• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

CARL EDWARDS' FLIP FLAP

I think Carl Edwards is a good guy to help build NASCAR's popularity.

He's just not popular with his Roush Fenway teammates.

Matt Kenseth wouldn't be anywhere near the top of my list of drivers most likely to get tangled in a PR battle, but that's what happened. SPEED's fortuitously placed cameraman caught Edwards' (left) "conversation" with his fellow Roush Ford driver as both were walking out of Martinsville.

I hope somebody sent Ron Dennis the YouTube link to help ease his Fernando Alonso-Lewis Hamilton heartburn. (!)

I listened-in to Edwards on NASCAR's media teleconference last week and wasn't surprised he began with an apology. What got my eyes saucer-wide, though, was that Mr. Backflip didn't leave it there, just pass it off as a mistake. Instead, he launched into a widely-reported discourse on the lack of "team spirit" at Roush. With his answer to each question ("Matt Kenseth and I have not spoken -- I don't think Matt's voluntarily said two sentences to me in the last six months") -- Carl progressively fed the media beast for an all-too predictable controversy. Kenseth later had his say, Greg Biffle had his the night before on TV, and even Kevin Harvick felt free to voice his opinion on a call the next day with Western state reporters.

Hey, at least Carl got to split for Memphis, for (what turned out to be an ugly) Busch Series event!

I don't know if Edwards spoke out on his own, or if there was some PR huddling, but it was a mistake. UNLESS Carl's true purpose was to put public pressure on his team and teammates to deal with what should have been an internal matter. Maybe, just maybe, he had tried to sort-it-out in-house and it wasn't happening?

The sidebar fascination in all of this was how jumbled the "expert" opinions came out. USA Today's man wrote that Edwards and Kenseth "have so much in common." Yes, and Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton both are New York politicians.

An ESPN NASCAR Now analyst did cite the two drivers' numerous personality differences. A show "insider," however, earned the week's biggest "WHAT THE . . . ?!" by calling on Biffle to "step-up" within the Roush driver corps. You betcha! There's a better chance Al Gore will invite George W. Bush to his Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

Having lived through the Mario Andretti-Nigel Mansell saga at Newman/Haas in 1993 and 1994, I sympathize with Jack Roush. I can also assure him of this: The sun will come up tomorrow. That does not mean, though, he shouldn't do what must be done to Band-Aid -- if not heal -- this wound. Let me tell you from experience, Jack, it WILL hurt your team's performance. I believe Ron Dennis would say the same.
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Those who know of my deep interest in politics and the PR biz will understand why this got my attention: "Conflicts of Interest: Burson-Marsteller and Hillary Clinton's Alliance," by former President Clinton strategist (now anti-Hillary) Dick Morris and his wife, Eileen McGann. Accept or reject as you wish, but it's interesting reading:
http://www.dickmorris.com/blog/?p=180#more-180

While we're on the subject of our government-at-work, educate yourself about this media relations fiasco by FEMA during the California fires. With no legitimate reporters at a news conference (called with little notice), staff PR people did the question-asking!:
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N26366100.htm
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Saturday's Busch Series "race" at Memphis was the worst since . . . ??? I'd say CART's in Australia in 2002, ruined by a non-stop downpour and terrible officiating decisions. Memphis had 25 cautions for 117 of the 253 laps! As radical as it sounded, Rusty Wallace had it right on ESPN2, when he said NASCAR should have thrown the red at halfway and called the drivers together for a chewing-out. In a refreshing bit of broadcast-booth candor (where typically every race is called a "great" race), Rusty described Memphis as "bad."

Sunday, Wallace got teary-eyed on ABC, following a pre-Atlanta video feature on 1992 Cup owner-driver champion Alan Kulwicki.

