• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

IT CAN BE DONE

On Nov. 1, 1997, Racing Roundup Arizona (1310 KXAM) debuted from the Phoenix International Raceway's media center. Host Jamie Reynolds was joined by broadcaster Jim Tretow and driver guests Scott Hansen, Kevin Cywinski and Rich Bickle, Sears' Bob Vila and baseball Hall of Famer Robin Yount. Since that day, Reynolds has had hundreds of guests, with alumni including Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, A.J. Foyt, Alex Zanardi, John Force, Kenny Bernstein, Arie Luyendyk, Sam Hornish, Kurt Busch and Johnny Benson. RRA has become the state's longest-running motorsports radio show and a local fixture Monday nights from 7-9 p.m. (Also heard on KXAM.com and RacingRoundup.com.) Last night, I had the pleasure of surprising Jamie and producer Betsy Reynolds (above) and co-host Chris Hines with a cake in celebration of the start of their 10th season. As I said on-air in opening the show, I hope Arizona tracks and racing groups -- large and small -- show their appreciation to RRA and the Reynolds during this milestone anniversary year. CONGRATULATIONS, Jamie and Betsy, and THANK YOU for your contribution to the growth of motorsports in Arizona!


My friend, award-winning Michigan broadcaster Larry Henry, took me to task for my Oct. 17 "Bad Newspaper News Is Bad News for NASCAR" posting. My central points were: 1) Financially troubled papers aren't sending their own writers to cover the races, using wire copy instead, which usually gets less space and secondary "play"; 2) Experienced motorsports journalists are retiring or taking buyouts, and their replacements don't have the knowledge to convey the sport in-depth, or with the flavor that helps bring fans to the speedways. My opinion is this contributes to declining TV ratings and unsold tickets. My suggestion was for team/sponsor PR people to be pro-active and get their driver to spend 10 minutes each weekend to call one of these "parked" reporters to generate some extra coverage -- and goodwill -- or sit down one-on-one with a newcomer to make him/her feel welcome.

Let me put it another way: This is common sense . . . and good business. (!)

Larry (see my Sept. 26 blog) raised a few thought-provoking issues in a series of E-mail exchanges. I appreciate and respect his comments. One was, except perhaps for Sunday, people don't have time to read papers these hectic days -- as shown by the growth of "new media" like Websites and iPods. His bottom line was my suggestion "just ain't gonna happen."

Well, maybe it won't happen . . . but that does not mean it can't happen.

Here's the simple message every PR rep can use with any reluctant driver: "It's in YOUR best interests to keep the NASCAR gravy train steaming down the tracks." A few minutes per weekend is a small investment to help maintain Nextel Cup's huge popularity, which equals a fantastic income, one most racers could never have thought possible. Let 'em compare their situation with IRL and Champ Car, where combined, maybe five drivers are decently paid. (Ask triple CC titlist Sebastien Bourdais, who on several occasions, has complained he is not one of those.) Latest example: A.J. Allmendinger.

As for the state of the newspaper industry, I'm biased, because of my educational and professional background. I will say this: Even on-the-run folks want to read about Tiger Woods, Shaq, the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers or their local NFL team. An interesting racing story published alongside the details of Tiger's latest exploits has a legit chance to draw-in a new fan. That's an opportunity SPEED can't match.
I'm pleased to announce that Ford's NASCAR mega-team owner Jack Roush (left) has accepted my invitation to be the featured speaker at the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association's All-America Team dinner, Saturday, January 13, at the Hyatt in downtown Indianapolis. (I'm dinner co-chairman.) Jack will follow Roger Penske and Mike Helton on AARWBA's high-horsepower list of featured speakers. Other highlights will include naming the Jerry Titus Award winner -- the driver who receives the most All-America Team votes -- and presentation of the Jim Chapman Public Relations Award. For tickets and program ads and Hyatt room reservations at a discounted rate, go to http://aarwba.org or E-mail President Dusty Brandel at aarwba@compuserve.com . Contact me for newsletter and other sponsorship opportunities.Let's update the most recent victims of "The Terrible Towels" (Oct. 3 post): At Martinsville, red Coke towels over the shoulders of Denny Hamlin and Bobby Labonte cost FedEx, Chevrolet, Goodyear and Raybestos (Hamlin) and Nextel and STP (Labonte) their bought-and-paid-for uniform exposure and NBC TV time. Meanwhile, the Old Spice towel over Tony Stewart's shoulder zapped Coca-Cola and Goodyear (again). After Saturday's IROC at Atlanta on SPEED, Stewart's designated cover-up-er zapped Home Depot and Goodyear with that increasingly-infamous OS cloth. Sunday, on NBC, Coke and Goodyear were the losers in Stewart's victory lane appearance.

Speaking of Atlanta: While we all understand the nece$$ity to mention sponsors, must that really extend to the invocation? I think not. That was followed by one of the all-time most embarrassing "Gentlemen, start your engines" commands in racing history. Even Bruton Smith should realize there is a line that should not be crossed.The Valvoline Racing ( Valvoline.com ) website has been recognized with an International Academy of Visual Arts W3 Award. The Valvoline Racing pages were selected a Silver Winner in "Copy or Writing" for "outstanding works and represents a high standard of excellence." The 2006 W3 awards "recognize the power of Web creativity" from more than 2,300 entries received from top agencies and companies worldwide. The Academy is an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals from acclaimed media, advertising and marketing firms.[ Next Tuesday, Nov. 7, is election day. Since I'll be serving as a local election judge, please click-back next MONDAY for more Blogging the Chase . . . ]