Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Watch my new Business of Racing video commentary -- explaining how the national economy affects the racing economy -- on 1320tv.com. Here's the link:

Two recurring issues on this blog -- doing homework and attention to detail -- came into play in a single E-mail I received last week.

The message, from an Arizona publicist, started with: "Welcome to Phoenix." I've called Scottsdale home for 13 years! The E also listed the track's website. When I clicked to that, I discovered it wasn't the right address!

And some wonder why people like me -- and I KNOW I'm not the only one -- are so frustrated with so-called "PR" people?
Elon Werner, of John Force Racing, has read here about Jim Chapman and sent me this interesting -- and instructive -- note:

"I had a great mentor at the Dallas Mavericks, Kevin Sullivan, who instilled in me the idea that I was a media services representative and I should remember to keep the 'service' in my attitude with all members of the media whether they represent a national outlet or local newspaper."

That's a great reminder for everyone. Thanks for sharing, Elon. Everyone needs mentors like Jim and Kevin. If you have a similar story to share, I'd be happy to receive it.
I've been fortunate to have some amazing experiences in life. Few were as amazing as my 90-minute conversation with John Force (facilitated by Elon and Jim Chapman Award winner Dave Densmore) the other weekend at Firebird Raceway.

There's no doubt in my mind John is a changed person as a result of Eric Medlen's fatal crash last year and John's own serious injuries. Twice, our talk got quite emotional. John said to me: "I spent my whole life chasing an ET (elapsed time) slip and a trophy. And then I woke up one day and said, 'How can I be that stupid?'" I have no doubt he meant it.

Here's another: "When I got in that (medical) helicopter (in Texas, after last September's accident), I didn't know if I was going to get out at the other end. I was terrified. I've been in other crashes, and I'd jump out and yell, 'Get me a beer.' I was a tough guy. I was full of bleep."

John's a great competitor and, as such, he's in a uniquely difficult position this season. Ford, and all of his other sponsors, want to WIN. But John -- who has a photo of Vince Lombardi in his Yorba Linda, Calif., shop ("I don't want to go against Lombardi. But maybe he never had anybody die on the playing field") -- now says winning isn't the only thing. "This new (safer, stronger) car may not work. If I don't win a race this year, I won't complain. But if I kill somebody, I quit."

Remember, daughter Ashley and son-in-law Robert Hight are among John's Mustang drivers.
HD Partners' announcement that it intended to acquire NHRA's pro racing assets was one of last year's most important Business of Racing stories. Last week's admission that HD didn't receive enough votes to finalize the $120 million transaction immediately became 2008's No. 1 biz story.

I can't say I was all-that surprised. I couple of business-savvy insiders told me at Firebird word was spreading the deal was in trouble. Even a casual look or listen to daily news reports would let you know investment capital is tight and the national economy is uncertain. Said Eddy Hartenstein, chairman and CEO of HD Partners: “Unfortunately, in the time since we first announced this transaction in May of 2007, we have witnessed a dramatic shift in both the financial markets and the perceived strength of the U.S. economy, which we believe adversely impacted the final outcome of this transaction."

NHRA says it will operate as before. Even though management invested what proved to be a fruitless 18 months into this effort, I hope the drag racing organization will be able to operate BETTER than before. It's likely going to be a tough summer, biz wise, for everyone. One bit of good news was the release that 21 of the 24 races on ESPN2 will air in the prime 7-11 p.m. (Eastern) time slot.
Here's a link to my notebook in last Friday's Arizona Republic:

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]