Larry Henry's "This Week in Ford Racing" podcasts have begun in advance of Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Larry will be podcasting from the track race weekend. Last year, he put up over three hours of material. I don't understand why more sponsors and teams aren't utilizing this sort of "new media" technology. Check it out at http://fordracing.com/ .
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Here are links to my stories about Kevin Harvick and John Force/Robert Hight in last Friday's Arizona Republic:

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/1025harvick1026.html

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/1025autonb1026.html
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I'll be in Pomona this weekend for the NHRA championship finale. On Saturday, AARWBA will present its Rick Mears "Good Guy" Award to Gary Scelzi in a media center ceremony.

Jim Wilson, the longtime Indianapolis broadcaster and former AARWBA president, is in the cardiac intensive care unit at Indy's St. Vincent's Hospital after suffering a heart attack during surgery.

For some, unexplained, technical reason, even though I posted as usual last Tuesday a.m., it seems many of you could not access the new blog until Thursday. If you missed my tribute to Shav Glick, please scroll down.

[ more Blogging the Chase next Tuesday . . . ]

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

ANOTHER GIANT PASSES

I take comfort in the fact that Shav Glick's last byline was over Wally Parks' obit in the Los Angeles Times, not many weeks ago.

Shav began with these words:

"Wally Parks, the hot-rodder and entrepreneur who curbed drag racing on city streets by steering drivers onto legal racing strips and founded the National Hot Rod Association, died Friday. He was 94."

Times' editors were smart enough to understand that no one could do a story on Parks' remarkable life better than Glick, who had retired about 21 months earlier. Shav got it -- that Wally's great legacy was inventing a sport that helped get illegal racing off the public streets.

Wally and Shav had known, and respected, each other for decades. While so many Big Time Journalists tend to look down on drag racing -- it's just too blue-collar for them -- Shav delighted in the great straight-line personalities like Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney, Don Prudhomme, John Force and Kenny Bernstein, and enjoyed telling their wonderful tales. Wally saw to it that the media center at Pomona was named for Shav.

I spoke with Shav a couple of weeks ago. Battling cancer, he sounded weak. I am so glad, however, that right up to an E-mail he sent me eight days before he died Saturday morning -- at age 87 at his home in Pasadena -- Shav remained fully engaged in selecting the 2007 Jim Chapman Award winner. Chapman was one of Shav's many friends and admirers and the award recognizes excellence in motorsports public relations. Just as the Shav Glick Award highlights outstanding achievement in motorsports by a Californian. I will forever remember the many social occasions I enjoyed with Jim and Shav. It was an honor to be counted among Shav's countless friends.

Champ Car VP David Higdon asked me to write a tribute to Shav for CC's website. It includes some of my personal memories and comments from Danny Sullivan, Paul Tracy and Jimmy Vasser:
http://www.champcarworldseries.com/News/Article.asp?ID=12301 .

I'll remember 2007 for the passing of the giants: Bill France Jr., Wally Parks and, now, Shav Glick.
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I enjoyed a fun evening Friday with the World of Outlaws at Manzanita Speedway. Danny Lasoski won while Donny Schatz closed in on his second consecutive championship. I can honestly say it would do a lot of PR people good to get out of the NASCAR, Champ Car or IndyCar garage areas and experience some of what it's like in the "real world" Outlaws' pits. Series PR director Tony Veneziano will work all 75 events this year!

I made certain to introduce myself to Joey Saldana, who drives for Kasey Kahne's team. A couple of weeks back, I left a voice mail for Joey, and he returned my call within five minutes. (!) Very professional. I chatted a bit with Steve Kinser, whose son Kraig got shuffled out when Ginn was folded into DEI. When I asked Steve if Kraig (who won the 2005 Knoxville Nationals) had anything new going in NASCAR, he answered, "He's looking . . . like 100 other guys." Steve left open the possibility he'd field an Outlaws sprinter for Kraig in 2008, but some I spoke with think the younger Kinser might be chosen to join Schatz in Tony Stewart's expanded two-car team.
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I've been a Formula One fan since my earliest days, delighting in the exploits of Jimmy Clark, Colin Chapman, Graham Hill, John Surtees and Dan Gurney. That said, I'm glad this F1 season is over, with Kimi Raikkonen's win and world championship last Sunday in Brazil. It can only be described as a ridiculous and counter-productive year, what with the spy scandal, silly FIA rulings, Scott Speed from F1-to-ARCA (still mind-boggling), no more USGP at Indianapolis and unprofessional conduct within the McLaren team. Ron Dennis' reputation as a master manager took a Big Hit with the Fernando Alonso-Lewis Hamilton controversies. I'm quite sure at least three former McLaren drivers of my acquaintance smiled at that spectacle! All of this only served to reinforce F1's elitist image, which, I regret to say, seeps through into the SPEED telecasts: "Hamilton is purple in sector one!" Purple? Please.

