• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM: It's all about RESPECT. Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton among those at Homestead-Miami Speedway to see Jeff Gordon's last ride. And Gordon going over to congratulate new champion Kyle Busch.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  November 22: 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 -- It would be difficult to write a Hollywood script more compelling than his injury-to-championship season. One of the best sports comeback stories of all time. Oh, his team also won the Truck series title.

  2. Joe Gibbs -- Adds to his own sports legacy with the Kyle Busch Cup championship. The first for Toyota.

  3. Adam Stevens -- First year as a Cup series crew chief ends with a championship. He had to figure it out for the first 11 races without his driver.

  4Jeff Gordon -- His influence transformed NASCAR as a sport and as an industry. Now, on to the Fox TV booth. 

  5. Brian France -- It sure seemed the NASCAR CEO flubbed his Cup presentation remarks. Now, on to BIG decisions, like a franchise system to give team owners value for their investment.

  6. Chris Buescher -- Being happy with non-top 10 finishes isn't very satisfying for the fans, but two wins and consistency results in an Xfinity series championship. One bit of good news in a terrible year for Roush Fenway Racing. 

 7. Erik Jones -- NASCAR's Next Big Thing takes the Camping World Truck Series championship for Kyle Busch's team.  

  8. Joie Chitwood III -- Daytona International Speedway president says the $400 million "rising" project will be finished by mid-January and under the $400 million budget.

  9. Bryan Clauson -- Holds off USAC sprint car titlist Robert Ballou's last-corner passing attempt to win season-ending Western World Championship.

  10. Juan Pablo Montoya -- Indy 500 winner sets fastest lap during World Endurance Championship rookie testing in Bahrain in the Porsche 919 Hybrid. What he'll be doing after the 2016 IndyCar season?

more next week . . . ]


Monday, November 16, 2015


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  November 15: 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. Jeff Gordon -- He can make the  Hollywood script a reality, going out on top.

  2. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. -- The defending Cup champion, the year's Comeback Athlete, and the guy from a single-car team will try to keep Gordon from a farewell championship.

  5. Alan Gustafson, Rodney Childers, Dave Rogers, Cole Pearn  -- The Gordon, Harvick, Busch and Truex crew chiefs. The right or wrong call from the pit box could win or lose a championship.

  9. Jay Frye -- He gets racing's hottest of hot seats, as new IndyCar president of competition.

 10. Del Worsham -- Adds an NHRA Funny Car title to his one from Top Fuel.

more next week . . . ]


