• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Monday, November 17, 2008

SMOKE SIGNALS

The smoke I photographed rising above the top end at Pomona Saturday afternoon, as wildfires raged across Southern California, was symbolic of the warning signs for the Business of Racing caused by the global economic crisis.

During the last two weeks, at Pomona and Phoenix International Raceway, I've talked with and heard from several of the top minds and decision-makers in the NHRA pit and NASCAR garage areas. I've already written about some of what they've said (see Arizona Republic links in the last blog) and will be adding to that here and in other venues in upcoming weeks.

My point, for now, is to repeat what I've been saying for awhile: Motorsports 2009 will be drastically different, as everyone struggles to adjust to the financial downturn. If you haven't already done so, please prepare yourself mentally and emotionally, to function in a vastly changed racing world.

NASCAR's announcement of a testing ban and the DEI-Ganassi merger are the latest pavement-rattling events. The Monster and Rockstar energy drink cars ran for the last time at Pomona. I've asked numerous racers the same question -- What are you doing next year? -- and gotten the same answer -- I don't know.

Rarely have I seen one topic overwhelm the atmosphere at tracks from week-to-week. But that's what's been happening, and it's not a positive for the sport, or the people directly affected.

More to come from me on the many aspects of bad business -- things that are important to think about -- now.
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John Force is, well, John Force -- a compelling personality of immense magnitude. I saw this again Saturday afternoon as I MC'd President Dusty Brandel's presentation of AARWBA's traditional Comeback Award. The ceremony was in the Shav Glick Media Center at Auto Club Raceway. AARWBA began this award, which recognizes drivers who have overcome serious injury to return to victory lane, in the 1970s when it first went to Shirley Muldowney. A.J. Foyt, Scott Pruett, Al Unser and Darrell Waltrip are among those to be so recognized.

Click below to see the presentation (courtesy of Susan Wade's 1320tv.com) and hear John's funny and emotional comments.
http://www.1320tv.com/racevideos/autoclub.asp?vid=9-4-08/force_comeback

It was a pleasure to spend some time up in race control at Pomona talking with long-time NHRA PA announcer Alan Reinhart. Alan owns the voice you hear interviewing drivers at the top end. As I said to Alan, I would be hard-pressed to pick two people who seem to have more fun at the races than Alan and fellow announcer Bob Frey (who I first heard decades ago calling the action at ATCO in New Jersey.) Especially these days, fans need to share in that fun, so for Bob and Alan, may it continue to be so.
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Here's a link to my new "All Business" column in the November Drag Racing Online.com:
http://dragracingonline.com/columns/knight/x_11-1.html
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With the season a wrap, here's a reminder about the 39th AARWBA All-America Team ceremony. It's Saturday, January 10, at the Ontario (Calif.) Hilton. AARWBA members will visit John Force Racing and have a media competition at Pomona that day. The Shav Glick Newsmakers Forum (brief news announcements) will be at 5:30 p.m. The reception, co-hosted by ESPN, MAZDASPEED and Valvoline, will follow. Dinner served at 7 p.m. and awards ceremony, presented by A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, to follow. Legendary announcer/broadcaster Dave McClelland will MC. In addition to Team driver awards, we'll present the Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports PR, Pioneer in Racing, and Dusty Brandel President's Award. The presentation ends with announcement of the Jerry Titus Memorial Trophy winner, which goes to the driver who receives the most All-America Team votes. Susan Wade and I are co-chairing the event. If you need more information, call or E-mail me, or go to http://aarwba.org/ .

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]