Meanwhile, cheers to Ferrari, which won the championship right away P.S. (Post-Schumacher) and despite key personnel changes -- and now, a dispute over fuel temperature!
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FAST LINES: The news of Shav Glick's passing was sad enough. Even sadder, for the news industry he loved, was that neither Speed Report nor Wind Tunnel acknowledged Shav's death. Thanks, SpeedFreaks and Racing Roundup Arizona, for doing the right thing . . . The IndyCar Series will join the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in sponsoring the 2008 AARWBA Journalism Contest. Prize money will increase 25 percent over the previous three-year arrangement. Thank you to my negotiating counterpart, IMS/ICS Executive VP, Communications Fred Nation . . . Last week I reported on the Big News in Indy radio, the AM-FM split by powerhouse WIBC in January. Now, BIGGER News: When that happens, Dave Wilson, the longtime "King" of afternoon drive, will switch to an 8:30-11:30 a.m. time slot. Wow! . . . Congratulations to John Cardinale, promoted to Infineon Raceway's VP for communications and marketing. John managed the track's media relations since 1998. But here's what I don't like -- The continued trend to put media/PR/communications into the same department as marketing. Memo to the sales deep-thinkers: Publicity IS selling, if you want to be honest about it, but casting PR that way by combining it with marketing is not conducive to good relationships with savvy journalists . . . I wish every PR rep would get a copy of Joe Torre's news conference last Friday and make his/her driver watch it. The former New York Yankees' manager read an informal opening statement, told a huge media gathering "I'm here as long as you need me," and answered questions for more than an hour. Torre's class and dignity tamed the notoriously tough Big Apple media . . . IHRA named Mike Perry its media relations director several weeks ago. He must be busy, because I'm still waiting for the courtesy of a reply to an E-mail I sent Oct. 8 . . . Here's the new logo for NASCAR's Nationwide Series, debuting in 2008, following 26 years of Busch beer backing. NASCAR, Nationwide and Jump Co. (interestingly, of Anheuser-Busch HQ city St. Louis), collaborated on the design. "The logo is simple yet extremely effective in delivering a completely new look to the branding of the series," said Steve Phelps, NASCAR's chief marketing officer. "It's good to be able to place a 'face' to a name now" . . . Quote of the Week (in Time magazine) from Mitt Romney's press secretary, Kevin Madden: "The biggest mistake press secretaries make is that they view the press corps as the enemy. I view them as a conduit" . . . It's been impossible for me not to notice Jenna Fryer's significant volume of Juan Montoya coverage this year. (If this keeps up, Tony Stewart might get jealous.) Last week, it reached a new level -- I'll let you decide if this is a "high" or "low" -- when in an AP Q&A, six of her nine questions were about Martinsville's hot dogs! Oh, the journalistic times in which we live.
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Here's a link to my column in last Friday's Arizona Republic. It focuses on Outlaws' leader Donny Schatz and Adrian Fernandez on his first ALMS season:
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/1019racingnb1019.html


[ more Blogging the Chase next Tuesday . . . ]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

HALFWAY POINTS

We're at the halfway point in the Chase and so it's a good time for me to make several points:

*
Sprint Nextel Chairman and CEO Gary Forsee resigned last week and now it can be said: The two-year-old merger of the telecommunications companies has -- thus far -- been a failure. According to USA Today, shares have lost approximately 27 percent of their value since the merger, and SN likely will report a net loss of about 337,000 subscribers in the third quarter. Those are staggering numbers. SceneDaily.com quoted Tim Kelly, Sprint's chief marketing officer, as saying: "It's business as usual. The NASCAR relationship is one of the cornerstones to our marketing efforts." I can tell you, from personal experience, when there is management instability and the Board of Directors is expected to recruit someone from outside the company as the new CEO, there is no such thing as "business as usual." My advice to NASCAR observers: Stay tuned.

