers and other legal experts I've spoken with have advised me that since the Speedway is a private venue the first amendment doesn't really matter. What does matter, though, is the embarrassment you subsequently cost yourselves from the headlines in the search engines. 

State Sen. Dorothy Hukill has lots of Speedway funding in advance of her legislation / Headline Surfer®ISC's Lesa France Kennedy worth nearly a billion dollars / Headline Surfer®State Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from International Speedway Corp.'s Lesa France Kennedy and various subsidiaries of NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway, prior to the legislation she sponsored that awaits Gov. Scott's signature that would provide DIS with $3 million a year for $30 years in sales tax givebacks for a total of $90 million. Within weeks of the Headline Surfer® tweets on Hukill, the award-winning 24/7 internet newspaper's media credential request for the upcoming July 4th weekend races at Daytona were denied on Friday in a phone call from Speedway senior spokesman Lenny Santiago. As if that weren't enough funding, Kennedy France & Co., rewarded members of the Dayton Beach City Commission and the Volusia County Council with campaign contributions for each government entities $20 million block funding for One Daytona, the retail village planned across the street with another rich venture, Jacoby of Atlanta. So that's another $40 million. Bringing the total to $130 million. Tack on a couple of walkways across International Speedway, courtesy of the Florida Department of Transportation, and now we're up to $150 million in taxpayer funds for the Speedway, all pushed this year. 
 

So while your favored local media outlets continue promoting your Speedway president with fluff like hosting a Jacksonville Jaguars football game here at Daytona is nothing more than pure PR (and a pipe dream) I'll do my best to cover the races by buying tickets to the infield and/or grandstands. and through NASCAR media.

And I'll begin in earnest on the latest "Show Me the Money" investigative reports on the extent of campaign monies given politicians like Daytona Beach Commissioner Carl Lentz, IV, County Councilwoman Joyce Cusack, State Rep. David Santiago, State Sen. Dorothy Hukill, Congressman Ron DeSantis, US Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott in exchange for upwards of $150 million for two big projects straddled directly on the backs of local taxpayers led by one of your bosses, Lesa France Kennedy, once called the "most powerful woman in sports" by Forbes, which estimated her wealth at $875 million.

Hyatt Brown on ISC Board of Directors /Headline Surfer®Mori Hosseini on board of directors of ISC / Headline Surfer®Hyatt Brown and Mori Hosseini are among the local wealthy businessmen on the board of directors for International Speedway Corporation, which owns Daytona International Speedway. Both have contributed mightily to campaign re-election war chests of select incumbents at the local, county, state and national level.
 

Her brother, Brian France, chairman of NASCAR, is reportedly worth even more. Two of your DIS board members, Mori Hosseini an Hyatt Brown, are far from poverty stricken, too. And have heaped even more campaign funds on certain politicians up for re-election this year.

So some of these politicians have some explaining to do. Did they support your big projects because of the good of the public Lenny or because their wallets were getting fattened?

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Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.