• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

LESSONS of '09

There was another Saab story out of General Motors last week. Ford suddenly replaced its motorsports director. NASCAR, IRL and ALMS teams either closed doors or showed the door to dozens of employees. The historic Milwaukee Mile went dark. The changes continued at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (more to come).

And, yet, Speed's resources went to covering an ARCA test.

Think about it: Robin Miller -- Robin Miller! -- at an ARCA test.

No rip on my friend Robin, but, how SAD.

I guess it was a fitting end to another depressing year in media and public relations.

The standards of professionalism and news judgment continued downhill. Look at the list of MAJOR, IMPORTANT IN THE SHORT-AND-LONG-TERM stories listed in the first graph. How much have you read or heard about them in the last week? Especially in-depth journalism that might add to your understanding of these happenings? Then, think of how much Danica has been forced down your throat.

How much was the bar lowered in the last 12 months? Need I say more than "Digger?" Or -- worst of the year -- that video of spectators being injured when Carl Edwards sailed into the fence at Talladega was "Eye Candy" and used to hype TV coverage of upcoming races? Since when did it become acceptable to use spectator injuries as entertainment?

Sometimes, I can't help but wonder: WHERE is the OUTRAGE? !

However, is it any wonder surveys continue to show public trust in, and respect for, the media keeps dropping like Tiger's approval number? Is it a surprise that the Jim Chapman Award, for excellence in motorsports PR, won't be presented for 2009?

I began the year saying, from the podium at the AARWBA All-America Team ceremony, that the most insidious trend in modern sports is business managers making media-relations decisions. In the majority of cases, these are salesmen, not people educated in the various facets of media and the varying needs of each. The year ends with my point being validated for all eternity -- in the example of IMG agents advising Woods on how to deal with his PR Titantic. They know how to negotiate an endorsement deal -- but what do they know about TMZ and the like in this celebrity-driven, People magazine, photo-op, sound-bite society? Clearly, not too damn much!

(Now we read that the sports marketing giant is spending its time trying to sell joint Junior-Danica deals. How about actually coming through with a new NHRA official beer sponsorship or something else of real value for the straight-line set?)

Meanwhile, per last week's posting, comments from within the industry certainly have been interesting. The most generous of spirit, from a writer known for his politeness, was to describe the event staged in Phoenix by so-called "PR" people as "mishandled." Now that Danica has all her primary sponsorship eggs in one basket (always dangerous), let's note published reports last week had her funder putting out $3 million for its holiday party, staged in a baseball stadium. Hey, if you have it, great. But just what message, and how sensitive is it, to the average customer? Of course, this from a company whose sales philosophy is to appeal to base instincts on the one hand, then act like it's the Gilded Age on the other. (And is about to open a data center in Singapore.)

The explosive growth of so-called "social media" was another huge trend of '09. I guess I understand the attraction to fans. Personally, I don't have time to waste on Twitter reading about what some driver just bought at a convenience store. But let's be clear: Social media it not "media" in a professional or classic sense. I don't like it that NASCAR begins its weekly media teleconference by reading a question to a driver submitted from Twitter. (News releases in Twitter format was another of '09's terrible, dumbing-down ideas.) I don't like it that fans were admitted to last week's media conference at JR Motorsports and allowed to ask questions. Whatever happened to No Cheering in the Press Box standards? And, as anyone who knows me knows, this is no knock on the fans, because I always say the fans are the ones who keep all the rest of us in business.

(The reasoning behind what happened at JRM has been explained to me. I'll just say this: It better not be the start of a trend. All the way back in the dark ages of 1983, I created CART's Winner's Circle Fan Club, to give our valued fans access to drivers and behind-the-scenes stuff. Public activities should be separate and apart from media events. Does that mean a little more work? Yes. A little more time? Yes. Some organizational skills? Yes. Is it the correct thing to do? Yes!)

As I said and wrote last January, in this economic environment (and I don't expect much improvement in 2010), we all must work harder, smarter, better. Too many in the media and PR didn't do so.

It showed.

I sincerely hope for improvement, in the profession and in the economy, in the New Year.


Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

December 23 -- Best-of: Season-In-Review, Part 1. Panelists: Holly Cain, Gordon Kirby, Jeff Burk.

December 30 -- Best-of: Season-In-Review, Part 2. Panelists: Jon Asher, John Oreovicz, Bob Margolis.

[ more in early January, including a change in one media location for me . . . ]

Thursday, December 17, 2009

YEAR-IN-REVIEW, PART 2

Part 2 of The Race Reporters Year-In-Review aired Wednesday night on Power Up Channel. Jon Asher, John Oreovicz and Bob Margolis talked about the Big Issues of 2009. We also announced winners of various show awards, including Driver of the Year and Person of the Year. The overall panel consensus was Jimmie Johnson for DoY and Mark Martin for PoY. Jon, John and Bob also offered individual commentaries. As with Part 1, This was great fun!

Listen to the entire show using this link:
http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=42810

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

December 23 -- Best-of: Season-In-Review, Part 1. Panelists: Holly Cain, Gordon Kirby, Jeff Burk.


December 30 -- Best-of: Season-In-Review, Part 2. Panelists: Jon Asher, John Oreovicz, Bob Margolis.

[ more Monday . . . ]

Sunday, December 13, 2009

BELIEVE IT OR NOT: A TRUE 'PR' TALE

Unknowing. Unresourceful. Uninterested. Unprofessional. Arrogant. Clueless. Lazy. Scared.

The list of possible descriptions is like selecting from a "one from Column A, two from Column B" menu.

I'm talking about the way GoDaddy.com orchestrated the Danica-to-NASCAR announcement last week in Phoenix. Wait -- let me rephrase that -- because using the word "orchestrated" in this instance is an insult to the world's great maestros.

Here's what happened. Or, I should say, didn't happen.