* More big biz news last week came with word that SABMiller and MolsonCoors will combine U.S. operations in an attempt to compete more efficiently against Anheuser-Busch. The on-going changes in the brewing industry are worth watching because the major beer brands long have been among the most aggressive -- and biggest-budgeted -- sports marketers. The Miller side will have 58 percent share while Coors will take 42 percent. Corporate voting interests will be equal, however. Claims are cost savings will be $500 million (including elimination of "duplicate marketing services"), although we know from other couplings, that does not always prove to be fact. This entity will be called MillerCoors but HQ is as yet undetermined. I'll bet Kenny Bernstein -- and, I trust, NHRA -- are monitoring the situation quite closely. Jon Asher has some interesting thoughts on how this could impact drag racing here:
http://competitionplus.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4296&Itemid=6

* Deaths as a result of illegal street racing were in the news again last week. Especially given the recent loss of Wally Parks -- who founded NHRA to provide a safer (and legal) venue for drag racing -- I would like to see NHRA become much more pro-active on this issue, PR-wise. I suggest an on-going communications program with national news outlets on this issue. PLUS: The creation of a "fast response" team of drivers -- Brandon Bernstein, J.R. Todd, Ashley Force, Angelle Sampey and Antron Brown would fit the demo -- available to guest on the morning and cable TV shows and talk radio to respond when these kind of sad events occur.

* If memory serves, and I believe it does, management has long positioned Lowe's Motor Speedway as being extremely fan friendly. So, I was quite disappointed to see Clint Bowyer with his back to the paying public while being interviewed by ABC's Allen Bestwick during Saturday night's driver introduction parade lap. At the end of the chat, Bestwick told Bowyer to wave to the crowd. That's what Bowyer -- and every other driver -- should be doing during those laps. As I've written before, that's the fans' time, not TV's. ABC and every other NASCAR-partner network has plenty of chances for Q&As during a weekend, but the spectators have limited opportunities to see their heroes up-close. Taking that away not only is disrespectful, it's wrong. I noted plenty of empty seats at Charlotte, where it's supposed to be all-about entertainment value. Track management had no problem taking on TV back in 2001, threatening to have tow trucks remove NBC's production units, because they weren't calling it "Lowe's" Motor Speedway.

* Memo to those responsible for promoting ESPN.com via NASCAR telecasts: Just how many different "search words" do you think people will remember?

* If, like me, you are concerned about the avalanching trend in journalism of reporting opinion as fact, read this: "Fed fast food of opinion, ESPN audience starves for reported fact," by ESPN ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber. It's long but worth your time -- and thought:
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=schreiber_leanne&id=3050882

* Headline news in Indianapolis radio last week: Emmis Communications announced that legendary WIBC will split next January 7, with 93.1 FM becoming WIBC-FM and broadcasting a news/talk format, and 1070 AM presenting an all-sports format as an ESPN affiliate. Kevin Lee, who started hosting a Monday night racing show earlier this year, was an immediate casualty. Indy 500 and IRL broadcasts will continue on the AM station.

* The Business Journal of Phoenix, which I noted to be error-plagued in its coverage of the canceled downtown Champ Car race, did it again last week. A story about upcoming appearances by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mario Andretti began this way: "Two of NASCAR's most celebrated drivers will visit Phoenix in the coming weeks . . . "

* Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta is positioned as second only to Sebring in importance in the ALMS. So, I was more than a little surprised by the several E-mails I received from those who were on-site for the 1,000-mile race the other week, complaining about media operations and facilities. An on-going issue is TV's unwillingness to use graphics showing OVERALL standings, not just by class. I've switched away from at least two ALMS races this season in frustration, not being able to understand if a P1 Audi or P2 Porsche was the overall leader. This is a serious audience turn-off and a policy that MUST be changed, a point I've made in recent E-mail exchanges with ALMS President Scott Atherton. No matter the sport, the two basic questions a viewer will have are: 1) Who's leading?; 2) Who won? When ALMS telecasters don't make the answers obvious, well, let's just say that represents a very fundamental misjudgment.