Sunday, November 15, 2015


David Ferroni, who has been involved in motorsports for 30 years and currently is media representative for Furniture Row Racing and driver Martin Truex Jr. in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, today was announced as winner of the 2015 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations.
The Chapman Award is considered by many in the industry as the highest honor in racing public relations. It is named in memory of Chapman, the legendary PR executive and innovator, who worked with Babe Ruth and was named Indy Car racing’s “most influential man” of the 1980s. Chapman died in 1996 at age 80.
The announcement and presentation were made at Phoenix International Raceway by Michael Knight, chairman of the selection committee, and one of Chapman’s closest friends. The award is determined by a vote of national media members, most of who knew Chapman, and is authorized by the Chapman family. PR representatives from all forms of motorsports are eligible for consideration.
“Dave is an ‘old-school’ publicist in the very best sense of that term,” said Knight, the longtime journalist/publicist and award rights-holder. “His open approach to working with the media is in the best tradition as set by Jim Chapman and so this award is very appropriate.
“Jim set the ultimate standard of professionalism, class and dignity. He knew that building good one-on-one professional relationships with journalists was important in good times and absolutely essential in bad times. That’s too often missing today in a communications age where an E-mail or text message or over-reliance on social media is incorrectly considered ‘relationship-building.’ Jim was a true ‘people person’ and knew nothing could replace a handshake, a face-to-face conversation, or the sound of another person’s voice.”
Ferroni started his career as publicist for Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway before traveling the NASCAR and NHRA national circuits. His blue-chip corporate clients have included Miller Brewing Co., McDonald’s, Valvoline, Interstate Batteries, Pennzoil, the U.S. Army and Furniture Row.
Ferroni was PR director for the famed “Miracle On Ice” 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic hockey team, which won the gold medal in Lake Placid, N.Y. He also worked in professional soccer and the U.S. Women’s Indoor Tennis Championship in Bloomington, Minn.
Established in 1991 by media and publicists within the CART series, the Chapman Award originally focused on achievement in CART. After a hiatus of several years, the award was resumed in 2004, with eligibility expanded to anyone working in racing PR.
Chapman started as sports editor or managing editor of several Southern newspapers before joining the New York Times. He entered the PR business in 1946, as regional PR director for Ford Motor Co. in Detroit.
Soon thereafter, Chapman hired Ruth as consultant to the automaker’s sponsorship of American Legion Junior Baseball. They traveled together for more than two years for personal appearances and became close friends. Chapman was one of only three friends at Ruth’s bedside when he died in August 1948 and then officially announced Ruth’s death to the press corps that had maintained an around-the-clock vigil at New York’s Memorial Hospital.
Chapman kept with him a money clip with a pockmarked silver dollar that Ruth used to carry during games for good luck. Chapman said Ruth had used the coin for target practice. He proudly showcased several photos of Ruth in his office.  One was inscribed: "To a pal that is a pal." Chapman also displayed a framed letter, written on Ruth's personal stationery from Memorial Hospital, dated July 13, 1948, inviting him to the July 26 premier of the film, The Babe Ruth Story. That letter read, in part, "That evening would not be complete without your being my guest.  To you, Jimmy, I say you must be with me that evening."
In 1950, Chapman left Ford to start his own PR firm. One of his first clients was Avis founder Warren Avis. Chapman devoted much of his time to financial PR, which he once called his “favorite form of PR,” and helped companies get recognition among analysts and even gain admission to the New York and American stock exchanges.
Chapman’s first venture into motorsports was in 1951, when he joined with NASCAR founder Bill France to promote the Motor City 250. The race was part of Detroit’s 250th birthday celebration, a Chapman client. In 1967, Chapman entered Indy Car racing with client Ozzie Olson’s Olsonite sponsorship of Dan Gurney’s team, which later featured Bobby Unser as driver.
“Jim was one of the most innovative and imaginative PR men ever to grace a pit lane,” said Gurney. “Jim practically invented most of what is now considered routine sponsor PR work. He was the first, as far as I know, who thought of putting up a sponsor hospitality tent alongside a racetrack (at the old Riverside International Raceway), filling it with extravagant race car ice-sculptures, beautiful food and beautiful people from the business, sports and movie industries. He started an ‘open house’ tradition in Ozzie’s hotel suite in Indianapolis, where journalists could rub shoulders with John Wayne or (astronaut) Scott Carpenter.”
Chapman also directed Olsonite’s sponsorship of the Driver of the Year award. He orchestrated all the details, including the media panel voting, and an annual luncheon at New York City’s famed ‘21’ Club. That gathering was considered so prestigious it was routinely attended by leaders of all the major U.S. sanctioning organizations regardless of what series the Driver of the Year competed in.
Chapman’s greatest professional acclaim came from 1981-1992, as director of CART series sponsor PPG Industries’ program. Chapman was instrumental in raising PPG’s prize fund from $250,000 to more than $3.75 million at the time of his retirement in February 1993. The all-female PPG Pace Car Driving Team was another Chapman innovation, as were the PPG Editors’ Days, when he brought business and feature writers to the tracks for lunch, pace car rides, and driver interviews.
In 1982, Chapman negotiated a landmark sponsorship for PPG with then- Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Joe Cloutier, which formally made the Indy 500 a points-paying event in the PPG Indy Car World Series, an arrangement that continued through the 1995 season. “That was one of the most satisfying moments of my career,” Chapman recalled. “Roger Penske, among others, told me it was the best thing that had ever happened to CART.” In addition to a major contribution to the prize fund, PPG later became sponsor of the $100,000 Indy 500 pole award, and paid a special winner’s bonus in the early years of NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.
“With Jim, when he says ‘jump,’ we just ask ‘how high?,” Indy 500 winner and PPG Cup champion Al Unser Jr. said on behalf of his fellow drivers. “And we do it right then.”
Indy Car Racing magazine named Chapman the sport’s “most influential” man of the 1980s, saying he turned “a public relations assignment into an art form.” After his retirement, Chapman continued to consult PPG, and agreed to Mario Andretti’s personal request that he serve as honorary chairman of Andretti’s “Arrivederci, Mario” farewell tour in 1994.
Chapman's professional achievements earned him vast recognition.  The mayors of Detroit and Long Beach, Calif., presented him proclamations and the key to each city.  In 1993, Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh named him Sagamore of the Wabash, the state's highest honor. He served as president and/or director of more than 30 Michigan and Detroit-area civic and charitable organizations.  Chapman became active in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and represented the Detroit Urban League and United Negro College Fund in several controversial situations.  He admitted to shedding "buckets of tears of joy" when Willy T. Ribbs became the first African-American driver to qualify for the Indy 500 in 1991.
“The true honor of this award is not the plaque,” Knight concluded. “The true honor is having your name forever associated with that of the great James P. Chapman.”
1991 – Michael Knight
1992 – Tom Blattler
1993-94 – Deke Houlgate and Hank Ives
1995 – Kathi Lauterbach
1996 – Marc Spiegel
1997 – Mike Zizzo
1998 – Tamy Valkosky
1999 -- Carol Wilkins
2000-2003 – (Award not presented)
2004 – Doug Stokes
2005 – Susan Arnold
2006 – Kevin Kennedy
2007 – Dave Densmore and Bob Carlson
2008 – Judy Stropus
2009 –  (Award not presented)
2010 -- Jim Hunter
2011 -- Bill York
2012 -- Judy Kouba Dominick and Nancy Wager
2013 -- Anne Fornoro
2014 -- Jon Edwards and Elon Werner
2015 -- Linda Vaughn (honorary)
2015 -- David Ferroni