The so-called "PR" people at GD, which is based not far from my home in Scottsdale, Ariz., did not contact me -- before or after this news conference -- by phone, E-mail or carrier pigeon. Ditto Mark Armijo. Let the record show that, just last month, Mark and I combined for more NASCAR-at-Phoenix International Raceway coverage that just about everyone else in this state combined. Business Week quoted from my Arizona Republic story on the automakers continued involvement in NASCAR. At a minimum, I suspect Mark would have written a story about the Big Day for the high-quality RacinToday.com site. I likely would have used a sound bite on my The Race Reporters show.

Far more importantly, this was about respect. Mark led-the-way for racing coverage in this state during almost a quarter-century on the beat at the Republic. And before the GD PR braintrust -- the name attached to the Danica deal was Nick Fuller -- questions my credentials, please review the bio information at the right.

This was at least the fourth negative experience I've had with this company. Despite stories earlier PIR week, including a Sunday Page 2 feature on Mark Martin (to be sponsored by GD next season -- what an image mismatch!), self-described GD "PR Specialist" Katy Kelewae didn't wake-up to my work until being made aware of my mid-week article on Rick Hendrick. That led to an E inviting me -- this was their first and only outreach -- to GD's offices later that day to interview Brad Keselowski. The E was sent at exactly 12:08:49 on Thursday, Nov. 12, and included this: "I have a time open between 2:45-3:10." In other words, less than three hours advance notice -- as if I had nothing else to do that day; could just drop everything -- or had not long previously interviewed for the next day's story!

In a tribute to carnival barkers everywhere, GD's written blurb to those they troubled themselves enough to communicate with, was 100 percent nauseating hype: "It's the question that has people buzzing . . . a story fueled with drama that transcends the sporting world . . . reports have been consumed by speculation . . . until Tuesday in downtown Phoenix, Ariz., when Go Daddy Girl and IndyCar Star Danica Patrick finally reveals her NASCAR decision."

Please, someone wheel an oxygen tank over here!

Just because there's a market for this over-inflated nonsense elsewhere, it does not mean it is right. Here's a word worth pondering at this moment: Credibility. Maybe they can use all their big-time fancy technology to Google this name: James P. Chapman. And bother to learn the professional lessons of common courtesy, the local angle, and building one-on-one relationships, as pioneered by Mr. Chapman.

A few friends have suggested to me we weren't included because GD was afraid of the tough questions we'd ask. Let me be clear: Tough as in "legitimate," not "rude." That could be, given the overwhelming majority of DP's press-to-date has been cotton-candy sweet. Sports Illustrated, for example, covered the key events of Danica's crucial move from European road racing back to the U.S. Atlantic series in one sentence. A Sporting News Q&A the other week asked every puffy question except if she looked forward to trying a Martinsville hot dog. (Stunning to me it even got published.) One wouldn't be surprised if most of the IRL media offered boxed chocolates with their questions. This, I would observe, in contrast to Ashley Force Hood -- She's answered tough questions from me on subjects ranging from the death of her teammate to her father's injuries to her struggles with the Tree.

I'll end by adding one more description to the opening list:

Inexcusible.


FAST LINES: As another example that the "car guys" are leaving GM -- a story highlighted here last week while others were obsessing over Tiger and Danica -- Brent Dewar, well-known in NASCAR circles, is leaving as Chevrolet brand manager. And, last week, another exec was let go after less than two weeks on the job. This is an on-going story that MUST be watched most carefully in 2010 . . . My friend Drew Brown, one of the few NASCAR team/sponsor PR people who "gets it," is now with Michael Waltrip Racing. I told Michael in Las Vegas that this is the best hire he's ever made . . . Stunning -- Editor & Publisher is folding after almost 110 years . . . Lost in all the breathless Danica hype -- The loss of major sponsor Motorola, but that's not a surprise to readers of the business pages.


TIGER: I've been asked to compare this situation to previous ones. The first that came to mind, at least in sports, was Pete Rose being banned from baseball because of gambling. If you want to vastly expand the universe of possibilities, you'd probably have to say Richard Nixon being forced to resign the presidency. But those were vastly different media times and those sagas played out over many months. Bottom line: Tiger's two-week downfall in a 24-hour media cycle is unprecedented. Finally, I hope this ends once-and-for-all the ridiculous notion that "Any publicity is good publicity." I've disputed that for years. Anyone who ever spouts this line again should be permanently discarded as a serious thinker.

It's important you read and know about this:
http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/nascar/cup/columns/story?columnist=newton_david&id=4730676&campaign=link&source=JAYSKI

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

December 16 -- Season-In-Review, Part 2. Panelists: Jon Asher, John Oreovicz, Bob Margolis.

[ TRR notes Thursday . . . ]

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

YEAR-IN-REVIEW, PART 1

Part 1 of The Race Reporters Year-In-Review aired Wednesday night on Power Up Channel. Holly Cain, Gordon Kirby and Jeff Burk batted around the Big Issues of 2009. We also announced winners of various show awards, including Driver of the Year and Person of the Year. Holly, Gordon and Jeff also offered individual commentaries. This was tremendous fun!

Listen to the entire show using this link:
http://www.modavox.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=42809

After he won the NHRA Full Throttle Top Fuel title, Tony Schumacher promised he'd deliver the championship trophy to Fort Hood. That's set to happen Friday, with owner Don Schumacher and the entire Army-sponsored team present. It will be part of an overall program designed to promote a day of healing at Fort Hood.


Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

December 16 -- Season-In-Review, Part 2. Panelists: Jon Asher, John Oreovicz, Bob Margolis.

[ more Monday . . . ]

Sunday, December 06, 2009

HENDRICK on GM's CEO SHIFT

THE NEWS CAN'T WAIT: Hard-working Bob Pockrass, of NASCAR Scene, files right from the hallway outside the room where Chase drivers did interviews at the Wynn.


The traffic on the Strip rivaled former Sprint Cup host city New York. The wait to check into Wynn seemed as long as 500 miles at Pocono. The weather was cool, and Danica (and, yes, Tiger) were the hot stories for many in what was a more robust media crowd (absent, for the second consecutive year, the Charlotte Observer) than I expected.

Except to me.

