• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM: Mark Miles told me the day of the season finale that the 2015 IndyCar schedule might be announced in two weeks. Well . . . every day that goes by without a schedule, the more stress for teams, sponsors and fans.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A STEP FORWARD, BUT . . .

Is Indy back?

It's too soon to tell.

But Sunday's 92d running of the 500, my 32d, tells me it's getting there.

There certainly were positive signs going in. The list, of course, starts with reunification and the first "together" field since 1995. I'll say this -- everybody in the garage area was saying the "right" things. So was my friend, Emerson Fittipaldi, back at the 500 for only the second time since the split, to drive the E85 Chevrolet Corvette pace car. I asked Emmo straight-on about the growing controversy in America over food prices rising due to increased ethanol production and the two-time Formula One champion and double Indy winner had all his talking points ready to go. The difference is, in Brazil, sugar cane is used instead of corn. Emmo has business interests that include sugar cane production and he's building a refinery.

After rain washed away all but a few practice laps Friday, Indianapolis Motor Speedway management enjoyed close-to-perfect weather Saturday and Sunday, and that was important in determining what a single open-wheel series meant to the Speedway's bottom line. The turn-three grandstands have been the most visibly empty in recent years, so that's where I looked during the parade laps. DEFINITE IMPROVEMENT. A friend of mine, looking to upgrade his tickets, said the business of scalping was back for the first time in 10 years. I continue to believe the key metric is for the event to regain "sold out" status.

Rain impacted too many other days during the month to get a fair reading on increased fan turnout for practice and qualifying.

I'll also continue to hope for a return to the days of the traditional start of 11 perfectly aligned rows of three. Again, I think Sunday's was better, but still too-strung out.

As I have said many times, reunification meant the hard work was just starting. That's a fact the cheerleading segment of the Indianapolis news media still doesn't get. I hope these are people content to live out their careers in Indy, or smaller towns, because this sort of blind-to-the-realities "reporting" will never lead to employment in a major -- and serious -- news market.

And then there are the so-called "professional" PR people. In three days, I never saw -- and there certainly was no outreach -- from any PR representative from Team Penske, Andretti Green, KV, Panther, or Vision, among others. (Kelby Krauss made sure Scott Dixon maintained the tradition of the pole-sitter coming to the AARWBA breakfast.)

Not only does the League ridiculously still not require "standards," its Speedway has plenty of problems of its own on this front. In my presence, Sunday morning, a female member of the infamous Yellow Shirts upbraided an experienced and accomplished female journalist in the media center -- in front of others -- over a minor issue. Educational memo to management: If there was a problem, the PROPER way to have handled it was for a member of the PR staff -- NOT one of your arrogant Yellow Shirts -- to have privately discussed it with the reporter. But was it typical of the "way" things are done at IMS and have been for decades? You betcha!

The truth: Both the Speedway and League have chosen to employ people for various PR functions who are too young, too inexperienced, invested too heavily in the narrow and misguided "We're the Speedway" and "We Won!" mentality, who are not improving over time, who show no inclination to learn, who seemingly are insufficiently motivated, and whose work is obviously not monitored or supervised with appropriately rigorous review or oversight. (And then there's the amateurish way interview room sessions are presented.) Journalists from publications representing hundreds-of-thousands of circulation get lesser credentials than bit-player local media rah-rahers. A writer with arthritic knees got a pass for the great privilege of parking in the furthest section of the worst media parking lot at any major racetrack in the world while the press cheerleaders were put closest to the media center.

I put the blame for this lack of attention to detail right on those in charge at the highest levels. Sadly, that's another Indy "tradition." Maybe, with the Super Bowl coming to town, IMS will finally go to school on how the NFL does it right.
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Truly, the most amazing Indy-related statement I heard all month came from Dave Despain Sunday night on Wind Tunnel. Regarding Danica Patrick's latest temper tantrum -- which she recently said she wasn't going to do any more -- DD said, and I quote exactly:

"I saw nothing wrong with this. She doesn't know that she is the focus of attention . . . She has no idea the camera is on her."

Please . . . Dave, you know better than that. Respectfully, I would encourage you to go on next Sunday night and, as they say in Congress when senators and representatives need to clean up dumb comments, please "revise and extend" your remarks. Danica "doesn't know that she is the focus of attention" an "has no idea the camera is on her"? Come on, credibility is at stake here.