Sunday, November 08, 2015


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  November 8: 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. 

(Sunday, Nov. 15, the winner of the 2015 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports PR will be announced here.)

  1. Kevin Harvick -- If the defending Sprint Cup champion could pick any track where he needs a win or great finish, it would be Phoenix. He's won the last four Cup races in the Valley of the Sun.

  2. Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano -- Brad K might make NASCAR's Final 4 with a good Phoenix finish, but it's an absolute "must win" situation for the Daytona 500 winner.

  4Roger Penske -- Has clinched a third consecutive Xfinity series owners' championship  with the No. 22, but Keselowski and Logano are in trouble regarding a second Cup title for America's most successful team owner.

  5. Jeff Gordon -- His No. 24 team won't learn anything at Phoenix to help them at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but he can enjoy having the track officially named in his honor for the day.

  6. Erik Jones -- NASCAR's next-big-thing gets the call as Matt Kenseth's sub in the No. 20 Toyota, finishing 12th at Texas Motor Speedway. And won the Truck series race. 

  7. Chris Buescher -- A couple of top 10 finishes should be enough to win him the Xfinity series championship.

  8. Scott Pruett -- America's most successful endurance sports car racer won't return to the Ganassi IMSA team. He'll lead a new Lexus program and go for a record Rolex 24 win with an as-yet unannounced team.
  9. Ricky Craven -- SportsCenter's man on NASCAR tells it like it is on the Matt Kenseth suspension and influences what ESPN's audience thinks about Cup racing.