General Motors abruptly fired CEO Fritz Henderson last week. A spokesman said something about wanting to steer a new course. "The board decided—and Fritz agreed—that it was time to make some changes,'' a GM spokesman said.

Remember, as posted here, it was only a few weeks ago at Phoenix International Raceway that Sen. John McCain said this of GM's corporate financial survival: "I think it's going to be a near-thing."

Industry analysts interviewed on CNBC and various other outlets said the "word" is GM's activist board is going to search for an "outsider" -- meaning, a non-car guy -- as the new CEO.

That's the sort of thing that will cause NASCAR and its Chevrolet team owners concern. So, Thursday in Vegas, I asked Cup championship team owner Rick Hendrick:

"I was surprised. Fritz Henderson, I thought, was doing a very good job. Of course, I don't know the details, but all I can say is, I hope they get the right guy. They've got some awful good people at GM . . . but we've lost some good people, too. We'll see.

"It concerns me on the racing side, but it concerns me more on the business side. I've got 35 GM franchises. GM's got the best products they've ever had. That takes people and planning to put that together, the Volt, the Camaro. If you have someone who doesn't understand that product sells, that part concerns me. In my opinion, we don't need to lose momentum with the products we have today . . . My point is, I don't think Fritz Henderson ever had a chance. That's where I am. I'm hoping the board, when they look around and compare the products . . . I hope they get the right person.

"I see the way we market NASCAR into the sales side of the business. They've had to justify that. They can measure the success of racing. If it wasn't valuable Toyota and these other folks wouldn't be in that. I would think that what's in place will stay until someone gets in place, permanently, who can weigh all of the advantages of what the sport does."

Don't underestimate the importance of this latest GM management change. I can assure you, even in the midst of celebrations and parties in Vegas in tribute to Hendrick's and Jimmie Johnson's latest championship, NASCAR's inside players and power-brokers understood what's at stake.

P.S. -- Given my own four decades-plus experience in the industry, I can't help but be somewhat amused by Vegas-datelined stories positive about Dodge's future in NASCAR. For one thing, Chrysler's new business plan apparently has written-off Arizona. At least it seems that way to me based on the Z-E-R-O communications/outreach to AZ media by Dodge NASCAR PR as noticed by me in recent weeks.


NASCAR-IN-VEGAS FAST LINES: I've been around long enough to have attended the NASCAR awards at the Plaza hotel in Daytona Beach, which (believe it or not) took place the week of the Daytona 500. And, since I also went to some of the New York ceremonies, it was good perspective to be at the first-time celebration in Las Vegas. Here we go . . .

Security entering the Wynn ballroom was just right -- visible but not difficult -- and invitations were checked several times. As far as I know, the White House party crashers didn't get in . . . A huge plus was the size of the ballroom, which allowed comfortable spacing between tables and walking-around room for those wise enough to get up and relationship-build . . . For the second straight year, NASCAR correctly judged the economic times and didn't announce prize money totals. It used to be every driver was handed a check, with the total revealed, but the only reference to money Friday night was Sprint's $6.6 million award . . . The biggest pre-dinner question was inclusion of fans. It was a plus, definitely added a different atmospheric element, and I understand fan ops will be expanded next time. As long as it's well-managed, it's all good . . . Frank Caliendo as host and John Pinette's comedy were big winners . . . Announcing sometimes was a little too gushy, to be expected, but certainly not over-the-top . . . Terrific driver, but Kasey Kahne just isn't a Teleprompter guy. That was painful. If his handlers can't teach it to him, they'd do Kasey a real favor and create a new way for him to deliver his podium remarks . . . The ceremony, attended by 1,500-2,000, ran right to four hours . . . It used to be people knew an event like this was a tremendous opportunity to exchange business cards and build new professional relationships. NASCAR keeps saying it wants to expand its media coverage. Here's the problem, as observed by me at Thursday's Chase driver media avails -- As long as team/sponsor PR people stand around and don't introduce themselves to media people they don't know (that's called PR 101) or do pro-active outreach to welcome in the non-regulars, those Big Picture Goals aren't going to be achieved. That's not my opinion. That's a true fact.

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

December 9 -- Season-In-Review, Part 1. Panelists: Holly Cain, Gordon Kirby, Jeff Burk.

December 16 -- Season-In-Review, Part 2. Panelists: Jon Asher, John Oreovicz, Bob Margolis.

[ more Thursday . . . ]

Friday, December 04, 2009

SEEN and HEARD in VEGAS

So far, at least, NASCAR in Neon looks nice. We'll find out tonight if moving the Sprint Cup awards ceremony to Las Vegas after almost three decades in New York City will be a Wynn.

Thursday featured media interviews plus the NMPA Myers Brothers awards presentation. Here are some interesting quotes:

* NASCAR Chairman Brian France: "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Does that apply in a room full of media?"

* France on the CoT: "We've made 20 adjustments to the car based on (driver, crew chief) comments . . . We'll continue to look at modifications."

* Joey Logano, Cup rookie of the year: "At the start of the season, I was a huge project . . . "

* Dale Inman, Richard Petty's longtime crew chief, who received Champion Spark Plug's Buddy Shuman Award: Inman said Petty "is a little sick" and didn't come to Vegas. "Where's Richard when I need him?"

* Dale Earnhardt Jr., who received the Most Popular Driver award for the seventh year in a row: "I just wanted to be a race car driver. To have all these fans is a bonus. I guess I'll just keep showing up."

(On the Danica front -- Rick Hendrick said to ask Junior. Junior said to ask his sister, Kelley. Tony Eury Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt now have ownership shares in JR Motorsports.)

* Mark Martin, Coors Pole winner: "All I had to do was hold my breath."

* Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France winner, in a video tribute to Jimmie Johnson: "You just have three more to go."

* Johnson, after collecting more sponsor award checks: "Looks like we have some gambling money . . . "

* Tony Stewart, after accepting a sponsor award: "I have to thank Juan (Pablo Montoya) for my inspiration." Stewart said he and Homestead rival Montoya "were having fun back there (behind stage)."

* Chad Knaus brought his own video camera onto the stage and said NASCAR Images might be upset he had his own "bootleg footage."


