• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

AND THE NEXT STEP IS . . . ?

I'll guest next Monday (Dec. 10) on Racing Roundup Arizona to review the 2007 season and look ahead to 2008 with host Jamie Reynolds. Now in its 11th consecutive year, RRA airs from 7-9 p.m. on KXAM (1310). You can listen using the link in the right-hand column. The show is broadcast "live" from Max's in Glendale.


Helio Castroneves won Dancing With the Stars and Jimmie Johnson was officially crowned Nextel Cup champion last week and the question now is:

What does it really mean, going forward?

Depending on your point-of-view, it was either amusing or frustrating that ABC -- NASCAR's multi-billion dollar TV partner -- flew double Indy 500 winner Castroneves (left, with dance partner Julianne Hough, photo courtesy IMS/Ron McQueeney) to New York to make the media rounds . . . right in the midst of NASCAR's annual "Champions Week" activities. As far as I know, Helio didn't cost Johnson any Big Apple interviews. I suspect, though, that stock car's PR executives would have preferred the most famous open-wheel driver not to defect to NASCAR not to have taken a bite from their media feast.

Which ended, by the way, in reverse gear -- on third-tier ESPN Classic. The Cup awards aired on the main net during ESPN's previous NASCAR tenure. (Thanks to ESPN's Andy Hall, I watched the show "live" on ESPN360.com -- quite an amazing technological marvel.)

Those I know, who have a direct involvement, quietly admit some of the energy and excitement has gone out of NASCAR's New York adventure. And, of course, no less than Bruton Smith himself has suggested the ceremony be moved to Las Vegas. Conveniently, the site of the Smith-owned Motor Speedway.

From an entertainment standpoint, Bruton has a point, especially since a strike kept Broadway dark until the night before the Waldorf festivities. (Speaking of "entertainment," David Spade was a dud, like Jay Mohr before him. Spade told "jokes" that played into the stereotype of New York City -- an area in which ISC would like to build a track -- and about flying coach to a crowd who either own their own jets or use charters. Hint to Spade: Rule No. 1 is to know your audience!)

But that's NOT the point here.

For business, media and political purposes, NASCAR has every reason to keep haulin' back to NYC. It's simple: It's the easiest way to gain access to ad and marketing and PR agencies, participate in industry conferences, and get in front of media decision-makers. And keep whatever chances of a New York-region track alive. If Brian France eventually does decide to move, I'll take it as a clear signal all realistic hopes of a speedway there in the near future are gone.

As for IndyCar, the series did work to promote Castroneves' DWTS success. It was worth doing, as are the stated intentions to continue on that course. It sure can't hurt, especially considering known names/ticket sellers Sam Hornish Jr. and Dario Franchitti have split, replaced by Ryan Briscoe and Hideki Mutoh. Ouch!

I'd be fascinated to know how many gross media impressions Castroneves' DWTS title run generated compared with the combined numbers from his two Indy triumphs. Something tells me that data won't be forthcoming. The problem, however, is the next ICS race doesn't happen until March 29. In our contemporary society, where attention spans aren't much longer than a Sweet 'n Low packet, we'll cycle through dozens of "celebrities" before the green flag waves at Homestead.

Four months from now, will most people remember who won Stars? Probably more than who will know the winner of Survivor, but no where near as many who will be able to rattle off the contestants on American Idol. As Robert Bianco, USA Today's TV critic, wrote about DWTS: "Watch and root if you must, but if by some chance your favorite doesn't win, please take it well. You know in the grand -- or even the tiny -- scheme of things, it really doesn't much matter."

Of this, though, I am certain: When ESPN turns on its cameras for the ICS opener, we'll be shown Helio dancing. The only thing I'm not sure of is will that be before -- or after -- they interview Danica?
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Budweiser has joined ESPN and Mazda as a co-host of the reception prior to the 38th AARWBA All-America Team dinner, Saturday, January 12, at the Indianapolis Hyatt. I'm dinner chairman. See link in the right-hand column for more information on tickets.

Here's a link to my story in last Friday's Arizona Republic. It focuses on Rick Hendrick and his championship management style:
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/1129racingnb1130.html

NASCAR reporters think they have it tough with some drivers or at tracks with inadequate work space. Read what it's like out on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/29/AR2007112902165_pf.html

Do you know about changes at the Associated Press? You should. Read here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/03/business/media/03apee.html?ei=5065&en=401d36c5dc11efa8&ex=1197349200&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print

Read about John Force publicist Dave Densmore's incredible year, from his own major heart surgery to Eric Medlen's fatal accident to Force's serious crash:
http://www.competitionplus.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4665&Itemid=24

Adam Saal will leave Grand-Am Dec. 14 to operate his own communications business. First client is Rolex Series champion Bob Stallings Racing.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]