Imagine what Winston's tremendous sports marketing team -- including Ralph Seagraves, T. Wayne Robertson, Jeff Byrd, Rob Goodman and Denny Darnell -- would have done with Ashley Force's historic Funny Car victory over father John if RJR had continued its energetic NHRA title sponsorship. I have no doubt the Winston pros would have had Ashley on with Letterman, Regis and Kelly and The View gals, columns in the New York dailies, a Tavern on the Green media luncheon, and courtesy visits to the Associated Press and Sports Illustrated offices. Then, I bet, it would have been up to ESPN in Connecticut, down to USA Today, and south for a press get-together in the Charlotte area (new NHRA event there in September). From there, I'm sure, she would have been taken to Ford HQ for a Detroit media availability, and finally, on to St. Louis.
Oh, what might have been.
By the way, what is the plan if husband-wife Tommy Johnson Jr.-Melanie Troxel compete in a Funny Car final? In some ways, that is a BETTER story than daughter vs. father. (!)
* Ashley did make Page 1 of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last Wednesday. No, not sports Page 1 -- Page 1 as in the FRONT PAGE! (!) Stu Durando's story covered the extensive participation -- and success -- of women in drag racing. The color photo of Force raising her "Wally" trophy started above-the-fold.
* On the other hand, here's what the Alton Telegraph had to say about Ashley: "She's to the hot-rod scene what Danica Patrick is to NASCAR."
* Celebrity $ells: Danica Patrick's first post-win performance got a .74 rating on ESPN2. That's up 164 percent from last year's dismal .28. Ashley Force's first female Funny Car victory pulled a .89, an increase of 56 percent from last year. That also was one of the network's best-ever NHRA ratings.
* Sometimes, perfection is found in simplicity. Two examples relating to Ashley Force's victory: Paul Page's call on ESPN2 -- "History!" National Speed Sport News' Page 1 headline -- "First Lady."
* This, from the April 26 Los Angeles Times (and I'm not at all surprised): "Her (Danica's) business team did not respond to requests for an interview."
* Matt Crossman in the April 28 Sporting News:
"Modern auto racing in this country is about nothing as much as public relations, and this [Danica win] was a huge coup for IndyCar as it unifies with Champ Car and builds up to next month's Indianapolis 500. Patrick's victory was the biggest individual win in motorsports since Dale Earnhardt won the 1998 Daytona 500. There won't be another win this season as talked-about as hers -- unless she wins at Indy."
* John Force on Ashley's victory:
"Shirley Muldowney fought so hard to be in a man’s world and won in Top Fuel. Melanie Troxel is out here fighting the fight. (Angelle) Sampey. Hillary Will. The market is so open for female products. It’s a great time for these women. What Ashley did helps all the women. That’s what I told her: ‘Ashley, this isn’t just about you. Today is about all the other women fighting to win a race. You showed them you can do it.’"
"We’ve got a chance to grow this sport. The H-D Partners thing, we counted on that, and it didn’t happen. The sport has a chance. The fans sat in the rain because they wanted to see Ashley win. We’ve got a great product. Danica didn’t do the printing (stories which referred to her as the "first" woman to win a "major" motorsports event.) She won and deserves the praise to be the first to win in IndyCar. But I felt like Shirley Muldowney . . . it’s what somebody wrote. God Bless ‘em; nobody’s trying to hurt nobody. Ashley is proud she can step into that arena. I’ve got a little prejudice because I’ve got daughters, but let’s give women their due."
* Ashley Force on those bogus "first" and "major" stories:
"It’s frustrating for those in drag racing. We’ve had such a history of females doing great in drag racing. But you don’t want to take anything from Danica. She did a great job.
"But I do know that growing up in racing I’ve watched Shirley Muldowney, Shelly Anderson, Angelle (Sampey), just so many women win race after race, win championships. The gals in NHRA drag racing, they know what they’re doing. And we’re lucky to be in a sport that is open to having us there. They promote us. They’re excited. Our competitors are happy to have us there.
"So we know the truth, that we have a lot of gals that have done great things, but it’s great for Danica as well. Never take anything away from her. I think we just ‑‑ you just want to bring the knowledge to everyone that there’s a lot of different motorsports around here and there’s a lot of women in all different kinds and all different levels. And we have some great ones in NHRA drag racing. They’re the ones I’ve looked up to and followed, and I’m excited to now be in that lineup of winners."
* In an AP story, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Joie Chitwood said ticket sales for the track's July 27 NASCAR race are looking "a little bit tougher these days."
Remember, it was the profits from the Brickyard (now Allstate) 400 that provided Tony George the financial fuel to create and operate the IRL.
* Finally, I can't let this one pass:
Home Depot issued a corporate news release last week headlined: "The Home Depot Updates Square Footage Growth Plans." OK. Here's the opening graph, courtesy of PRNewswire:
"ATLANTA -- The Home Depot(R), the world's largest home improvement retailer, today updated its plans for square footage growth. The strategic plan outlined today centers on the Company's capital efficiency model to improve free cash flow, provide stronger returns for the Company and invest in its existing stores to continue improving the customer experience."
The bottom line came in the SEVENTH graph: 15 stores will be closed, impacting approximately 1,300 employees.
Even Brian Williams, on the NBC Nightly News, called out HD for this mess of mind-twisting, written wrestling.
If I didn't know better, I'd think former CART President "Jargon" Joe Heitzler was writing Home Depot's releases. (!)
Here's a link to last Friday's Arizona Republic notebook. You might learn a thing or two you didn't know about Ashley Force's first win:
[ more next Tuesday . . . ]