TIGER: My PR/media management antenna is signaling an eventual 60 Minutes sit-down strategy. CBS has long televised The Masters, so it wouldn't surprise me if golf host Jim Nantz did the interview. Or, depending on polling/demo research of female consumers by his agents at IMG, Katie Couric.



Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

December 9 -- Season-In-Review, Part 1. Panelists: Holly Cain, Gordon Kirby, Jeff Burk.

December 16 -- Season-In-Review, Part 2. Panelists: Jon Asher, John Oreovicz, Bob Margolis.

[ more from Vegas Sunday . . . ]

Thursday, December 03, 2009

NASCAR 2009 SHOW

NASCAR 2009 was the subject of Wednesday night's The Race Reporters on Power Up Channel. Thanks to Dave Rodman, Kenny Bruce and Larry Henry for a thoughtful conversation.

Use this link to listen to the entire show:

http://www.modavox.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=42808


Given today's headlines, here's an oldie-but-goodie -- a bit of enterprise reporting I did for the Arizona Republic in April 2008. Would Tiger Woods have been a successful race driver? His caddie, Steve Williams, told me "yes" in an exclusive one-on-one interview:

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2008/04/10/20080410tigerdriver.html


What a Joke: The so-called sports marketing and crisis communications "experts" on talk radio and cable TV who said Woods endorses Buick. I guess they haven't had time to read a biz section or website in the last year! Proves -- again -- just how much a lot of these "experts" really know. (!)


Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

December 9 -- Season-In-Review, Part 1. Panelists: Holly Cain, Gordon Kirby, Jeff Burk.

December 16 -- Season-In-Review, Part 2. Panelists: Jon Asher, John Oreovicz, Bob Margolis.

[ more from the Sprint Cup awards in Las Vegas . . . ]

Sunday, November 29, 2009

JIM CHAPMAN PR AWARD NOT PRESENTED IN 2009

In an uncertain world, of this, I am certain.

Jim Chapman would decry the lowering of standards throughout our society.

It is terribly sad what passes for "acceptable" these days.

Today, I announce that the Jim Chapman Award, for excellence in motorsports public relations, will not be presented for the 2009 season.

Mr. Chapman, the late and legendary PR executive, was my closest friend and had a profound influence on my life and career. I not only serve as chairman of the selection committee, I am legal owner of the rights to any racing PR award carrying Jim's name, as granted to me in writing by the Chapman family.

That said, I do not pick the winner. The Chapman Award recipient is chosen by a committee of journalists who actually knew Jim. They know best who merits the honor of having his/her name associated with the highest of standards as established by the great Mr. Chapman. For those not aware, among his countless life-long achievements, Jim masterminded the Driver of the Year award, made PPG's CART series sponsorship successful and respected, and he even was Babe Ruth's PR man.

The decision not to make the award this year was not mine alone. It does not mean there are no deserving publicists out there. It does means no one got the overwhelming majority of support, from the full committee, required to be a Chapman winner. The bar has been lowered elsewhere, but not in terms of winning the Chapman, established in 1991.

We will try again in 2010.

That said, let me repeat the call I made early in 2009. Under the current economic circumstances, we ALL need to work harder, think smarter, do better. In my opinion, not enough of that happened this past season. I heard more "PR" people than I care to remember make excuses based solely on reduced budgets. Available resources have absolutely nothing to do with the basics: Returning phone calls, answering E-mails, spending meaningful time in the media center, outreaching to local journalists who don't attend every series race, providing factual, accurate and newsworthy information. And finding ways to say "Yes" instead of what too-often has become the PR default "No."

The great professional lesson of Jim Chapman's life and career was the value of establishing one-on-one relationships.

In the new year, may more come to understand how valuable it is to extend a hand and say, "Hi. My name is . . . "


I'll be attending the NASCAR Sprint Cup awards events this weekend in Las Vegas. Check back here for some on-site thoughts, comments and news.


YES, They Did It Again: With barely enough actual FACTS to fill a tire valve-stem cap, the media twisted and turned the Tiger Woods story into hours of radio talk and cable TV show "coverage." Of course, 99 percent of such "reporting" was guessing and gossip. Typical was ESPN's once-great (under the stewardship of the late Dick Schaap) The Sports Reporters -- now, nothing more than a stool for the same-old tired heads to exhibit their egos and arrogance.

And, for years, there has been agreement by the TV types not to encourage bad behavior by showing the grandstand dopes who run out onto a baseball or football field. Yet TV went nuts with the White House party crashers actually positioned as the "news" lead! Why? Hint: An attractive blonde was involved.

How depressing for what once was an honored and proud profession.

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

December 2 -- NASCAR 2009. Panelists: Dave Rodman, Kenny Bruce, Larry Henry.

December 9 -- Season-In-Review, Part 1. Panelists: Holly Cain, Gordon Kirby, Jeff Burk.

December 16 -- Season-In-Review, Part 2. Panelists: Jon Asher, John Oreovicz, Bob Margolis.

[ news nugget Thursday . . . ]

Sunday, November 22, 2009

McCAIN on NASCAR

I had the interesting experience of interviewing Arizona Senator John McCain the morning of the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500k at Phoenix International Raceway. McCain was the grand marshall. He took questions from national NASCAR journalists in the media center, then, by pre-arrangement, met with me and the Arizona Republic's Jim Gintonio.

The headline was McCain's comments on Chrysler and GM. He opposed the federal government financial bailouts to the automakers and McCain said he's not optimistic about the business future of the two NASCAR participants:

"It's not that I'm that much of an expert, but the ones I talk and listen to (agree). And I think it's going to be a near-thing with General Motors. Who is doing well? Ford. I have a Ford Fusion hybrid, and I'm very happy with it."

I was only able to include a bit of this in my Republic notebook. I thought you might find the rest of note:

On his interest in NASCAR:

"Having been an amateur high school and college athlete, I love all sports. And I enjoy NASCAR. But (fellow Arizona senator) Jon Kyl, he was here at the crack of dawn. He knows everything. He was even arguing the rules. I said to him, ‘Jon, people come to Washington all the time and try to change our rules.’ Last time I was here, Jon took me around, he knows all the drivers and teams."

