News & Media


Retro Racing: After 77 years, NSSN publishes its final print issue

April 01, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

The words "shock" and "sadness" were the ones that came to mind when the announcement came last week that National Speed Sport News had published its final print issue this month after almost 77 years.

"Chris Economaki had done such as amazing job of building a network of correspondents, most of which did this for their love of motorsports more than they did for any compensation. We did have stringers and freelancers who were paid, but the majority of the copy came from people who just loved auto racing."

--MIKE KERCHNER

Executives with the company hope an online version of NSSN will continue the name, but rising costs and falling revenues combined to kill off the print version.

"This is one of the saddest days of my life," publisher Corinne Economaki said. "The sluggish economy has made it too difficult to continue publication and no matter how I try to make the numbers work -- and believe me I have tried -- it is just not feasible to keep the business going.

National Speed Sport News was the paper of record for the sport since before NASCAR existed, and with the legendary Chris Economaki at the helm as publisher, grew to be a definitive and distinctive voice for racing -- and a must-read for many people inside and outside the garage area.

"Since August 1934 when my father, Chris, sold copies of the first issue at Ho-Ho-Kus Speedway in northern New Jersey, to today, as I oversee the very last copy printed, this paper has been an integral part of my family," Corrine Economaki said.

Senior editor Mike Kerchner said the decision to end publication had been discussed for some time.

"I knew we were heading into that direction," Kerchner said. "[Corinne] and I had been chatting about it on and off for awhile. We did have a meeting at the beginning of this year and everyone on the staff knew that we needed to make certain numbers by a certain time if we were going to continue, and obviously we didn't."

For Kerchner, witnessing the end of National Speed Sport News is "heartbreaking," because for him, it was more than a job.

"I've been here for 20 years," Kerchner said. "I started in June of 1991, so I basically grew up in this company. And I saw a whole lot of great times here, had a lot of fun, and the way the media industry has changed in the last 20 years is unbelievable.

"When I started, we were still pasting pages up the old-fashioned way. And I was here all the way through the evolution to digital, the way we're doing it now. I got to see a lot change."

Can NSSN survive in an online format?

"As of right now, we're trying to keep the online version alive and I'm the only person updating it at this point," Kerchner said. "That would be the goal, to continue this thing -- objective auto racing coverage -- online, like we have for 77 years in the newspaper."

For now, Kerchner hopes the army of NSSN correspondents -- which include notables such as Dave Argabright and Bruce Martin -- will continue to provide the online site with nationwide racing coverage.

"Chris Economaki had done such as amazing job of building a network of correspondents, most of which did this for their love of motorsports more than they did for any compensation," Kerchner said. "We did have stringers and freelancers who were paid, but the majority of the copy came from people who just loved auto racing, and they're enthusiastic about continuing in some form with the Internet version."

The news deeply affected others involved with NSSN. Ron Lemasters Jr. was an associate editor for 10 years with the paper and has remained a correspondent since 1988.

"When I heard that, I went, 'Oh, my God,' " Lemasters said. "It's like the New York Times folding, really. It's always been the paper of record in motorsports, and it's something that I never thought -- in my lifetime -- would ever happen."

With the increasing influence of online news, the weekly National Speed Sport News found itself less and less timely.

"In the Internet world, as you well know, you can find out who won the feature race at Putnamville that night," Lemasters said. "You no longer have to wait until Wednesday to get your paper."

Lemasters said he feels worst for Chris Economaki.

"Chris is an icon," Lemasters said. "He is -- and I hate to compare him -- the William Randolph Hearst of that thing. He lived and breathed it. That's how he made his living and he's done it since 1950, when he took over as editor. Nobody does that any more. We're all vagabonds now. When Chris started to step away, Mike Kerchner and Corinne [Economaki] stepped in and they took it along.

"It's sad, something that has been the staple of American motorsports for 76 years and change, is gone. It's nobody's fault, it's technology, it's progress. Everybody feels bad for Chris. He's 90 now and that, combined with the technology, is probably why they're not publishing any more."

Losing National Speed Sport News creates a void, Kerchner said, because the paper provided a written record of auto racing that may never be duplicated. It is truly the end of an era.

"It's just heartbreaking and disappointing, to know that something that meant so much to so many people wasn't going to be around any more," Kerchner said. "You go back and look at those old newspapers, there's so many little things you find in there that have just been forgotten from racing history. They're not important overall but they were important at the time when they happened."

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.