• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM: NASCAR decided to interject itself into last year's controversies about Indiana's "religious freedom" law and display of the Confederate Flag in South Carolina and elsewhere. But I note no such grandstanding over last week's national debate about who can use what bathroom. Let's have the liberal members of the NASCAR media corps ask NASCAR, ISC and SMI what is the policy about bathroom access at those events at those facilities. No, I'm not kidding. Target, a big NASCAR team sponsor, issued a press release last week announcing its position. NASCAR stupidly opened the door to such a question last year, and again this year when Brian France and some drivers endorsed Donald Trump, then France seemed shocked that the egoist CEO of its Truck series sponsor pushed back. NASCAR has put itself into the arena, so let's get an answer to this politically correct issue.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

'SMOKE' IS NO. 1 ON THIS WEEK'S 'POWER PLAYERS' LIST

POWER PLAYERS for the week of  April 24: This week's 10 most influential
people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight. 

  1. Tony Stewart -- Returns from injury to begin what he says will be his final Sprint Cup season. And gets a waiver from NASCAR to be eligible for a place in the Chase. And gets fined by NASCAR for his safety-related criticism of not enforcing via the rulebook five lug nuts on every wheel. 


  2. Brian France -- NASCAR chairman defends his organization's on-going push to make stock car racing more safe, and fields other questions, at the prestigious Associated Press Sports Editors' meeting. 

  3Denny Hamlin -- As spokesman for the drivers council, defends Tony Stewart's right to speak his mind about NASCAR safety. The drivers' council paid Stewart's reported $35,000 fine. 

  4. Carl Edwards -- Two straight Sprint Cup victories for The Backflip Man . . . even if he had to bump his teammate Kyle Busch out of the way on the last lap at Richmond.

  5. Joe Gibbs -- What will The Coach have to say in this week's team meeting? Was it OK for Kyle Busch to get dumped by a teammate on the last lap with victory in sight? Gibbs and Toyota are on a powerful roll right now, so keeping the athletes calm and cooperative this week's important task.

  6. Simon Pagenaud -- After performing below expectations in 2015, his first with Team Penske, Pag has gone 2-2-1-1 this IndyCar season.

   7. Brittany Force -- Sister Courtney's long winless streak continues, but Brittany now has two NHRA Top Fuel wins and is in line for some "star" treatment from the media. 

  8. Lewis Hamilton -- Named one of worldwide sports' most influential people, the defending (but winless) world champion calls on Formula One's leaders to have the courage to experiment more with fan-friendly rules and race weekend format changes.

  9. Alan Johnson -- Drag racing's nitro class genius tuner, he consults on tune-up for Brittany Force's second Top Fuel win. She was 0-for-3 seasons until father John signed-up with AJ.

10. Graham Rahal -- With the Andretti Autosport team in a deep and unexplained performance slump, Rahal has resumed his role from last season as Honda's best hope. 

more next week . . . ]

  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

COMPLAINING INDYCAR DRIVERS ARE THIS WEEK's 'MOST INFLUENTIAL'

POWER PLAYERS for the week of  April 17: This week's 10 most influential
people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight. 

  1. Verizon IndyCar Series drivers -- This isn't what IndyCar CEO Mark Miles had in mind on the road to the historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" that this time will be the "Race of the Century," the storyline trends this season have been: Drivers saying they cannot pass, the cars have too much downforce, the racing is "boring" (Tony Kanaan at Long Beach), the racing was better before aero kits, controversy over dome skid plates and strakes (try to explain that to any major city sports columnist who might consider writing about the 100th Indy), and (shocking!) concerns about the officiating. This as the series will present two more hard-to-pass road course events before the Big I500. Will Miles take dramatic action? Will he impose secret fines to any drivers because of their complaints? Oh, that makes two more storylines to follow that don't mesh with the 100th Indy. Help wanted: Chief Communications Officer for IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway who will be a part of the senior management team.



more next week . . . ]

  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

AN OLD-FASHIONED ACT MEANS MORE THAN EVER

A column in Sunday's Arizona Republic caught my eye. The writer, Karina Bland, told of how she received an actual hand-written letter from a reader. And how she showed it to disbelieving co-workers and how special it was because it wasn't another E-mail. It was a real ink-on-paper letter.

I could not help but make this connection: In the days immediately after the recent IndyCar event at Phoenix Raceway, I sent hand-written thank-you cards to six people for their special help. Six for that one race. In recent times the only personal note of this type I've received from anyone in motorsports has come from Anthony Vestal of NHRA. Yes, I noticed, and appreciated the gesture. Just thought I'd let you know . . . 


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  April 10: This week's 10 most influential
people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight. 