On comparisons of piloting a fighter jet and driving a race car:

"There is a lot in common there. It requires enormous hand-eye coordination. It requires a great deal of training. It’s a game, sometimes, of inches. So, I think there’s a lot of common requirements, both physical and mental, to flying a high-performance aircraft, particularly in combat. I would point out that, in some ways, these guys are in combat. You make a mistake, and it could lead to serious consequences."

On NASCAR and its corporate-sponsored teams being a showcase for capitalism:

"I see it as a showcase about what’s good in America. These people come, average everyday citizens, who shape their schedule for the year to bringing the RV out, and cooking out, and doing all the things in what has become an American institution. I equate it to capitalism maybe in a different way. There are rules out here on the track. I just sat in the (drivers) meeting where they went over those rules. The rules on Wall St. were either not existent or weren’t enforced. Greedy people were able to violate fundamental rules and it caused an enormous impact throughout our economy. The same greedy people are being rewarded. If you violate the rules in NASCAR, you’re penalized, you’re thrown off the track, you’re suspended, the penalties are there. These guys on Wall St., they gamed the system, sold bogus securities, and now, they’re the ones profiting from it."

On the patriotism of NASCAR fans:

"I’ve been to NASCAR races in New Hampshire and North Carolina, as well as here, and the incredible appreciation of the men and women of the military is at a higher level than most other places I’ve been. All Americans honor the men and women of the military. NASCAR, we get this kind of passionate patriotism that is pretty remarkable."

On if Sarah Palin would be popular with NASCAR fans:

"I know she’s very popular. As I walk around they say, ‘How’s Sarah doing?’ Yeah, I am totally confident this is a big part of her fan base. Her husband (Todd) is a racer, a champion snowmobile racer across Alaska. I think the Palin family represents the NASCAR outlook on life."

On if Palin was on the pre-race introduction stage:

"They’d go crazy."


The least surprising part of Sarah Palin Week, as the former Alaska governor toured for the rollout of her book Going Rogue, was the anti-Palin media bias. Even less surprising was the epicenter was NBC. Andrea Mitchell has traveled with Hillary Clinton for most of her major overseas trips as secretary of state, but as Clinton went to in-the-headlines Afghanistan last week, where was Mitchell? Stalking Palin, sneakily looking for every op to get in a dig -- such as interviewing those in the book-signing line who might have been dressed in a way, or said something, that would serve Mitchell's own viewpoint. Meanwhile, Norah O'Donnell and The Ego injected race into their conversation of a Palin book event. The Hater-In-Chief, of course, just hated. There was a time in American journalism when such bias would have been considered an outrage, and employer-discipline imposed.

The total number for my The Race Reporters was up 147 percent in October vs. a comparable four-show month in August. THANK YOU!


Here's a link to my story in last Sunday's Arizona Republic, focused on how NASCAR got through the recession of 2009: http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2009/11/21/20091121spt-nascar.html


Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

November 25 -- Best-of-show with Richard Petty, Mike Harris, Lewis Franck.

December 2 -- NASCAR 2009.

December 9 -- Season in Review, Part I.

December 16 -- Season in Review, Part II

[ more early next week . . . ]

Thursday, November 19, 2009

FUNNY CAR CHAMP HIGHT

NHRA Funny Car champion Robert Hight was the Newsmaker guest on Wednesday night's The Race Reporters show on PowerUpChannel.com. Mark Armijo and John Sturbin joined me for the journalists roundtable and the questioning.

It was kind of a crazy season for Hight. His Auto Club Ford Mustang struggled during the "regular season" -- he DNQ'd twice --but the car came alive in the Countdown. Robert won three of those six races and was No. 1 qualifier twice. I asked him how that was possible.

"We did struggle. It was terrible. You kind of get spoiled. The previous four seasons, I had led the points at some time during the year. We were stuck this year. We had no consistency. NHRA changed a few things -- we only had four test days this year. We started out the year with a lot of new parts on the car and we probably shouldn't have stuck with them so long. You always think, 'If this works, it's going to put us over the top and give us the edge' . . . Finally, we said 'uncle' and changed our combination to more like Ashley's (Force Hood's) team had. Luckily, for us, we got our timing right and our performance right."

Use this link to listen to the entire show:
http://www.modavox.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=42533


Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

November 25 -- Best-of-show with Richard Petty, Mike Harris, Lewis Franck.

December 2 -- NASCAR 2009.

December 9 -- Season in Review, Part I.

December 16 -- Season in Review, Part II

[ more early next week . . . ]

Monday, November 16, 2009

A WEEKEND of NASCAR


There's lots to say after a weekend of covering NASCAR, but, I'll just provide links to my many Arizona Republic stories from the last week. You might especially enjoy what came from my one-on-one interview with Sen. John McCain, and my Q&A with Chad Knaus.

Monday Notebook (Dale Earnhardt Jr., Rick Hendrick and John McCain):

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2009/11/15/20091115spt-pirnb.html

Sunday Chad Knaus Q&A:

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2009/11/14/20091114spt-pirnewsmaker2.html


Sunday Notebook (Jeff Burton says Danica is welcome in NASCAR):

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2009/11/14/20091114spt-pirnotebook2.html

Sunday Nationwide race story:

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2009/11/14/20091114spt-pirnation.html


Saturday Notebook (no USAC at PIR in 2010; Copper World may return in 2011):
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2009/11/13/20091113spt-pirnotes.html

Friday Notebook (Jack Roush):
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2009/11/12/20091112spt-1112pirnotebook.html

PIR President Bryan Sperber Q&A:

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2009/11/12/20091112spt-pirsperber.html


Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

November 18 -- NHRA Funny Car champion Robert Hight. Panelists: Mark Armijo, John Sturbin.

November 25 -- Best-of-show with Richard Petty, Mike Harris, Lewis Franck.

December 2 -- TBA.

December 9 -- Season in Review, Part I.

