• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

OPEN WHEEL's OPENING MOVE

The Tony George-Kevin Kalkhoven news conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway was a useful first step in outreach to heal the wounds of the 12-year American open wheel racing civil war. Not in terms of the few specifics offered, but rather, for the several comments that this glued-together season will be "for the fans."

I could not agree more.

It's going to take a lot more than words to bring back fans left disenfranchised by the battle for power, control and money. But there were a few words that were not, but should have been, sincerely spoken by both George and Kalkhoven -- and this should not be a surprise since I've written this for years:

"I apologize. I'm sorry."

I don't get it, when the high and mighty claim they want to connect with the average folks, but can't bring themselves to say the simple words that everyone understands and appreciates.

"I apologize. I'm sorry."

THAT would have been the way to start that news conference. And when they didn't say it, some reporter should have asked: "Are you sorry? Do you apologize to fans and sponsors?"

Meanwhile, I'll share a bit of intelligence I'm sure has escaped the radar screen of my friends over at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There's already talk of a "pool" over how many May Days it will take before the bitter old arrogance of 1995 and earlier becomes commonplace among IMS staffers and the infamous Yellow Shirts. The theory behind the "pool" is Speedway people will have a "we won" attitude -- and inflict it on what Tony Hulman told me back in 1975 he considered to be his "guests."

I'll repeat what I wrote last week (see below, "The 2 Billion Dollar Blunder"): NO ONE 'WON.' EVERYONE LOST.

(And proof of what I've been saying, that reunification would not automatically solve all the problems, came almost immediately with the end of Forsythe Championship Racing. That put Paul Tracy -- Champ Car's one legitimate star -- on the street.)

If necessary, Tony George had better speak face-to-face with every last person who represents IMS, and make sure they know such an arrogant attitude is unacceptable. A zero-tolerance, one-strike-and-you're-out, policy would be the right move.

As would a clear understanding that the best public/media/corporate image improver that could happen would be for IMS to once again be able to issue an honest news release: "Indy 500 Tickets Sold Out."

That's the No. 1 priority, and wasting resources by again hauling 33 drivers to New York City for a photo-op isn't going to make it happen.
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EXPERT TV COMMENTARY OF THE WEEKEND: This exchange, on ESPN2 Saturday, when Jeff Burton coasted into the pits during the Nationwide Series race --

Andy Petree: "I don't hear the engine running. That's not a good sign."

Dale Jarrett: "No, it isn't."

And then there was Jamie Little's typical tee-hee-hee style interview with Tony Stewart after his crash. Stewart admitted, "I banged my foot up a little bit" -- which DEMANDED a follow-up question on the SPECIFIC extent of Tony's injury. But, instead, Little let out the usual "you're OK" and the viewer was left to wonder.

Please check out my new Business of Racing video commentary, on the "new" John Force, now posted at 1320tv.com:

http://www.1320tv.com/dialed_in/article11.asp?vid=dialed_in/bor_force_phoenix&title=Michael%20Knight%27s%20commentary%20on%20John%20Force%27s%20return%20to%20Gainesville,%20new%20mission
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P.S. -- I want to acknowledge the recent passing of TV and radio executive Tim Sullivan. He was a regular at the Eastern Motorsports Press Association convention in the 1970s and supportive of my early career efforts. Thank you, Tim.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]