Sunday, June 26, 2016


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  June 26: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 -- Said Sprint Cup racing wasn't fun anymore on Friday, won at Sonoma Sunday to likely lock-up a spot in the Chase in what he says is his last season of Cup competition.

   2. Sam Flood -- Has preparation for the Summer Olympic Games caused the NBC Sports' executive producer to take his eye off the NASCAR ball? First test comes Saturday night at Daytona. 

  3. Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte -- Now it's their chance to shape public opinion about NASCAR. 

 5. Mike Helton-- How significant will NASCAR's vice chairman make the penalties in the John Wes Townley-Spencer Gallagher fight near end of Saturday night's Truck series contest at Gateway International Raceway?
  6. Chip Wile -- Former Darlington Speedway president gets his first chance to showcase his management talents at ISC's flagship Daytona International Speedway.

  7. Ron Capps -- Is this the year he finally wins a Funny Car championship? Norwalk made it three wins in the last four races for the points leader.
  8. Claire B. Lang -- There will be no shortage of news at Daytona and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90's popular garage area reporter will have it all. 

  9. Jason Line -- NHRA Pro Stock win No. 7 at Norwalk as the EFI master Summit Chevy Camaro team, including Greg Anderson, are undefeated this season.

10. Tanner Swanson -- Saturday night at Gateway made it four wins in his last five USAC Silver Crown pavement races.


more next week . . . ]

Sunday, June 19, 2016


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  June 19: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. Chip Ganassi -- Lead team owner of Ford's new GT sports car program adds Le Mans to his victory list on first try and 50 years after automaker's famed victory over Ferrari.

   2. Joe Gibbs -- His team has turned-around Toyota's multi-year NASCAR frustrations and now fields THE cars in the Sprint Cup and Xfinity series.

  3. Bernie Ecclestone -- Not a single Formula One sponsor was asking for marketing or publicity opportunities in Azerbaijan yet F1's commercial boss let the series perform on a narrow and inadequate street course so he could put multi-million$ more into F1's bank account. 

   4. Jeff Gordon -- The Fox portion of the NASCAR season ends Sunday in Sonoma. Will it be Gordon's last chance to shape public opinion before he goes mainstream as new co-host on "Live With Kelly" as TV industry reports have suggested?

  5. Mike Hull-- Ganassi's managing director unsung key player in Le Mans victory as he has been in IndyCar, having called strategy for virtually all of Scott Dixon's triumphs.

  6. Ken Adelson -- TV production veteran, now NHRA VP for broadcasting and digital content, leading drag racing's presentation to significantly increased viewership on FS1.

  7. Sebastien Bourdais -- Co-drives Ford GT to Le Mans victory. Now onto Road America for IndyCar's return to the great road course.
  8. Chris Gayle -- How many different drivers (it was Sam Hornish Jr. last Sunday) can win in crew chief's No. 18 Xfinity series Toyota?

  9. Townsend Bell -- Was a threat to win Indy 500 and did win his class at Le Mans before returning to NBCSN IndyCar TV booth for rest of the season. 

 10. Jason Line -- Same old story. Wins at Bristol to keep his and Summit Camaro teammate Greg Anderson undefeated in NHRA Pro Stock this season.


more next week . . . ]

Sunday, June 12, 2016


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  June 12: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. Josef Newgarden, James Hinchliffe, et al -- Help organize the PR Move of the Year, as IndyCar drivers go into Texas Motor Speedway grandstands to thank fans waiting out Saturday night's long rain delay. Most of the time when we hear about athletes going into the stands it's to take on a fan. If the IndyCar organization plays this right, it could be a turning point for how the mainstream media, general public and corporate America view the series.
(See my long Twitter stream on this subject last Saturday night.)

    3. Dave Pericak and Doug Fehan -- Ford's racing director and boss of the Chevy Corvette team fly the USA flag at Le Mans, including the return of the Ford GT.

   5. Daniel Suarez -- Grad of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity and NEXT programs becomes first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR national series race, in the Xfinity series at Michigan.

   6. Bernie Ecclestone -- Formula One's commercial boss scores again with mega-dollar and maximum-activation sponsorship with Heineken.

  7Donny Schatz -- Gets World of Outlaws points lead in Knoxville doubleheader, including ninth win of the season.

 8. Bryan Clauson -- Scores 40th career USAC national sprint car victory, tying Gary Bettenhausen for seventh on the all-time series wins list.

  9. Greg Anderson -- The Ken Black-owned Summit Camaro team goes 10-for-10 in NHRA Pro Stock this season, with Anderson's "major" win in Englishtown, N.J. 