December 16 -- Season in Review, Part II

[ Robert Hight news nugget Thursday . . . ]

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

COST RULES HAVEN'T HELPED ROBBY GORDON

Robby Gordon was the Newsmaker guest on Wednesday night's The Race Reporters show on PowerUp Channel. Bill Fleischman and Jim Pedley joined me in the questioning and then Dave (The King) Wilson provided his unique perspective on the season.

Jim asked Robby if any of the NASCAR "cost-cutting" rules (CoT, testing ban at NASCAR tracks, etc.) have benefitted his single-car Jim Beam Toyota operation.

"I think it actually hurt us. The only benefit to the no-testing program was the no-testing program. Except, nobody listened to the rule. They went off to other racetracks and started doing different things with tires. Here's where the biggest problem has come into play, in my opinion. The best teams do all the Goodyear tire tests. When nobody else gets to test, you're that much further behind. The testing policy is totally lopsided right now."

Use this link to listen to the entire show:
http://www.modavox.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=42394

Here's a link to my Tuesday story in the Arizona Republic on the automakers continued involvement in NASCAR. You might be surprised at some of the numbers.

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2009/11/09/20091109spt-pirautomakers2.html

Plus links to my Thursday article on Hendrick Motorsports and a notebook. Mark Armijo and I will have coverage all weekend of NASCAR at Phoenix International Raceway. Look for my Q&A with Chad Knaus in Sunday's paper. If you're not in the area to buy the Republic, read us at http://azcentral.com/ .



http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2009/11/11/20091111spt-pirhendrick.html




http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2009/11/11/20091111spt-pirnb.html

And, here's a link to my new "All Business" column in Drag Racing Online.com. It's about Don Schumacher saving Antron Brown -- How about Angelle Sampey, too?
http://dragracingonline.com/columns/knight/xi_11-1.html

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

November 18 -- NHRA Funny Car or Top Fuel champion. Panelists: Mark Armijo, John Sturbin.

November 25 -- Best-of-show with Richard Petty, Mike Harris, Lewis Franck.

[ more early next week . . . ]

Sunday, November 08, 2009

1-2-3 CREDIBILITY

Since last week's TV-people-in-costumes comment here drew comment from some (not all) who have no education or experience in JOURNALISM, I'll make three basic, fundamental points, and that's going to be the end of it:

1. Despite up-tick TV numbers, the Camping World Truck Series is deeply troubled in terms of dollars. So, at Talladega, how many drivers who are in need of sponsorship or are trying to hang-on to sponsors, didn't get TV time because the announcers were busy being actors?

2. How many legitimate and important news stories went unreported because the announcers were busy in makeup, putting on their costumes, writing and rehearsing their lines, and acting out their parts?

3. Most importantly -- If there had been a tragedy -- and let me remind you, this was Talladega, where in the spring a car got into the fence and spectators were injured -- especially early in the race, just how would the announcers have had any credibility in reporting that news?

I'll answer that last one for you: They would have had zero credibility to report that news.


FAST LINES: For all of its mis-steps, let's take pity on the IRL and say they were unlucky. On the eve of the announcement of Izod as the new series sponsor, racing news was dominated by none other than Danica Patrick's reported impending deal with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the Nationwide Series. (At Texas Motor Speedway, Brian Vickers said he understood her motivation: "IndyCar, that series has been struggling a lot, especially ever since the split. It’s only getting worse right now.") Oh, and I couldn't help but notice the League's official announcement included wording like "agreement in principle," "plans to be revealed in the coming months," and "expected." Here's the new logo . . . Never in the history of motorsports has fifth place in points been more hyped than by Marty Reid in the Nationwide series. Yes, we know it's not much of a championship battle and that fifth gets that driver on the awards ceremony stage (because we've heard it so often), but, please, give it a rest . . . Twenty nine of the 60 newspapers that covered major league teams during the season on the road as well as at home didn't cover the World Series, according to longtime baseball writer Murray Chass. "I’m saddened by it," Chass quoted Commissioner Bud Selig. "I think newspaper coverage over the years has enabled us to succeed much more than a lot of people understand so for me this is a very, very unhappy development . . . Believe me, baseball will not be better off as a result.”


Here's a link to my Mark Martin feature in last Sunday's Arizona Republic (and, remember, Mark Armijo and I will have coverage all this week. Look for my Tuesday story on the automakers' continued involvement in NASCAR. (You might be surprised at some of the numbers.) Notebooks, Q&As and other stories Thursday-through-Monday from me. If you aren't in Arizona to buy the paper, check us out at http://azcentral.com/ .


http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2009/11/07/20091107spt-pirmartin.html

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

November 11 -- Robby Gordon. Panelists: Bill Fleischman, Jim Pedley. Plus, Dave (The King) Wilson.

November 18 -- NHRA Funny Car or Top Fuel champion. Panelists: Mark Armijo, John Sturbin.

[ Robby Gordon news nugget Thursday . . . ]

Thursday, November 05, 2009

CAMARO DIDN'T 'FIT' NASCAR

GM racing manager Mark Kent was the Newsmaker guest on Wednesday night's The Race Reporters show on Power Up Channel. Bob Pockrass and Dave Argabright were the media panelists and then World of Outlaws champion and current points leader Donny Schatz joined us. Schatz revealed he's been battling an ear infection leading up to this weekend's Outlaws' finale in Charlotte. (!)

Since Ford is going to use the Mustang as its new Nationwide Series entry, and Dodge the Challenger, I asked Kent if GM considered running the Camaro:

"We looked really hard at the Camaro. NASCAR came to us and did express the desire to try to get the Mustang and get the Camaro. We looked at it, but, at the end of the day, if you take the iconic lines of a Camaro or a Corvette, we couldn't get it to fit into the templates in a way that it maintained the iconic lines and met our requirements. So, we elected not to force the Camaro into where we felt it did not belong, in Nationwide, and instead race the Camaro in other series where it can maintain more of a production shape"

Listen to the entire show using this link:
http://www.modavox.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=42227

A reminder that, along with Mark Armijo, I'll be covering NASCAR-in-Phoenix next week for the Arizona Republic. Check out this Sunday's paper for my long feature on Mark Martin. And, next Tuesday's paper, for my long story on how the automakers are able to justify their continued financial involvement in NASCAR. You might be surprised at some of the numbers . . . If you don't live in Arizona, you can read our stories on http://azcentral.com/


Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

November 11 -- Robby Gordon. Panelists: Bill Fleischman, Jim Pedley. Plus, Dave (The King) Wilson.

