Daytona International Speedway denies media credentials to internet newspaper for July races

Draconian meaure follows reporting on

Headline Surfer videos / Highlights of the 2013 Daytona 500 where the internet newspaper did its best covering the signature race even though it was limited to the outer area of the Speedway's media center. Even when it came to interviewing racing personnel such as veteran announcer Ken Squier, Headline Surfer was forced to interview him next to the salad bar in a dining area outside the main center. For the first time in six racing seasons, Headline Surfer was given equal access earlier this year in its reporting of Speed Weeks and the Daytona 500. But on Saturday, it was informed by by the Speedway that its request for media credentials for the July races had been denied.

DAYTONA BEACH -- In an unprecedented move that infringes on first amendment rights, Daytona International Speedway has informed Headline Surfer that its request for media credentials for the July races culminating in the Coke Zero 400 under the lights, will not be honored.

The message was delivered by phone earlier in the day by Speedway chief spokesman Lenny Santiago, who accused the internet newspaper of "lying" in a March 11 news story published in HeadlineSurfer.com, involving an update on two motorcyclists killed on the track during the previous Biketoberfest headlined, "Nothing new has been released in 5 months since two speed bikers were killed in a Team Hammer event at DIS."

"I know you have sent several emails asking about the media credentials, but we are not going to issue you those media credentials," Santiago said in a terse phone call.

Daytona International Speedway spokesman denies internet newspaper credentials / Headline Surfer®"I know you have sent several emails asking about the media credentials, but we are not going to issue you those media credentials," said Lenny Santiago, spokesman for Daytona Internatioinal Speedway in a terse phone call with Headline Surfer®.

Santiago also said he was 'irritated' Headline Surfer® had brought up a story during March's Bike Week regarding a double motorcycle fatality at the track the previous October, in which two racers were killed. To this day, nothing has been released by the Speedway as to how and why the riders were killed beyond the obvious 'it was an accident' along with self-serving adhering to safety standard-statements spun after such fatal wrecks. The polie department has said because it happened on Speedway property it doesn't investigate. When Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was killed in a last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500, a homicide cop from the DBPD was kept at arm's length from investigating and later transferred to an overnight patrol shift. He also wasn't allowed to inspect the car, helmet or even attend the autopsy. 

The spokesman said he was misquoted as to when he answered questions about an incident on the track during the 2013 motorcycle rally in October where two racers were killed on the track. Santiago said what was attributed to him was accurate, but when it was allegedly said during Speed Weeks in February was a "lie."

"You were lying and I can't go for that," Santiago said. Headline Surfer said it didn't agree, but was willing to print a correction, to which he gave no response.Santiago was asked point blank "if this was such an egregious situation" why he didn't contact Headline Surfer three months ago, especially since in his job as the chief spokesman for the track he's well aware of media reports being posted in the major search engines.

State Sen. Dorothy Hukill pushed Speedway tax incentives & got big campaign bucks / Headline SurferHeadline Surfer graphic /
State Sen. Dorothy Hukill, who sponsored legislation initially reported to generate $60 million in tax rebates for Daytona International Speedway over 30 years ended up totalling $90 million. Gov. Scott has said he'll sign the legislation. Hukill was rewarded as far back as a year ago with $15,000 in campaign contributions from accounts affiliated with Lesa France Kennedy, CEO of International Speedway Corp. CEO, , umbrella company of Daytona International Speedway, and brotrher of NASCAR CEO Brian France.
 

Headline Surfer made it clear to Santiago that the internet newspaper believes Santiago is the one whose veracity should be called into question.

That his true motive for interfering with the internet newspaper's first amendment rights of freedom of the press was retaliation for reporting legitimate news regarding the Speedway's "deep pockets" in bankrolling campaign accounts for a slew of incumbent politicians from Volusia County at the municipal, county and state levels to supplement its massive construction projects.

The Daytona Beach City Commission voted unanimously earlier this year to provide $20 million in taxpayer funding toward the One Daytona retail complex across from the Speedway.

And campaign finance accounts show embattled Daytona Beach City Commissioner Carl Lentz, IV, up for re-election, has received $2,500 in Speedway-connected funding for his re-election bid.

Lentz was trespassed by Daytona cops last month after being involved in sevewral altercations inside an adult strip club, during which he was captured on video surveillance footage stuffing dollar bills down a stripper's blouse and had his hand in her private parts from behind while she was bent over.

The Volusia County Council also awarded the Speedway $20 million in funding for the One Daytona project.

County Councilwomen Deb Denys and Joyce Cusack were subsequently rewardd with severa thousand each in Speedway campaign contributions.