10. Ron Capps -- The Made-for-the-Media driver wins Englishtown, his second consecutive NHRA Funny Car win, and takes the class points lead. Capps celebrated by pouring Mello Yello over his Wally trophy.


more next week . . . ]

Monday, June 06, 2016


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  June 5: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. Gene Haas -- Kurt Busch wins Pocono's rain-delayed Sprint Cup race in the Haas owned-and-sponsored car and the Haas Formula One team comes to North America for the Canadian Grand Prix.

  2. Bernie Ecclestone -- What will Formula One's controversial boss have to say in Montreal about Alexander Rossi winning the Indianapolis 500, the status of the U.S. Grand Prix, and whatever else he decides to opine about? 

  3. Eddie Gossage -- How many people can arguably America's most aggressive race promoter put into the Texas Motor Speedway grandstands for IndyCar?

  4. Jack Beckman -- His unbelievable explosion during a qualifying pass in Epping, N.H., the most sudden and violent many NHRA observers have ever seen, made the national TV news.
The cancer survivor wasn't injured.

  5. Alexander Rossi -- Graham Rahal has urged the Indy 500 winner to take maximum advantage of his Brickyard win. It may take a win on the super-fast Texas oval to convince people Indy wasn't a fluke.

   6. Mike Helton -- NASCAR and its vice chairman get as close as it can to Detroit, at Michigan International Speedway, where automaker executives hope for bragging rights using the sanction's latest "less" downforce rules.  

  7Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell -- PT isn't afraid to tell it like it is and Bell had a car capable of winning the Indy 500, so what they say about Saturday night IndyCar at Texas Motor Speedway will shape opinions.

 9. Bryan Clauson and Rico Abreu -- Clauson claims USAC's Indiana Midget Week title for the third time and Abreu ends the tour with a Kokomo Speedway victory.

[ more next week . . . ]

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  May 29: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. Art St. Cyr -- Honda Performance Development boss gets great comeback from recent struggles, winning both the Indy 500 pole and race.

  2. Alexander Rossi -- Who did what???? Now the real pressure is on, as the shocking Indy 500 winner does his national media tour and tries to boost IndyCar's appeal.

  3. Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta -- Combined forces to field Rossi's car, and got a last-minute (at a bargain rate for NAPA) sponsorship, and Herta called the fuel strategy perfectly to win the 100th Indy 500.

  5. Barney Visser -- Furniture Row team owner shows Toyota made the right move to bring him into their fold with Martin Truex Jr.'s great Charlotte 600 victory. 

  6Mark Miles -- The 100th Indy 500 was a massive commercial success -- all tickets sold and hugely long lines at the souvenir stores -- but TV numbers disappoint. Now what?

  7. Lewis Hamilton  -- F1's biggest star wins glamorous Monaco Grand Prix. His public appeal matters as F1 comes to Canada.  

  8. Roger Penske -- He didn't win the 100th Indy 500 but hosts the IndyCar series with a weekend doubleheader on Detroit's Belle Isle. 

  9. T.E. McHale and Dan Layton -- Honda's PR duo wins 2016 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations. Well deserved. Congratulations. 

[ more next week  . . . ]


Friday, May 27, 2016


INDIANAPOLIS -- T.E. McHale and Dan Layton, who represent Honda in its diverse auto racing programs including teams using Honda engines in Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, Friday were announced as winners of the 2016 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations.
In addition, to mark what would have been Chapman’s 100th birthday, a new permanent award was unveiled. It will be displayed in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s media center.

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 the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 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.

“I truly believe the stars have aligned perfectly,” said Knight, the longtime journalist/publicist and award rights-holder. “T.E. and Dan are being honored for their efforts that so closely match Jim’s example. This includes having great credibility with the news media, understanding the essential need to develop good one-on-one relationships with journalists, and using hospitality as a way to build these relationships. This is in the best tradition as set by Mr. Chapman and so this award is very appropriate.

“This announcement comes two days before the 100th running of the Indy 500, an event where Jim was an important figure, and at IMS, where he was influential, in the centennial year of Jim’s birth. It simply feels right.

 “Jim set the ultimate standard of professionalism, class and dignity. He knew that solid 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.”

McHale, a University of Notre Dame graduate, has been American Honda’s motorsports communications manager since 2003. He reported on motorsports for the Mansfield (Ohio) News Journal from 1978 to 1995, and covered nearly every significant event which took place at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course during that time. He then worked in PR for CART through 2001, followed by a year with the Trans-Am series. He was recognized earlier this year with an honorary membership in the prestigious Road Racing Drivers Club.

Layton, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, has spent his entire adult life in motorsports and now is in his 22d year representing Honda in the IndyCar series. He began as a crew member for an SCCA amateur team while still in college. After graduation he combined a career as a driver with freelance writing assignments for racing publications, including Autosport, On Track and National Speed Sport News.  He founded SugarCreek Productions in 1987, serving as communications director for Vicki O’Connor’s Pro-motion organization, promoter of the Formula Atlantic and Pro Sports 2000 championships. Other clients included IMSA, Shelton Racing and Pagan Racing at the 1994 Indy 500.  His current duties encompass Honda Racing and Acura Motorsports activities in IndyCar, IMSA and the Pirelli World Challenge.