 10. Bryan Sperber -- The Phoenix International Raceway president announces another grandstand sellout for the next-to-last Cup event of the year. On Sunday, PIR will officially be Jeff Gordon Raceway. 

more next week . . . ]


Sunday, November 01, 2015


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  November 1: 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. Mike Helton -- How far over the line did Matt Kenseth go? The decision by NASCAR's vice chairman and senior racing official will set a precedent within the context of the current Chase for the Sprint Cup format. 

  2. Matt Kenseth -- He might have cost Joey Logano the Cup championship. And, himself, the rest of the season.

  3. Jeff Gordon -- The Drive for 5 is alive. Gordon will start his last Cup race with a shot at his fifth championship. 

 4Eddie Gossage -- How far will the Texas Motor Speedway president go in using the Logano-Kenseth wreck to sell tickets?

  5. Antron Brown -- Clinches his second NHRA Mello Yello series Top Fuel championship.

  6. Erica Enders -- Her ninth Pro Stock victory of the season locks-up her second consecutive championship in NHRA's most-troubled class. 

  7. Jay Frye and Bryan Sperber -- IndyCar's chief revenue officer and Phoenix International Raceway's president rely on a 20-year friendship to bring the series back to the Arizona oval for the first time in a decade. 

  9. Dave Moody -- Is there any doubt what NASCAR fans will be talking about all this week with SiriusXM channel 90's afternoon drive-time host?

  10. Bob Pockrass -- Three races to go in the Cup season and ESPN.com's hard-working NASCAR writer will help shape what the public thinks about it. 

more next week . . . ]


Sunday, October 25, 2015


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  October 25: 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. Mike Helton -- NASCAR's vice chairman remains the senior-most race official at the track. So he bears responsibility for the decisions made at Talladega's finish. 

  2. Joey Logano and Todd Gordon -- Three consecutive Cup wins and sweep of the second round of the Chase for driver and crew chief. If Logano doesn't win the championship, more than a few people will find it confusing.

  4. Lewis Hamilton -- Clinches third world championship with his third victory at Circuit of the Americas.

  5. Kevin Harvick -- Did he or didn't he?

  6. Mark Miles -- IndyCar will release its 2016 schedule Tuesday. Now the series boss has to make sure his Big Prize, the Boston street race, actually happens. 

  7. Jeff Gordon -- His last shot at the Drive for 5 is still alive. Is Martinsville his last best shot for a victory? 

  8. Erica Enders -- Now the winningest single-season female racer in NHRA history with a second straight Pro Stock title at hand..

  9. Ron Dennis -- McLaren Formula One boss apparently blocking Red Bull from a Honda engine supply.

  10. Dave Moody -- The phone lines will be lighting up for the SiriusXM NASCAR channel 90 afternoon drive-time host. 

more next week . . . ]


Sunday, October 18, 2015


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  October 18: 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. Joey Logano -- It doesn't matter if you approve of his bump of Matt Kenseth for the Kansas Speedway win. He's the only driver guaranteed to advance to round three of the Chase -- and the new Sprint Cup championship favorite. 

  2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth -- Both essentially need to win Talladega to move on in the Chase.

  4. Bernie Ecclestone -- Brings his Formula One world championship circus to Circuit of the Americas after reported less-than-complimentary comments about the United States on Russian TV.

  5. Jeff Gordon -- Drive for Five still going in his farewell season, but it's Talladega . . . 

 6. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel -- Are F1 drivers enough of household names to sell tickets in America? If so, these are the two. One could essentially wrap-up the world title at COTA. The other could ignite the passions of Texans and Ferrari fans worldwide. 

  8. Antron Brown -- He lost in the semifinals last weekend but still has NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel championship all but locked-up.

  9.  Mario Andretti -- One of America's greats and 1978 world champ in the spotlight again as Circuit of the Americas ambassador.

 10. Claire B. Lang -- There will be plenty of exciting sound-bites coming out of Talladega and she'll have 'em all on SiriusXM Channel 90.

more next week . . . ]