Here's what you need to know, according to last Sunday's Indianapolis Star: She has a Hollywood celebrity PR consultant. (That story also referred to Danica's father, T.J., as her "media relations director." What a joke and another reflection in declining standards. Just inform yourself about Patrick's "media relations" in her home city.) For once, let's tell the truth: Danica is a person who craves attention, who needs to be in the spotlight. While I don't doubt she was upset with Ryan Briscoe, the bottom line here is Danica needs to keep the media fires burning for her own ego -- and bank account. She knew exactly what she was doing. It was as calculated as those well-researched "cute poses" in victory lane in Japan. How do I know? Hell, I've taken drivers into studios and meeting rooms and taught them how to pose for "good" pictures!

The fact that media encourage her in this behavior, because it's good video and good copy, only underscores what our culture has come to.

As for her PR "handlers," I'd say this: Watch a tape of the 1996 CART race in Vancouver. Danica should never have been allowed to take more than a few steps in Briscoe's direction. If that means physical restraint, so be it.

Instead, her out-of-their-league PR people allowed the embarrassing "show" to go on. Which, of course, is exactly what Danica wanted.

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This, from Humpy Wheeler who suddenly left Lowe's Motor Speedway and SMI last week:

“Plus, we have to work on driver availability. That’s what got us here. We have to make sure that these drivers have real PR people, not just bag carriers. I know these guys are extremely busy, but I can remember the day when a PR person’s job was to get that driver more publicity and whatever it took was what you did. I don’t see as much of that as I’d like to see.”
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Below is part
of a Q&A last week in the Charlotte Observer with Bruton Smith. I've put the last graph in bold, for emphasis. I'll offer without comment but it again reflects what I've written before about encouraging bad behavior and a general lowering of standards in our society:

Question:
What's the state of the racing industry today?

Answer: "Pretty good. I've been in this ever since I've been an adult.

"The thing we've done -- NASCAR shares some guilt here -- is sterilize the sport too much. In March of last year, Jeff Gordon got out of his car and pushed another driver, and they fined him 10 grand. I'd have given him an award. That's what we need.

"Our sport was built on people showing some emotion. We've got to have that. We've got to have drama. I think NASCAR has been getting away from hurriedly trying to fine somebody because they showed some emotion, and that's good.

"The best thing that could happen is if four or five drivers get out of the cars and had a fist fight. If that happened, I'd have to hire more ticket sellers out there for the race. We need more of that."
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Here are links
to last Friday's Arizona Republic notebook and Sunday's "State of the Indy 500" feature:
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2008/05/23/20080523racingnb0523.html


http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2008/05/24/20080524indyluster.html ********************************************************************
Congratulations to
my friend Bob Jenkins, the pioneering motorsports broadcaster, who was named recipient of the Bob Russo Founders Award at Saturday's AARWBA breakfast in Indy. The annual members' event was co-hosted by Firestone and Honda and I served as MC. Former AARWBA President Jim Wilson received the Angelo Angelopolous Award for sportsmanship. Poleman Scott Dixon and NHRA Funny Car drivers Melanie Troxel and Tommy Johnson Jr. attended.

In AARWBA's annual journalism contest, sponsored by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar Series, this blog won first place in that new category. A Republic feature on NASCAR's Super Teams got third place in the newspaper feature writing category. A Valvoline.com column proposing changes to NASCAR's Chase system got third in the online column category.


[ more next Tuesday . . . ]

Monday, May 19, 2008

THE INDY METRICS

God willing, I'll be attending my 32d Indianapolis 500 this weekend. The 92d running is historically important, of course, due to the reunification of the IndyCar Series and Champ Car. Some say it's the first "real" Indy since 1995, when Jacques Villeneuve won in the year before the IRL-CART divide and that sad day 12 months later, when Buddy Lazier and Jimmy Vasser split the spoils in competing Memorial Day weekend 500s.

