• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A PUNCH TO THE GUT

I have been saying for months, in print and broadcast, that Motorsports 2009 will be VERY different than anything we've witnessed in decades. Too many times, I've noticed blank expressions when I've offered that opinion, as if people didn't grasp the gravity of the situation.

Well, with all due respect to last weekend's much hyped Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao fight, the racing news of Thursday and Friday should have been received like a punch to the gut.

Petty Enterprises negotiating for a merger to stay in the NASCAR game. (Will the No. 43 even run next season?) Honda pulls out of Formula One. Audi drops out of the ALMS (after trying its new Le Mans prototype at Sebring). Kansas Speedway withdraws bid to build/operate a casino hotel, which brought along with it a second Cup date. Three-time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, the popular Angelle Sampey, says she doesn't have a ride for '09. The Big 3 CEOs plead their case for taxpayer money in front of Congress.

This week, I am reliably told, we'll get the news of upwards of 2,000 buyouts/layoffs at Anheuser-Busch as the new InBev ownership takes charge.

Before anyone asks, no ESPN Classic here, so I didn't see Friday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup awards ceremony. Based on the near-record number of looks of last week's blog, though, some people apparently were paying attention. If not necessarily acting. While I read with interest several stories out of New York City portraying the Champion's Week events as a reflection of the national (and auto industry) economy -- and, I note, NASCAR didn't headline its Top 10 driver money totals -- there was at least one unfortunate posting on a national racing website.

A cheery someone who was making all the Big Apple rounds clearly was out-of-touch with the audience in praising the wonderful atmosphere in New York during the holiday season, especially the "vibe and energy." What got me most was the "awesome experience for the competitors, the fans and the media in attendance." Readers don't give a damn that the media did (or didn't) have fun. (Notice the Charlotte Observer saved money by not sending David Poole -- a wake-up call if ever there was one.) The single-biggest criticism of having the Cup awards in NYC has been the lack of opportunity for fan involvement -- not counting those huddled outside the Waldorf's main entrance, behind barriers at photo-ops, or who happen to be in the same bar as Jimmie Johnson.

I take it there were fewer and less lavish parties, but the holiday spirits must still have been free to the media. Parts of this column reflected a mindset more out there in left field than Manny Ramirez.

The responsible editor should have dialed-up the writer's cell phone and said, "Think about this a little more before I post it." Or, simply done some old-fashioned editing.

I have to again give it to NASCAR's management in this regard, though. "NASCAR" has become generic for "auto racing" in America. Last Friday, in reporting Honda's withdrawal from Formula One, the NBC network affiliate in Phoenix ended the story thusly -- and I quote:

"No word on what affect this might have on Honda's NASCAR operations."
********************************************************************
Check out these links:

Brian France on the economy and NASCAR:
http://www.reuters.com/article/AerospaceandDefense08/idUSTRE4B16LR20081203

More terrible news about the newspaper business:
http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_11142071

Miami Herald for sale:
http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20081207/ARTICLE/812070347/2055/NEWS?Title=McClatchy_puts_Miami_Herald_up_for_sale

My friend Larry Henry's new blog:
http://exhaustfumes.wordpress.com/
********************************************************************
Jack Beckman, Cory McClenathan and Dave Connolly will be teaching Drag Racing 101 before media racing at Pomona during the January 10 AARWBA field trip prior to the 39th All-America Team ceremony presented by A1GP World Cup of Motorsport. AARWBA media members will visit John Force Racing earlier that day. Ticket and table information for the awards ceremony that evening at the Ontario (Calif.) Hilton, which is open to the public, at http://aarwba.org/ .

[ more next week . . . ]