• 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 . . . ]