(The Indianapolis Star has gotten it wrong this month, claiming the race is the "first truly unified Indianapolis 500 since 1978." Here's why that is inaccurate: The 1980 race, won by Johnny Rutherford, was sanctioned by USAC under the Championship Racing League banner. CART and USAC had come together and so there was no competing series or rival sanctioning body. The CRL came apart that July and that is when CART was reformed as a series and sanctioning organization. Sad the hometown Star can't get it right and I don't understand why the Speedway or Series hasn't corrected the paper. It is in everyone's best interests to get the historical facts right.)

It is the start of a new era, though, and to me what's ESSENTIAL is to objectively determine if the metrics as well as the atmospherics are positive. Yes, the TV ratings are up (and were for the first weekend of qualifying), but the fact is the percentage-increase numbers are deceiving because they are coming off such low numbers. Assuming no rain delay, as occurred last year, ABC's numbers had better jump A LOT for it to mean any corner has been turned.

What is NOT going to help is a ginned-up media looking for any excuse to stick it to NASCAR. (Let the record show, Sprint Cup's TV ratings are positive year-to-date as well. More impressively so, as should be expected.)

On April 20, after Danica Patrick's win in Japan, the Star's Curt Cavin went on record: "I just can't imagine how the Indianapolis 500 doesn't sell out now." Memo to Curt: Plenty of good seats still available.

My friend Curt continued: "And there's no reason why the media center shouldn't see its largest contingent in years. It bodes well for the month and furthers the idea that the Indy 500 has seldom been such an easy sell. Certainly not recently."

In this economy, there is no such thing as an "easy sell." Let me repeat what I've written before: Getting the Indy 500 back to a point where the Speedway can issue a "sold out!" news release is THE standard that will earn respect from casual fans and corporate America. (And, let me repeat what I've written before: Hauling all 33 drivers to New York City for a photo-op -- a waste of time for all but maybe five drivers -- isn't the best use of time/resources to accomplish this imperative. How many TICKETS were SOLD as a result of this trip?)

ESPN and Sports Illustrated have been doing all they can. Danica on the SI cover last week . . . well, it was a joke to read this quote from a Patrick (so-called) media relations person: "To land on the cover of SI in advance of the Indianapolis 500 pushes us into the mainstream sports scene . . . It's a sign of respect from the mainstream media."

A "sign of respect" . . . please. It's a sign of a People magazine mentality, hype, declining standards, celebrity-over-everything else, and a marketing tool to peddle swimsuit DVDs and mags. The most central aspect of Danica's career was -- again -- left unreported. If SI wanted to again get serious about motorsports coverage, it would bring back Ed Hinton.

This line tells you everything you need to know about the story: "Patrick . . . doesn't have to win to be a winner." THAT, my friends, reflects how the bar has been lowered in our society. If this slide continues, over time, I tell you it will represent a threat to our national sovereignty. That's no exaggeration. Think about the threats we face. They can be overcome, as all previous threats have been, only by ACHIEVING great things.

Quoting Bobby Rahal on this all-for-one-and-one-for-all 500: "I think it's nothing but blue skies."

We will see. I'm in the process of reporting a "State of the Indy 500" story that will run in this Sunday's Arizona Republic. You'll be able to find it at http://azcentral.com/.

And, I'll be MCing Saturday's annual AARWBA members' breakfast in Indy, co-hosted by Firestone and Honda. Poleman Scott Dixon is expected. Husband-wife Funny Car drivers Tommy Johnson Jr. and Melanie Troxel (last Sunday's winner!) will be interviewed from the podium by ESPN2's NHRA anchor Paul Page. AARWBA's Bob Russo Founders Award, photographers' Straight Shooter Award in memory of Art Flores and Ron Hussey presented by Lowe's Fernandez Racing, and other traditional honors will be presented. Plus, announcement of winners of AARWBA's annual journalism contest, sponsored by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar Series.

If you need to get into the mood for American racing's biggest weekend, click here: http://www2.indystar.com/images/graphics/standing/indy500/2007/nabors/
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This, from the end of David Poole's blog after Kasey Kahne won the Sprint All-Star race, shouldn't be overlooked:

" . . . NASCAR and Lowe's Motor Speedway again treated the print media like crap in the postrace.

"I mean that literally. Think of Kahne's time after winning as food. Network television is the mouth. Network radio is the esophagus. NASCAR "partners" like Speed and ESPN are the stomach. Photographers taking staged photos that could be shot two hours after the race - as is still being done, are the pancreas. Local television is the intestines.

