• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

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 . . . ]