  1. Kyle Busch -- How could it be anyone else? Four NASCAR national series wins in eight days. 


  2. David Wilson -- Toyota Racing Development president has the biggest smile among his manufacturer rivals in NASCAR these days.

  3Joe Gibbs -- Yes, Matt Kenseth has had plenty of frustration so far this season, but Coach Gibbs' team is the one getting it done in NASCAR right now. 

  4. Jim Michaelian -- This weekend marks another chapter in the amazing success story that is the Long Beach Grand Prix. As the LBGP president well knows, there's a garage area full of those who tried and failed to duplicate that success.

  5. Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip -- This is the Fox Sprint Cup telecast I've been waiting for. Two champions who knew how to get it done at Bristol. Now TV booth teammates, they will have short laps to offer what likely will be differing opinions. Don't doubt there will be a Number 1 and a Number 2 expert analyst post-Bristol

  7. Nico Rosberg -- Can he beat Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton for the third straight Grand Prix this season?

  8. Marcus Smith -- The Speedway Motorsports' track boss unveils his huge video screen hanging over the Bristol infield.

  9. Mario Andretti -- Says "no" to halos for open-cockpit cars and wants all cars to use the same type of aero kit for the Indianapolis 500, saying that's what's needed to make the 100th running full of the dramatic entertainment people want. And expect.

 10. Al Unser Jr. -- "King of the Beach" on the Long Beach streets is the pre-race favorite for the last-ever Toyota Pro-Celebrity race.

more next week . . . ]

  

Sunday, April 03, 2016

TAKING A RISK MAKES 3 THIS WEEK's 'MOST INFLUENTIAL'

POWER PLAYERS for the week of  April 3: This week's 10 most influential
people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight. 

  1.  Mark Miles, Jay Frye and Bryan Sperber -- IndyCar's top two executives and Phoenix International Raceway's president took the risk and successfully brought the series back to the Valley of the Sun after an 11-year absence. Crowd of a little under 20,000, with good corporate sales, wasn't quite enough to make a profit but there's enough bottom-line optimism for a 2017 return to PIR. 


  4. Eddie Gossage -- Let the hype begin. NASCAR heads to the Texas Motor Speedway's president's showplace. It's Saturday night to avoid Sunday conflict with The Master's final round.

  5. Kyle Busch -- Sweeps Martinsville in Truck and Cup series.


  6. Jason Line -- The Summit team boys continue to dominate NHRA's Pro Stock class, with Line winning at Las Vegas. He's been in four consecutive final rounds with two wins.


  7. Antron Brown -- Top Fuel winner in Vegas, everytime he's in the winner's circle it's good for the drag racing sport. 


  8. Matt Yocum
 -- He proves you can have a pleasant presence and still ask meaningful questions on pit road.



  9. Keke Rosberg -- Wow! Two-for-two in Formula One this season. Yes, it's in a Mercedes. No, it's not Lewis Hamilton.  

 
10. Scott Dixon -- American racing's most relentless driver wins Phoenix and has to be the pre-Indy 500 favorite. At least for this week.

more next week . . . ]




  






Sunday, March 27, 2016

PIR INDYCAR STORY LINEUP (and NEW 'MOST INFLUENTIAL' LIST

Finally!

IndyCars are back in the Valley of the Sun this coming Saturday evening for the first time in 11 years. For those so inclined, I've got thousands of words this week in the Arizona Republic / AzCentral.com . First up Sunday's blowout feature on Scott Dixon, a great driver, a great person. Monday I'll explain the significance and demands of short ovals in IndyCar history. My notebooks start Wednesday and Friday will be my feature on Ryan Hunter-Reay. Saturday will be my traditional race day Q&A, this one with Mario Andretti. Monday, April 4, I'll wrap it all up. All those links and news from the track all this week on @SpinDoctor 500

POWER PLAYERS for the week of  March 27: This week's 10 most influential
people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight. 

  1. Jay Frye -- NASCAR veteran was IndyCar's key negotiator in bringing the series back to Phoenix. Now, he's in charge of all competition issues. Getting the rules right (like amount of downforce) is essential, because no major race in recent memory needs great "word of mouth" promotion more than Saturday evening's 250 miler.



 2. Alan Johnson -- Nitro cars' greatest tuner got Brittany Force her first Top Fuel victory at the Gatornationals. Can Johnson the consultant go back-to-back at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Force or Steve Torrence?  

  3Kyle Busch -- What will the Sprint Cup champion say, or not say, and how will he say it to the media at Martinsville after NASCAR fines post-Auto Club Speedway Xfinity Series race? 

  4. Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip -- There's always lots to say during Martinsville races. DW and Jeff allowing each other enough time and space to make their points -- with Joy as traffic cop -- is essential. If someone doesn't cooperate, stick a Martinsville hot dog in his mouth.