"And, down at the end, you know what that makes people like me, right?"
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Big time, major credit to ESPN2 for hanging-in-there with Sunday's rain-delayed NHRA event in Bristol. They went 30 minutes past the scheduled broadcast time and showed the Funny Car and Pro Stock finals "live." Well done, Paul Page and crew, and thank you!

In case you haven't noticed, sampling is "hot" right now. Jon Asher kindly brought this AdAge.com story to my attention: http://adage.com/article?article_id=126983

In this economy, media and fan and customer giveaways aren't what they used to be. But according to the Advertising Specialty Institute, more than $19.6 billion was spent on promotional products last year. Yes, that's billion!

I agree with NBA Commissioner David Stern -- pre-game entertainment stunts have gotten too-close to out-of-control. I understand the difference between an open-air racetrack and an indoor arena, but . . . If you missed Stern's comments, here's the USA Today report: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/basketball/nba/2008-05-12-notes_N.htm
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A reminder: Check out my new "All Business" column in Drag Racing Magazine Online's May issue. I lead with thoughts on the NHRA Powerade-Full Throttle series sponsorship change. (The column is on two pages, so be sure to click on the "next page" arrow at the bottom): http://dragracingonline.com/columns/knight/x_5-1.html

Here's a link to last Friday's Republic notebook, featuring JJ Yeley, Max Papis, Cristiano da Matta and Gil de Ferran: http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2008/05/15/20080515racingnb.html

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

REID THIS!

Overlooked in the aftermath of Kyle Busch's hit-and-run with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Richmond was Busch's slam at ESPN's Marty Reid during a media session at the following week's Lowe's Motor Speedway test.

The Richmond Nationwide Series race ended with Busch and Steve Wallace bumping on the last lap and they "chatted" in pit lane afterwards. Reid (subbing for Dr. Jerry Punch) had predicted they would get an invitation to visit the NASCAR hauler.

Asked if, in fact, any NASCAR official had spoken with him, Busch said (this from a Toyota-provided transcript, bold emphasis mine):

“Is NASCAR reaching out to me? No, OK -- NASCAR hasn’t reached out to me. The incident was just an incident on the racetrack. Who’s the guy that’s in the booth? Marty Reid -- he’s a moron. There was an incident earlier in the race where (he said), ‘They’re going to the NASCAR hauler when this one’s over’ and I don’t remember what it was. Then he said that Steven Wallace and I were going to the NASCAR hauler after this one was over and he said, ‘Rusty (Wallace), you’re going to have to get your wallet out on this one.’ I was like; ‘What?’ There’s nothing going on here. I remember him commentating Truck races back in 2001. It was just unfortunate that he said that, but to me NASCAR didn’t say anything. I believe ratings are up from what I hear so that’s good -- as long as I can drive ratings, whether it’s me or whether it’s the racing is good -- that’s cool.”

By the way, Reid is scheduled to call four more Nationwide events for ESPN2 this season.
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Here's my suggestion for a new ESPN slogan: When it comes to Danica Patrick, seldom is heard a discouraging word.

Even though Patrick's pit-lane incident last Friday, where a Dale Coyne crew member was hospitalized, made headlines -- and the video was replayed over-and-over on SportsCenter -- it took 12 minutes into Saturday's opening ESPN2 qualifying coverage for any word about what happened. When ABC took over, we waited 15 minutes. After Danica's first qualifying run, Vince Welch failed to ask her about the accident and ditto for Jack Arute during a later ABC interview and ditto again for Welch in an end-of-day conversation -- absolutely inexcusable from a journalism standpoint. By the way, IF Patrick (or her reps) told announcers in advance she didn't want to be asked that question, there was an ABSOLUTE obligation to reveal that to the audience. At least twice, Arute said the injured crewman -- Charles Buckman -- said he had made a "stupid mistake" (Arute's words) by walking into the path of Patrick's car. Where was the attribution for that mea culpa? A quote provided by the League had Buckman saying, “I really don’t remember how it happened. All I remember is I was talking with someone on Marco Andretti’s team, and then everything is blank from that point." What is Arute's source for the "stupid mistake" comment??? None was offered.