November 18 -- NHRA Funny Car or Top Fuel champion. Panelists: Mark Armijo, John Sturbin.

[ more early next week . . . ]

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A DRAG RACING WEEKEND

I was at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend for NHRA's Full Throttle series Countdown semifinal. In, what to me is the endlessly fascinating Funny Car class, Ashley Force Hood's go-or-go-home Saturday night qualifying pass set up what one writer described as "the weight-of-the-world on one race."

Force Hood, whose Ford Mustang has probably been the most consistent car all season with five No. 1 quals, struggled to 14th in the field. As Bob Frey immediately informed the spectators via the PA, that matched her up against teammate and brother-in-law Robert Hight in Sunday's FIRST round. Since they came into the event 1-2 in points, well . . . it gave ESPN2 real "Reality TV."

"It’s not what you’d expect," Hight said when he and Ashley visited the media center. "You’d expect them to qualify well, just like our car, and for us to meet up in the semis or later. That’s what we’ve been doing . . . There’s probably not going to be a lot of sleep tonight."

Said Force Hood: "If Robert wins, I want him to win the race. We want one of us to win the championship."

The left lane -- Ashley's -- wasn't the place to be. A little before noon, Hight powered to a 4.114 second, 309.06 mph win over Hood's 4.338, 283.37 mph even though Ashley cut a little better light.

Somewhere, Danica Patrick was smiling. (!)

And, probably, the ESPN2 people, too. Because, a few minutes later, John Force beat Cruz Pedregon and, again as Frey alerted us, that meant John vs. Robert in the second round. Remember Indy?

Top Fuel went first, with Don Schumacher Racing teammates Tony Schumacher and Cory McClenathan racing. Cory won from the left lane. DSR guys Jack Beckman and No. 1 qualifier Matt Hagan ran, with Fast Jack the winner. After a couple of others won from the left side, John smoked the tires and went over the center line for a DQ. When Del Worsham beat Tony Pedregon to dash his title hopes, Tony took to the PA to note that DSR allowed its drivers to compete heads-up. "If you look at my financial statement, I shouldn't even be here," said Pedregon.

All four classes go to Pomona in two weeks to finalize the titles. Hight beat Beckman and leads Hood by 105 points. Schumacher is plus one on Dixon, who lost to Spencer Massey.

Great quotes from the NHRA weekend:

Antron Brown, on Don Schumacher Racing buying the assets of his Top Fuel team, Brown's fourth ownership change in about a year: "It feels great to be wanted."

Larry Dixon, explaining he meets fans from Australia, Hawaii, Japan and other places in Las Vegas: "You don't get that at Richmond."

Alan Reinhart, after Force Hood said she didn't know how father John had handled racing's stresses all these years: "Have you looked at him? It shows."


Those who appeared on-air in costume last weekend lost credibility and gave away the honored title of journalist. I now consider them to be actors who dress-up and play a part. They should now be disqualified from membership in any professional journalists' organization.


The American Media, October 31, 2009: On MSNBC, a professional Democratic strategist was allowed to be moderator of a panel discussion with political journalists.

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

November 4 -- Mark Kent (GM Racing manager). Panelists: Bob Pockrass, Dave Argabright. Plus, World of Outlaws championship leader Donny Schatz.

November 11 -- Robby Gordon. Panelists: Bill Fleischman, Jim Pedley. Plus, Dave (The King) Wilson.

November 18 -- NHRA Funny Car or Top Fuel champion. Panelists: Mark Armijo, John Sturbin.

[ Mark Kent news nugget Thursday . . . ]

Friday, October 30, 2009

AJA SHOW AUDIO LINK

AJ Allmendinger was the Newsmaker guest on Wednesday night's The Race Reporters show on Power Up Channel. The open-wheel-winner-turned-NASCAR-racer drives for Richard Petty and finished third in the Daytona 500. Dave Kallmann and Lewis Franck were media roundtable guests plus Paul Page previewed the final two NHRA events.

Listen to the entire show using this link:

http://www.modavox.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=42053



Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

November 4 -- Mark Kent (GM Racing manager). Panelists: Bob Pockrass, Dave Argabright. Plus, World of Outlaws championship leader Donny Schatz.

November 11 -- Robby Gordon. Panelists: Bill Fleischman, Jim Pedley. Plus, Dave (The King) Wilson.

November 18 -- NHRA Funny Car or Top Fuel champion. Panelists: Mark Armijo, John Sturbin.

[ more early next week . . . ]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A PR LINE CROSSED

Warning: This blog is not a White House-approved news outlet.

ANYONE with ANY interest in the media, or ANY involvement in PR, should be following the White House's attack on Fox News Channel with great and careful interest.

I've done my share of "aggressive" PR over the years so I understand what the deal is here. But, I'll also say, this is one of the dumbest things I've ever seen --and it's as sure to backfire as a '68 Buick.

To try to take down an opponent by attempting to undercut his/her/its legitimacy and credibility is nothing new. I admit: I've done it myself. To try to slap a tag on Fox News as not being a "real" news-gathering organization, however, crosses a line that's as wide as the front straight at Pocono. EVERY other news outlet, and journalist, should be offended. And say so.

Of course, those designations are no longer clear-cut. These days, when the choice is between defending a Constitutionally-protected profession or a cable food fight, well, the children outnumber the adults.