  7. Lewis Hamilton -- Will the world champion restore "order" at Bahrain circuit after Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg won in Australia? 

  8. Bryan Sperber -- Phoenix International Raceway president has a lot on the line with return of IndyCar. And paid attendance will be . . . ?


 9. Jason Johnson -- The World of Outlaws resumes action Friday night in California after a rare "off" weekend with Johnson coming off a spectacular victory at Placerville Short Track, where he was involved in a major accident that sidelined him for the season at the same track one year earlier. 

 10. Kody Swanson-- USAC Silver Crown champion the last two seasons headliner as series opens Sunday at Terre Haute Action Track.

more next week . . . ]




  






Sunday, March 20, 2016

HAAS ON THE BUSINESS OF F1 (PLUS HE's ON NEW 'MOST INFLUENTIAL LIST'

The Haas F1 team made its debut last weekend in Australia and Romain Grosjean finished a good sixth. I thought this was a good time to share some of my Business of Racing quotes from team owner Gene Haas. I interviewed him November 2015 in the NASCAR garage area at Phoenix International Raceway, where one of his drivers, Kevin Harvick, dominates. Some of this was used in my Arizona Republic notebooks PIR week.

On his first meeting with F1 commercial czar Bernie Ecclestone: "He was very nice and cordial, but a year later, when I went to see him again, he goes, ‘Who the hell are you?’ I think by nature he’s (inaudible). He said, ‘You can’t be serious about what you want to do. You have to be out of your mind.’ On the other hand, when he dropped down to seven or eight teams, he allowed four teams to come on board. I guess his perspective is based on how many teams he has on the grid."


On the massive cost of Formula One: "If you look at it over 10 years and you invest $10 million a year, that’s $100 million. That sounds like a lot more. We’ve probably invested at least $10-$15-$20 million in racing for 15 years. I can’t tell you how much I’ve invested in Formula One but I don’t think it will be triple digits yet."


On using F1 to increase international sales of his machine tools: "That’s the No. 1 reason for doing this. Just in the little bit I’ve done, the perception that Haas Automation as a company has received in these overseas venues has been phenomenal. I think it’s worked out beyond my expectations as far as people becoming aware of Haas Automation as a brand and as a machine tool builder.

"(In 2014) we did a little over $1 billion in sales and our long-term goal is to double that. It (Grand Prix team) would actually pay for itself in a 10 percent increase in sales. Ultimately, we expect to have revenue from sponsors. We expect to run it as a business and maybe one day make a profit from it."

On the possibility of hiring an American driver: "It would help from a marketing standpoint to try to sell advertising space to bring in an American driver. But our primary purpose is to learn about Formula One. Our goal is to do the best we can with what we can attain. We were able to attain a current Formula One driver to add some maturity and knowledge. Romain will bring his knowledge of the tracks and little things we need to know about like pit roads, tire strategies and those sort of things."


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  March 20: This week's 10 most influential
people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight. 

  1.  Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus -- NASCAR's most famous driver-crew chief combo has won two of five this season and "Superman's" California victory put him one up on Dale Earnhardt's career total.



  3John Force -- Gets first NHRA "double" with Brittany Force and Robert Hight winning Top Fuel and Funny Car at the Gatornationals. 

  4. Gene Haas -- Owner of America's first Formula One team in 30 years gets a points-paying sixth place in Grand Prix debut.


  5. Brittany Force -- Finally, her first Top Fuel win, and in an NHRA "major" no less. This is what NHRA needs, for the Force daughters (Courtney in Funny Car) to win and win and make headline after headline.


  6. Mike Helton -- Is NASCAR's vice chairman and his competition executives about to penalize Kyle Busch for his post-Auto Club Speedway Xfinity Series race actions and non-actions?


  7. Toto Wolff -- The Mercedes-Benz motorsports boss sees Nico Rosberg win season-opener in Australia and influences others to overturn F1's silly new qualifying format after just one try.


  8. Pipo Derani
 -- The Brazilian, 22, is virtually unknown in America, except at Sebring, just as he did at Daytona, takes overall lead and wins a SportsCar classic in the closing minutes for Ligier-Honda.



  9. Donny Schatz -- Sweeps the World of Outlaws weekend at Stockton, Calif., dirt track.

 
10. Tony Pedregon -- Still getting his legs under him in new FS1 NHRA TV role, but the "how" and "why" of his explanations will shape the opinions of the drag racing audience.

more next week . . . ]




  





Wednesday, March 16, 2016

SORRY

Post NASCAR Week in Phoenix illness has kept me from updating this week. Will have a new list Sunday night. Thank you.