• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

SPEED BUMP

The controversy about Bob Dillner's post-New Hampshire report on SPEED that Richard Childress Racing had used doctored wheels rolled on all last week and through the Dover weekend. Childress, RCR drivers Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, and NASCAR VP Jim Hunter denied the story in unusually harsh terms. Here's an interesting nugget from my friend Bob Margolis, who wrote on Yahoo! Sports that: DeLana Harvick -- who was a racing PR person when she met her future husband -- sent an E-mail to the publicists involved in Kevin's various activities saying that, until further notice, all interview requests from SPEED were to be declined.

Calm and common-sense Burton -- one of the last honest men in the garage area -- carefully explained on the Friday night Trackside Live show how what was said about wheel modifications would be extremely difficult to do and would require a wide-ranging conspiracy. After Saturday's Busch Series race on TNT, third-place Harvick and winner (and RCR teammate) Clint Bowyer took brief verbal knocks at Dillner. Early in Sunday night's Wind Tunnel, Dave Despain addressed the issue in response to a viewer E-mail. His bottom-line was the network stands by the story. On The Speed Report, however, it was never directly discussed. Rather, co-host Drew Johnson in-effect disrespectfully blew-off the Childress, Harvick, Burton and Hunter denials by telling Dillner, "Get some rest and relaxation, buddy, you've earned it."

SPEED likes to boast of its audience growth. In this instance, management owed that same audience a thoughtful explanation, not flippancy. I would suggest SPEED follow the example of many media organizations, including ESPN, and appoint an independent Ombudsman to watch out for the public's interest in controversial situations such as Dillner's disputed report.

Team Ford Racing ( www.FordRacing.com ) members have gotten an upgrade in the form of extended audio reports produced by my friend Larry Henry, a long-time and well-respected Michigan broadcaster. Called This Week in Ford Racing, it features news and interviews with Ford drivers. Especially noteworthy were last week's soundbites from Mark Martin: "One of my big motivators is fear. I've always been afraid of failing." Apparently in his final days as a full-time Nextel Cup competitor, Mark told Larry he'll enjoy the experience and "maybe take one extra picture with a fan or sign one more autograph."

This is a great example of what can be done with the Internet, including distribution to media or the general public via podcasting. Henry's company, Two Floors Down Productions, LLC serves commercial and industrial clients such as the U.S. Olympic Committee and Palace Sports and Entertainment. Larry, by the way, is blessed with a classic broadcaster's voice. Contact: LarryHenry@TwoFloorsDownProductions.com


One element of NASCAR's pre-Chase media chase was taking the 10 drivers to The Late Show so they could do the "Top 10" list for David Letterman. That seemed great to Matt Kenseth, who had long wanted to be on the program. It didn't turn out the way Kenseth expected, as he explained last week to the Associated Press:

"It was fun, and I did always want to be on there, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. We had to be there like three hours before, and they stuck us down in this room in the basement that was full of pipes. It was supposedly their 'green room,' but 'The Rock' was also on the show that night, and he was never in that green room. So basically, we sat down in this room full of pipes for three hours, then got to be on the show for one minute, and I never got to meet Letterman, either. I shook his hand, that was it."

I've had drivers on Letterman six times and the show is done from the old (and legendary) Ed Sullivan Theater. The green room, where guests wait before walking out onto the stage, is just off to the left-hand side (as viewed from home) and surprisingly small. Once, when I was there with Mario Andretti, actor/comedian Kelsey Grammer was the first guest and he arrived with the kind of large entourage that is the Hollywood stereotype. Letterman staffers typically offer to seat these "guests of guests" in the audience, but Grammer insisted they all hang out with him, leaving the area standing-room-only for everyone else. After Andretti's interview, Grammer offered him a patronizing "good job."
Racing headliners on this year's Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans:

45. John Menard -- $5.2 billion
140. Roger Penske -- $2.2 billion
242. Bill France Jr. and Jim France -- $1.5 billion (each)
278. Bruton Smith -- $1.4 billion.

Bill Gates tops the chart with $53 billion. Occasional race-goer Donald Trump (and whatever happened to Trump Superspeedway?) ranks No. 94 with $2.9 billion.

I just thought you'd want to know . . .

Mike Mulhern's lengthy three-part series on the business of NASCAR, which ran last week in the Winston-Salem Journal, is worthwhile reading. (If hyperlink doesn't work, copy and paste it into your browser, then click "Go".)

Part 1: NASCAR Nation: The sport that drives America

http://www.journalnow.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=WSJ/MGArticle/WSJ_BasicArticle&c
=MGArticle&cid=1149190668225


Part 2: The Fuel: Money
http://www.journalnow.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=WSJ/MGArticle/WSJ_BasicArticle&c
=MGArticle&cid=1149190680231


Part 3: New deals, wheels in NASCAR's future
http://www.journalnow.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=WSJ/MGArticle/WSJ_BasicArticle&c
=MGArticle&cid=1149190692462



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