Headline Surfer said it believes it is being "singled out" and punished" for a series of preliminary tweets on extensive campaign funding provided to certain politicians who are seeking re-election who sponsored legislation in Tallahassee or approved finding requests on the municipal level in Daytona and at the county level that would provide the Speedway with $130 million in taxpayer supported credits and give-backs for two massive projects, the $400 million Daytona Rising at the track and the One Daytona retail complex.

Daytona Commissioner Carl Lentz, IV, stuffing dollar bills into strippers private parts / Headline Surfer®Photo for Headline Surfer®  /
Daytona Beach Commissioner Carl Lentz, IV, handsomely rewarded by the Speedway for his 2014 re-election bid with $2,500 in campaign contributions in advance of the commission's vote to award $20 million in funding for the One Daytona project, is shown in this snapshot from surveillance video from Clup Topic stuffing dollar bills into the private parts of a plus-sized stripper as she's bent over last month in an ugly incident that led to cops issuing him a trespass warning.
 

Headline Surfer pointed out that the Speedway has shelled out tens of thousands of dollars in political campaign contributions to the likes of State Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, State Rep. David Santiago, R-Delltona; Daytona Beach City Commissioner Carl Lentz, IV; County Council members Doug Daniels, Deb Denys and Joyce Cusack, among others.

And Headline Surfer pointed out that the Speedway has enjoyed an incestruous relationship with the Daytona Beach News-Journal, which has had scores of staffers in its media center while Headl;one Surfer only required one seat and that the Speedway and its partner in One Daytona -- Jacoby Investments of Atlanta, had taken out extensive advertising in the print newspaper's new bi-monthly magazine.

And the News-Journal had a massive Coke Zero Speedway promotion on the home page of its online edition Friday.

The Speedway's Santiago denied the extensive campaign funding was the case, saying the Orlando Sentinel has written about its projects and funding requests and its credentials are not being denied.

The internet newspaper countered the Sentinel has not focused on campaign contributions and if the Speedway did to the Orlando metro what it has done to the smallest media outlet in Central Florida a judge likely would be involved.

But Headline Surfer said it doesn't have the resources to seek protection from the courts to ensure its first amendment rights are "not being trampled on" and the Speedway is very well aware of this.

Spokesman 'irritated' with internet newspaper's focus on double biker fatalitity at Speedway during Bike Week while ignoring its motorcross races

Santiago tried to sidestep the issue saying he wasn't going to debate the decision, but added he was "irritated" that Headline Surfer focused on the biker deaths at the Speedway while ignoring the motocross events taking place at the track.

Headline Surfer explained it has never covered motocross and that its priority as a small media outlet during the Spring motorcycle rally that draws upwards of half a million bikers to the Daytona Beach area was motorcycle safety and cutting down on fatalities.

Headline Surfer® asserted Santiago has no right to dictate the internet newspaper's coverage regarding Bike Week or anything else.

Headline Surfer® asserted Santiago has no right to dictate the internet newspaper's coverage regarding Bike Week or anything else.

And the internet newspaper pointed out to Santiago that the Speedway has never treated Headline Surfer® as an equal to other media outlets nor had it provided equal access to this local media outlet until February's Daytona 500 when Headline Surfer® was finally granted a seat in the Speedway's media center for the very first time in its six years of covering Speed Weeks and the July races.

Santiago also was upset that Headline Surfer stayed in the media center during overnight hours, refusing to accept the internet newspaper's explanation that it typically works overnight hours on a regular basis and no ground rules were ever established.

Headline Surfer made it clear to Santiago that it "resents" his characterization that it was "lying" in the coverage of the motorcycle story. And Headline Surfer cut right to the chase, making it clear to Santiago that the denial of media credentials would not allow Headline Surfer access to the drivers, the team owners, grange, pits, media parking or access to the outer media center.

In essence, Headline Surfer would be restricted to buying a ticket and getting what it could from the NASCAR Media online site.

Headline Surfer also pointed out that of the regular media covering the Daytona 500 and Coke Zero races, Headline Surfer's reporter had won numerous awards for its NASCAR and DIS related coverage -- more so than all other local reporters combined -- dating back more than a decade.

Headline Surfer made it clear to Santiago that it would not change its coverage or overlook important news that impacts the taxpayers of Volusia County regardless of the Speedway's wants or needs, especially those geared to public relations.

The Speedway's treatment of Headline Surfer has mirrored that of Volusia County government and several of its municipalities in which the internet newspaper has been excluded from opportunity to compete for advertising revenue and even denied access to venues paid for with public funds.

Previous-Related:

Nothing new has been released in 5 months since two speed bikers were killed in a Team Hammer event at DIS
Posted Tue, 2014-03-11 04:21
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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 narly eveenly 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 Wst Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.