* I've mentioned this before, but it merits repeating, based on what I've seen recently: Too often, media guests who appear on shows such as SPEED's Tradin' Paint are invited on the basis of the perceived importance of their outlet, NOT because of the individual reporter's own REAL knowledge (or experience in) the sport.

* My friend Al Pearce has set-out on his most ambitious fundraising project yet on behalf of the Victory Junction Gang Camp. He's attempting to get all 18 living world Formula One champion drivers to sign a helmet, which then will be auctioned to benefit the Camp. Al previously did this with NASCAR champions and Indy/Daytona 500 winners, resulting in close to $25,000 in contributions.

* Huge congratulations to Linda Vaughn, who will be inducted into the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame later this month. Linda is a native of Dalton, Ga.

* A1GP isn't a regular newsmaker in U.S. media but this announcement drew some deserved attention: The series signed a six-year agreement for Ferrari to manufacture and supply all A1GP engines. The famed automaker also will design and consult on the manufacture of chassis starting with the 2008-09 season. Now, that's prestige.
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Longtime Porsche PR ace Bob Carlson made a low-key visit to Petite Le Mans. I worked with Bob on the Porsche CART project in 1988. We shared the difficult personal and professional experience of losing our boss and friend, Al Holbert, in a plane crash. Bob has cancer and his wife, Debbie, is keeping a Caring Bridge website with frequent entries. You can E-mail Bob through this site:
http://www.caringbridge.org/cb/inputSiteName.do?method=search&siteName=bobcarlson
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Kevin Kennedy, the 2006 Jim Chapman Award winner for excellence in motorsports PR and Ford's key racing spokesman (and media strategist), kindly brought this to my attention: AutoWriters.com is searching for the "top 100 automotive blogs." Its October newsletter lists several nominees -- including the blog you are reading now. (!) See for yourself: http://www.autowriters.com/news/10.2007.htm ********************************************************************
Here's a link to my Arizona Republic news/notes column from last Friday:
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/1011racingnb1012.html
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I didn't know Ray Cooper well, but I know he was very respected by the NASCAR media corps. After a dozen years as a sportswriter, Ray became Chevrolet's NASCAR media representative, and took a similar position with Dodge in 2001. Over a 15-year run he worked more than 450 consecutive races and earned several prestigious awards. Cooper, 53, died of cancer last weekend.

[ more Blogging the Chase next Tuesday . . . ]

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

'BIG ONE' of NASCAR NEWS DAYS

Talladega again lived up to its reputation as home of the "Big One" last Sunday. NASCAR had its version of the "Big One" -- news wise -- on Wednesday.

I'd say it was Too Big.

October 3 opened with Chip Ganassi confirming what all admitted was "one of the worst kept secrets in NASCAR" -- the signing of Indy 500 winner/IRL champion Dario Franchitti to drive the N0. 40 Dodge next year. It was a poorly-kept secret . . . but that didn't mean it wasn't NEWS. Among the revelations -- aside from hearing Dario explain himself -- was he agreed to a multi-year deal in opposition to his previous policy of one-season contracts. Also, it was said, Dario almost made the jump this year, only to be aced out of the No. 42 ride by none other than Juan Pablo Montoya. Of course, that turned out to be a huge blessing-in-disguise, as Franchitti cleared his table by first taking care of business and winning Indy and the series title.

Up in New York, Kyle Busch unveiled the M&M's colors and graphics that will adorn his No. 18 Joe Gibbs' Toyota next season. Busch took the occasion to keep grumbling to reporters all-too-happy to record his words that he was still unhappy with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for banging him into the wall at Kansas. AP Alert: Kyle Busch Is Bleeped-Off! Stop the presses, if not the Internet.