Meanwhile, Brienne (the Bumbler) Pedigo -- who continues to have absolutely no business being employed as a professional broadcaster, at least at this level -- came right out of the gate Saturday by obviously losing her train-of-thought during a report about Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.

Given the long-standing -- and well-known -- animosity between the Andrettis and Eddie Cheever, I would not be at all surprised if Andretti lawyers were TIVOing every word Cheever spoke to the ABC/ESPN audience.

As for Marty Reid, it would help his -- and the overall broadcast's credibility -- if he stopped trying to make himself a part of the competition process with constant use of the inclusive "we." With Marty, it's, "We only qualify 11 today" and "We will take the 33 fastest" and "We're practicing" and "We're racing" and "We award points" and "We put in positions 12 through 22 tomorrow." Announcers are NOT part of the competition. Announcers DO NOT race or award points or put anyone into the field. Announcers ARE supposed to be objective reporters of facts. Really, is that asking too much?

Finally, this MUST be said: In today's media age, and given the short attention span of the American public, Helio Castroneves' Dancing With the Stars win is so "old news" it might as well have happened 25 years ago. Marty -- give it a rest!********************************************************************
For those over in Indianapolis who think all the problems are solved because of reunification, I'll offer a reminder that, to many people, "NASCAR" is now generic for all of American auto racing. Need proof? OK, this on the Associated Press wire last Friday (bold emphasis mine):

"By PAUL LOGOTHETIS,
AP
ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) - Formula One teams are hopeful that Danica Patrick's NASCAR victory could provide the sport with another chance to field a female driver."

Oh, and just WHERE were the EDITORS?
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WHAT A CONTRAST!: Jay Howard, replaced by John Andretti on the Marty Roth team, was classy on his TV interview. Howard said he still considered himself "part of the team." Meanwhile, Graham Rahal threw Newman/Haas/Lanigan under the bus. "What a mistake!" blasted Rahal, at his many-time champion (and sponsorless) team -- who lost a valued member a week earlier -- for not having new tires ready for a potential last-minute Saturday qualifying run. I guess Graham, for whom I bought an ice cream cone on a hot day at the track in Toronto when he was a child, forgot the huge effort N/H/L put into repairing the car he crashed in Homestead so he could come back to win St. Pete. THUMBS DOWN!
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Man, was THAT Fun: I just filled out the Motor Press Guild's survey of journalists about their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with automotive public relations.

Think you've seen/heard it all? Well, do you know about "Flogos?" If not, read this AP story. (God knows what the people in Charlotte and Texas might do with this):
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5h33n-7MZTHQhz3YbcFdBKinAizhwD90GOV6O0
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I want to acknowledge the death of Davey Evans, of Newman/Haas Racing, who I worked with for many years. I won't recount all the details here, but Evans died in Indianapolis after an altercation with another man at a bar. According to Newman/Haas team members who were there, Evans was kicked in the head, collapsed, and authorities ruled that stress from the incident induced a stroke.

Davey's association with Haas' teams went back almost 40 years. What is bizarre, to me, about the manner of his death is it reflects the opposite of his life. Davey was always polite and quiet -- I only remember one time I ever saw him get angry.

It was a pleasure to know Davey. My thoughts to the team and, especially, Carl and Berni Haas.
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Here's a link to my new "All Business" column in the May Drag Racing Magazine Online. By the way, it's on two pages, so be sure to click on the "next page" arrow at the bottom (or top) of the first page:
http://dragracingonline.com/columns/knight/x_5-1.html

And here's a link to last Friday's Arizona Republic notebook, featuring Dario Franchitti:
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2008/05/08/20080508racingnb0509.html

I'm delighted to recommend Bob Markus' new weekly sports blog. Bob, the retired long-time Chicago Tribune sports journalist, is a friend of mine and I've always respected him for his sharp and smart writing. Bob's coverage of the Indy 500 and other races is missed by many. Check him out:

http://bobmarkus.blogspot.com/


[ more next Tuesday . . . ]

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

WHAT WINSTON WOULD HAVE DONE

* Here's what was being discussed in the motorsports industry "underground" last week:

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:

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2008/05/01/20080501racingnb0502.html

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]