The headline on our update late last Friday (10/17) on L’Affaire NASCAR (“L’Affaire NASCAR: The Yellow Caution Flag Comes Out”) appears to have been more predictive than we imagined. On Sunday (10/19) at the TUMS QuikPak 500 in Martinsville, the eleventh caution flag of the afternoon came out in Lap 485 when the Number 38 Digital TV Transition Ford Fusion ran hard into the wall after making contact with the Number 44 UPS Toyota. That was all she wrote for the David Gilliland-piloted car in its maiden race under the FCC brand. Add one more DNF to Gilliland’s record this year.

While the temptation to draw parallels between the fates of (a) the Number 38 Digital TV Transition Ford Fusion, on the one hand, and (b) the upcoming DTV Transition from which it gets its name, on the other, is nigh on overwhelming, that’s really too cheap and easy a shot to take. We can, and will, pass (unlike Gilliland, who seemed to be glued in the middle of the pack through most of the race).

The FCC’s purpose, after all, was presumably not simply to win races, but rather to promote the DTV transition. And notwithstanding the somewhat inglorious end the car met, since Gilliland didn’t kiss the wall until he had gone around the track 485 times (out of a possible 500 or so), the potential exposure of his car, for promotional purposes, wasn’t all that bad.

We emphasize “potential” exposure because, at least for the hour or two that we watched the race, we were blissfully unaware of the presence of Gilliland or the FCC at the track. The car constantly sat somewhere in the 25-30 (or so) position, bunched up with 10 or more other also-rans-to-be.  As a result, throughout the time we watched, neither the camera nor the race announcers had occasion to acknowledge the Number 38 at all. (It should also be pointed out that the graphics on the car’s hood – the focus of any good NASCAR’s money shot – were less than striking and would not likely have attracted much attention even if they had been on camera, which they weren’t.)

So to the extent that the FCC spent $350,000 for publicity and exposure through on-air mentions or coverage of its car, the Commission does not appear to have gotten much in return this time around. Next time, for sure. (Maybe the Commission can work on the hood graphics a bit between now and then.  We have some ideas — email us.)

Meanwhile, we still haven’t had anyone calling “shotgun” for the passenger seat in our graphic, below, previously occupied by Commissioner Copps. We figure that there are at least three obvious candidates (those would be Commissioners Tate, Adelstein and McDowell), and maybe others. We hope they won’t be shy – we can probably even find a way to squeeze them all in, if need be.