Meanwhile, Brian France waved his arms and away-went the gathering dark clouds surrounding the future of the Busch Series. NASCAR's search for a replacement for Anheuser-Busch -- ending its 26-year title backing of the No. 2 stock car series -- concluded with the announcement of a seven-year agreement with Nationwide Insurance. The process began with NASCAR and partner ESPN in a joint search for $30 million a season, with about one-third of that designated for advertising across the vast universe of ESPN's media platforms. Names like Subway, KFC, Monster energy drink and Coors were mentioned along the way. Nationwide also becomes NASCAR's official auto, home and life insurance provider. The per-season fee is estimated to be around $12 million. Critics will say that's less-than-half of the original asking price. I'll point out at least NASCAR is able to sign serious series sponsors. NASCAR Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps said Nationwide will "activate the sponsorship far differently than we've seen before." Mike Wallace was torqued because NASCAR has told him his deal with Geico must end within two years. It was pointed out to Wallace Geico is free to move up to Nextel (ooops, Sprint) Cup or down to Craftsman Trucks.

Before the day was done, Scott Riggs was confirmed as a new driver for Haas CNC. And Busch's Busch Series crew chief was fined $10,000 for an illegal intake manifold on the winning Chevrolet at Kansas. And, of course, Bruton Smith was threatening to close Lowe's Motor Speedway and rebuild elsewhere if local officials won't allow him to build a drag strip.

That was about one week's worth of headlines in one day. Too much, in fact. NASCAR usually is excellent at stage-managing its news but things got sideways this time. I understand the M&M's event was scheduled several weeks ago. And, for sure, there's no controlling Bruton's blustering. I guess the Franchitti press conference had to be Wednesday since ARCA practice at 'Dega was the next day. From NASCAR's perspective, though, the Nationwide deal had to take center stage. If they couldn't offer a "suggestion" to Ganassi to bump his announcement, then, I'd have waited 24 hours.

I would have expected NASCAR to do what had to be done to ensure that Nationwide was the one to get the nationwide headlines.
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How do you get a sponsor? That's racing's age-old question and it comes my way from time-to-time. I'm given to suggest Googling "Kenny Bernstein" and "Budweiser" since Kenny has maintained a relationship with the St. Louis brewer that will reach an amazing 30 consecutive years come 2009. SpeedTV.com last week posted the Toyota Formula One team's sponsorship-pitch video and, no matter what your budget, it might provide an idea or two. Plus, I just found it interesting, although I laughed a bit at this line: "Sponsors make Formula One touchable." http://www.speedtv.com/speedvideo/?bcpid=340473122&bclid=647737970&bctid=1203050066
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FAST LINES: Rarely does a week go by that I don't hear media complaints about so-called "PR" people who don't even have enough business savvy or common courtesy to return a phone call or answer an E-mail. Given that, it was my pleasure to make contact last week with World of Outlaws PR director Tony Veneziano and Bill Klingbeil, who has a similar role at WoO leader Donny Schatz' team. Also, ARCA's Don Radebaugh. Tony and Bill and Don all responded to my requests very promptly and provided all the help any journalist could ever hope to receive. For the NASCAR and open-wheel types who, I am sure, will say: "That's just sprint cars and ARCA," let me respond in advance: No matter the series, either you know how to be a professional and understand courtesy, or you don't . . . A well-done, also, to Kristi King, Talladega Superspeedway PR director, not only for the well-written, quote-filled releases she issued in advance of last weekend's races, but also the comprehensive "media information" sheet provided to journalists before they ever set foot inside the Alabama oval. Most details regarding media facilities and activities were contained therein. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway does the same. So should every track . . . I love how the "brand-ers" spin their concepts to earn their six-seven figure fees. In unveiling its new logo (left), the LPGA (who worked with SME) said the stylized design "represents the power, strength and athleticism of our athletes" and "for the first time in the association's 58 years, the LPGA's primary mark will not be enclosed in a frame, representing a future with limitless potential." The invoice is in the mail . . . For the record: The Forbes 400 of the Richest People in America includes John Menard, $7.3 billion (44th overall); Roger Penske, $2.7 billion (149th); Jim France and Bruton Smith, $1.5 bil each (tied at 317). No. 1, of course, is Bill Gates -- at $59 b . . . There was a nice photo of Patrick Dempsey and Frankie Muniz in the Oct. 1 People magazine, smiling during the Grand-Am finale in Utah. Both are wearing Mazda caps; both cost sponsors hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in exposure value because their uniforms are pulled down, leaving white Nomex on the image instead of logos . . . If you'd like to read my first Arizona Republic motorsports notes column, from last Friday, here's a link: http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/1004racingnb1005.html .