 The permanent Jim Chapman Award, unveiled by three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford, who was captain of Chapman’s PPG Pace Car Driving Team, features a classic photo of Jim wearing his favorite navy blue double-breasted blazer and the names of all the award recipients. The text under Jim’s photo reads:

“James P. Chapman (1916-1996). A great man who deeply cared about country and church; family and friends. A legend in the public relations industry who set the ultimate standard of professionalism and excellence. A superstar who superstars like Babe Ruth wanted at their side. A pioneer in motorsports PR who practically invented most of what is now considered routine. A true 'People Person' who knew a mutually-respectful relationship with journalists was important in good times and essential in bad times. A mentor kind enough to help others achieve success. A gentleman who understood nothing could replace the sound of the human voice, a handshake, a face-to-face meeting, a shared meal, a hand-written note of thanks. 

“All who ever have, do, or will work in public relations stand on Mr. Chapman's shoulders.

“The true honor of the Jim Chapman Award is not a plaque. The true honor is having one's name forever associated with that of the great James P. Chapman. A committee of journalists adjudged those named here worthy of this high honor.”

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, who was born in Macon, Georgia, 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.




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

2016 -- T.E. McHale and Dan Layton



Sunday, May 22, 2016


I wrote last week to beware of what you read during May, America's Race Month, because Indy and Charlotte and Monaco and all the other prestige races brings out a cluster of non-journalists. I assume you are aware of what was going on in the NASCAR media world last week so I won't repeat all of that. But the lesson should be learned.

Meanwhile, I'm in Indianapolis for my 38th 500. Here's a little truth-telling from middle America: At least for now, and likely through the coming weekend, Indy is definitely feeling like Indy again. It's more than how many are in the grandstands. I sensed it in the airport. You see it on the streets (TRAFFIC!) I was close to stunned at how crowded the souvenir merchandise stores were Sunday. (I'll add this: Prices are up and I think quality has been down the last couple of years.) I'm no fan of the chosen 100th race logo (not friendly to the eye and the yellow doesn't POP out at you the way I would prefer) but you can't deny people want the stuff. Yes, I'm one of those aware of many suite-holders saying they won't be back because of the significant price increases, but that is a story to be explored another day.

But let's put the line in the sand right now: If this 100th doesn't lead to strong carryover progress next year -- not just for IMS but the whole series -- TV ratings, ticket sales, you name it, this will have been Opportunity Lost. I think there should have been much more of a connection to the 100th at the season's earlier races.

Let's also make something else clear: Despite what you may read or hear elsewhere, the fact that it's the 100th running of the "Greatest Spectacle" will not change a thing any driver, race strategist, engineer or team owner will do on Sunday. They are racing to win the Indy 500, be it the 99th or the 101st.

I'll close with a self-serving plug: Please check out Friday's Arizona Republic (AzCentral.com) for my story on the Arizona connections to the 100th race. Then, Sunday, Race Day, capital R and D as they use it in Indy, I will have what is planned to be the longest racing story in the Republic in at least a decade, approximately 2,000 words. After two decades since open-wheel racing's terrible civil war and all that flowed from that, where does Indy rank TODAY among America's great sporting traditions? And, are great drivers still made at Indy? Read what A.J. Foyt, Roger Penske, Rick Mears, Mark Miles, Donald Davidson and others have to say. Thank you.

POWER PLAYERS for the week of  May 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. Roger Penske -- Why? It's Indy 500 week and the race's most successful team owner has four chances to get his 17th win.

  2. Dan Davis, Arie Luyendyk and Max Papis -- The IndyCar stewards have the power to make decisions which could cost someone an Indy victory. 

  5. James Hinchliffe -- The potential sports story of the year if the polesitter can win a year after near-fatal injuries at Indy. 

  6Helio Castroneves -- Tries (again) to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as a four-time Indy 500 winner. Would Helio, now 41, announce retirement in victory lane like Sam Hanks did in 1957?

  7. Tony Stewart  -- No surprise, Smoke tells it like it is at confusing and meaningless NASCAR All-Star race.  

  8. Joey Logano -- Of all the Team Penske drivers at Indy and Charlotte, the All-Star race winner  just might have the best chance to win.

  9. Lewis Hamilton -- In the glamour that is Monaco, it's time for the world champion to shine. 

10. Doug Kalitta -- Three straight NHRA Top Fuel wins.

[ this Friday here: Announcement of 2016 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports PR . . . ]