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Use care when supporting your favorite drivers

by Brendan Gaughan

NASCAR fans are loyal, whether it is to a driver, team or manufacturer. While signing autographs at a Circuit City in Richmond, I was reminded again of their loyalty and of a column I wrote in April. It was the one about fans taking responsibility for the publications they choose to base their NASCAR knowledge on. I also realized that fans need to take responsibility for a lot more than what they read.

During the visit, a woman came through the line wearing a Kodak Racing/Brendan Gaughan T-shirt. She had a bag of pictures and a firesuit with her. I was flattered. She had obviously spent a lot of money to show her support. Unfortunately, because of her loyalty she was ripped off.

As I looked at the items I was signing, I became infuriated over one particular item, the Orleans Racing firesuit. It had been purchased through an Internet auction company and this fan could not have been more proud. I was so upset I couldnít keep my mouth shut and I told her the firesuit was not legitimate; it had never been mine, nor was it ordered for me by my team.

Sometimes, we want things so badly we donít look past what is right in front of us. We donít take time to look at the big picture or to ask the right questions. The next thing we know, we end up with something substandard and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Itís no secret NASCAR has grown. We see it everywhere, so do some obviously dishonest entrepreneurs. I would caution that as a fan, you think a little more heavily about what you buy, whether it be during a visit to the track, a retail store, or online.

I read fansí complaints about the cost of tickets, souvenirs and concessions. Many people think the cost is to line pockets and, to some extent, I would have to agree. The bigger picture is NASCAR has grown to its new height and many people are fraudulently reaping benefits at the cost of the true fan Ė and the fans are letting it happen! Whether it be counterfeit tickets or unlicensed merchandise the tracks, teams, sponsors and NASCAR have been forced to take steps to protect themselves from less-than-honest sales.

Many groups now have, or pay an outside source, to act as a licensing agent to protect the integrity of their trademarked logos and to make sure items being sold are worthy of the money a fan will spend. Some companies take it to extremes and require severe testing designed to avoid lawsuits.

Tracks are forced into additional security to verify ticketsí legitimacy. For instance, counterfeit tickets have been sold, which resulted in two or more people turning up for the same seat in the grandstands. If the tickets were not bought directly from a track, it is not the trackís fault. I have been told this happened at New Hampshire several years ago and track officials scrambled to find seats to accommodate those who had been ripped off. The track made no money off the ticket sales, but they seated the people who did not buy tickets because they wanted to honor the fans. Now, this woman with the firesuit was pretty excited to have me autograph it. But the point remained the same to me Ė it was not legitimate. After talking with her, she realized her mistake.

Now what do I do? She bought it from a random source. She thought she could trace it, but the damage was done. She was done an injustice and I had no way to make it right other than to share my disappointment with you. I couldnít give her the money. No. 1, there was no way she would have parted with the suit. No. 2, can you imagine everyone getting their money back from a source other than the one who was paid? Teams, drivers, sponsors and tracks would be out a lot of money while the crooks got away with the cash.

If you take one thing away from my columns this year, please think before you buy and make sure you know your purchase is legitimate.

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