[ more Blogging the Chase next Tuesday . . . ]

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

BACK TO THE FUTURE

WALLY PARKS, 1913-2007: NHRA's founder, a true motorsports legend, died Friday at age 94. Wally was extremely media friendly -- he was the first editor of Hot Rod magazine -- and a long-time member and supporter of AARWBA. Here, at the January 2005 All-America Team dinner in Pomona, Parks (center) joins John Force (left) and Kenny Bernstein in toasting their nominations as Newsmaker of the Half-Century -- the most important event of AARWBA's 50th Anniversary Celebration. Bernstein told me Wally liked this photo and thought it was a great tribute to NHRA to have three from the drag racing community among the 12 nominees. This was Wally's last appearance at an AARWBA function. As the 50th anniversary chairman, I can say it was a great honor to have Wally with us that evening, and I was honored to introduce him. Wally Parks' legacy will be that he had the vision to make NHRA drag racing -- the most American of American motorsports --respectable, safer and a major league-level series. (Photo courtesy Al Wong.)



I began my professional career at the Philadelphia Daily News, starting there while still completing my journalism degree at Temple University. I continue to love reporting and writing and journalism and the newspaper business. We all know of the struggles which have affected so many papers around the country and that's sad to many of us.

As I blogged here almost a year ago (Oct. 17), "Bad Newspaper News Is Bad News for NASCAR." There is no question in my mind but that, even in this time of TV and the Internet, knowledgable and substantive reporting in the papers is essential. Not just in racing, but politics, business, entertainment, you name it. So, I'm pleased to tell you that starting this Friday (Oct. 5) and continuing at least through November, I'll be a contributor to the Arizona Republic's motorsports coverage. The Republic is the state's largest newspaper. My friend Mark Armijo provided readers with distinguished coverage for about a quarter-century until yielding the "beat" to Jim Gintonio two years ago. Jim's now full-time following the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes.

On Fridays, I'll be writing a news/news analysis column. Jim will come off hockey to lead the Republic's reporting of the NASCAR races Nov. 8-11 at Phoenix International Raceway. I'll do sidebars from PIR. Most of what is published in the paper also appears at AzCentral.com. I've provided a link in the right-hand column. I hope you'll check it out.
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Budweiser again figured into NASCAR's changing sponsor landscape last week with the announcement that Coors Light is replacing Bud as stock car's official beer. The deal was widely reported to be worth $20 million over five years. Coors Light picks up the pole award in this contract while Bud keeps its season-opening Shootout at Daytona under a separate agreement and is an official Daytona 500 sponsor. Anheuser-Busch, one of the most powerful forces in sports marketing, thus continues to reposition its racing involvements. Bud let its title backing of this month's NHRA's Top Fuel Shootout at Las Vegas go to Technicoat. A-B is ending its 26-year support of the Busch Series after this season. The "King of Beers" will become Kasey Kahne's new primary sponsor in '08 and is contracted with the Kenny Bernstein-owned, Brandon Bernstein-driven, NHRA Top Fuel team through 2009 -- which will bring that relationship to an incredible 30 consecutive years.

Tony Ponturo, A-B's VP of Global Media and Sports Marketing, said the brewer "presented an offer to renew at a price that was right for us based on our total NASCAR marketing investment -- a new race team and driver, media and track sponsorships that includes the Daytona 500. Rather than spend significantly beyond our valuation of the 'official beer' sponsorship, we determined that Budweiser's broader NASCAR strategy is best supported by putting our marketing muscle behind our new relationship with Gillett Evernham Motorsports and Kasey Kahne."
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Here's a smart move in the wake of the Michael Vick dog-fighting scandal. MAZDASPEED drivers Jeff Altenburg and Randy Pobst will have new
teammates as they contend for the series title in the final two races of the SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Car championship. Their Tri-Point Motorsports' Mazda6s will carry special graphics to promote, in association with The Humane Society of the U.S., the adoption of shelter animals. The "MUTTS" comic strip characters, "Earl" and "Mooch," have been "adopted" by the team, with "Earl" the dog on Altenburg's car and "Mooch" the cat on Pobst's. The season enders are Friday at Road Atlanta and Oct. 21 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and life-sized versions of "Earl" and "Mooch" will be in the paddock for photo opportunities. Both Mazda hoods and driver uniforms will be auctioned to benefit The Humane Society of the U.S. Details at http://www.muttscomics.com/. Altenburg and Pobst each have won twice this season and are 1-2 in points.
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FAST LINES: ISC recently authorized budget for a badly needed new media center at Watkins Glen. “Having a new media center with state-of-the-art technology and proper space for working media, press conferences, the sanctioning bodies, and track staff will help us meet those needs and build positive press coverage during our race weekends,” admitted Glen communications director Eiron Smith. Emphasis mine and point made. Many of us hope Phoenix Raceway will be next . . . The historic 1963 Lotus-Ford (below) that truly brought the "rear-engine revolution" to the Indianapolis 500 (Jimmy Clark finished second to Parnelli Jones in a controversial finish) will be on display at the 38th AARWBA All-America Team dinner, Saturday, January 12, at the downtown Indianapolis Hyatt. As dinner chairman, I thank the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum for this courtesy. Use link in the right-hand column to go to the AARWBA site, where discounted Hyatt room reservations can be made, as well as ticket orders . . . My friend Bob Margolis, of Yahoo Sports, is scheduled is begin a six-week radiation/chemo therapy this week, followed by a six-week recovery period. mailto:Bob.Margolis@yahoo.com . . . Mike Brudenell wrote quite an amazing column last week in the Detroit Free Press, "Running on Empty?," in which he criticized automakers and the local media for ignoring much of the Michigan racing scene. Here's the link: http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070925/SPORTS16/709250306/1064 . . . If you don't know about the "Jay Leno's Garage" site, (lots to see, here a segment with Valvoline's Barry Bronson), check it out: http://www.jaylenosgarage.com/video/index.shtml?vidID=156639 .
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A social occasion I'll never forget came late in the 1992 CART season, when a "roast" was staged for Nicky Fornoro before the race at Nazareth, because Nicky was about to retire as the series' flagman. Among other tales, I recounted the time at Riverside in the early 1980s when, in the midst of a long, hot, boring 500 kilometers on Labor Day weekend, Nicky seemed to dose-off on the starter's stand! I had worked with Nicky since November 1980 when I joined CART as communications director. Nicky made the Fornoro name famous, especially in Eastern racing circles, first as a driver (he was the NASCAR midget champion in 1953, but retired at his wife's request), and after that as a colorful flagman. Nicky had a great personality and knew it was important to "play" to the fans, so we used to remind the drivers before every CART event, to wave to the fans during the parade lap. Nicky would signal them to do so by waving his hankie. Born in 1920 in Madison, N.J., Fornoro died last week as a result of a stroke. He leaves behind a large family, including his wife Bette and racer sons Drew and Nokie, and countless friends. Let me conclude the same way I did at that "roast": In all the years I knew Nicky, I have only one regret -- that he didn't have the chance to wave a checkered flag over Mario or Michael Andretti after 500 miles at Indianapolis.

[ more Blogging the Chase next Tuesday . . . ]