I'm not especially a Hannity fan and don't always agree with O'Reilly. (At least he allows guests who disagree with him, as opposed to the Hater-In-Chief, who accepts only members of his Hallelujah Chorus.) But, come on now, please, are we to swallow that MSNBC IS a legit news organization? The one that features the Hater-In-Chief (who actually called someone else "nuts" the other night) and the Ego-for-the-Ages? And any objective scrutiny will reveal the liberal bias of, let's use Andrea Mitchell as our example, which is well displayed on cable, does carry over into the laughably titled "straight" news on NBC. Which is presided over by Brian Williams, who masks his bias by saying he's a NASCAR fan. Not long after a week-long, networks-wide series promoting the benefits of Green (parent company GE stands to make billion$ off of these government programs), last week, they did it again, promoting an agenda under the guise of women's role in our society. As part of its so-called "reporting," not-ready-for-cable-access White House reporter Savannah Guthrie embarrassed herself yet again in interviewing the president.

CNN is legit? Here's a network which fact-checked a semi-critical Saturday Night Live skit on President Obama, but couldn't be troubled to verify a false quote attributed to Rush Limbaugh. The centerpiece of Campbell Brown's nightly train-wreck is called the "Mash-Up." That's inspiring.

The White House attack is the design of the Chicago street-fighter chief-of-staff, a communications director who said in a speech she admires Mao, and a press secretary constantly spinning his mental wheels.

Where's the outrage among the supposed professional journalism organizations? (A little credit, when Fox was banned from a standard "pool" interview last week, others did resist.)

Here's what this REALLY is about: For decades, the anchors and executive producers of the Big Three network news divisions would take their news cue off of what was on Page One of the New York Times. But, recently, FNC has been breaking stories too powerful to keep out of the public consciousness -- and the White House wants to stop others from following the FNC lead.

And, respectfully, Mr. Obama best remember this: He was elected to be president of all the American people. He's acting like he's refusing to be president of the Fox audience.

Anyway -- watch closely what's happening in Washington and learn -- the way it should NEVER be done. How petty -- and stupid. (!)


FAST LINES: As a baseball fan (and former member of the Baseball Writers Association) I have to say TBS' Chip Caray was as bad in the booth as the umpires on the field during the playoffs. I hate it that ESPN is out of playoffs coverage. And, Fox, please lock Darrell Waltrip in a room to watch Tim McCarver tapes so he can learn how expert analysis is supposed to be done . . . In case you haven't noticed, NASCAR's favorite, USA Today, has been reducing its coverage. In general, somewhat shorter stories, with less-prominent placement. And, some days, nothing . . . MSNBC airhead Contessa Brewer last week read an introduction to Al Sharpton but got this response -- "I'm the Rev. Jesse Jackson." Brewer -- "The script in front of me said Al Sharpton." I remember watching when a NASA administrator upbraided Brewer for her brainless questions. As a PR rep, I would turn-down any interview request from Brewer or her producers out of respect for my client . . . If Bob Griese really knew his NASCAR, he would have said Juan Pablo Montoya was out eating one of Martinsville Speedway's famous Jesse Jones hot dogs . . . The Arizona Motorsports Hall of Fame has officially taken that honor back from Mel Martin, who sold Manzanita Speedway. This was a mistake. Future HoF candidates might wonder if they should accept as now Pandora's Box has been opened and they could face the embarrassment of having the honor taken away . . . I'll be NHRAing this weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.


Here's the best column of the year, no surprise, from Ed Hinton on ESPN.com:
http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/nascar/cup/columns/story?columnist=hinton_ed&id=4584736


The American Media, October 18, 2009: Rob D'Amico, Fox and SPEED radio host, guesting on Wind Tunnel, regarding NASCAR's post-race inspections of the No. 48 and other cars. "They're all cheating." Of course, NO FACTS were offered to back-up this superficial-yet-inflammatory remark. Where are the network standards? Where is the accountability?


Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

October 28 -- A.J. Allmendinger. Panelists: Dave Kallmann, Lewis Franck. Plus, Paul Page.

November 4 -- Mark Kent (GM Racing manager). Panelists: Bob Pockrass, Dave Argabright. Plus, World of Outlaws championship leader Donny Schatz.

November 11 -- Robby Gordon. Panelists: Bill Fleischman, Jim Pedley. Plus, Dave (The King) Wilson.

November 18 -- NHRA Funny Car or Top Fuel champion. Panelists: Mark Armijo, John Sturbin.

[ A.J. Allmendinger news nugget Thursday . . . ]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

ANGELLE ANTRON'S NEW TEAMMATE?

TEAMMATES AGAIN?: Angelle Sampey (left) and Antron Brown. (Photo courtesy LesWelch.com).

Antron Brown, with five NHRA Top Fuel wins this season, was the Newsmaker guest on The Race Reporters Wednesday night on PowerUpChannel.com. He's fourth in the Full Throttle points with two chances left in the Matco Tools dragster. Bobby Bennett, Corinne Economaki and Larry Henry joined me for the journalists' roundtable.

Angelle Sampey, the three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, has made no secret she'd like to get into a nitro car and Brown might have hinted to us what the future will bring.

"We're helping her here at MAR (Mike Ashley Racing) and I'm helping her, as a family member. Of course, my wife's her cousin. It could do nothing but positive things for our sport, because when she rode a Pro Stock Bike, I think she was one of the top three out of the whole NHRA community, she's one of the top three drivers in the sport. To have her in one of the premier classes could only help our sport grow. I think there's some pretty serious stuff on the table right now. If everything goes well, it could be a really good addition to MAR . . . we've been working hard and she's been working hard. If this deal happens, it's going to be something that will be awesome for our whole sport."

Listen to the entire show using this link:
http://www.modavox.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=41913

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

October 28 -- A.J. Allmendinger. Panelists: Dave Kallmann, Lewis Franck. Plus, Paul Page.

November 4 -- Mark Kent (GM Racing manager). Panelists: Bob Pockrass, Dave Argabright. Plus, Dave (The King) Wilson.

[ more early next week . . . ]

Sunday, October 18, 2009

RUSH-ing OUT the WELCOME MAT

Life and business are about taking advantage of opportunities. Some NASCAR Sprint Cup team owners missed a big one last week.

Here's what I would have done, if I owned a team and needed an investment partner: I would have called Rush Limbaugh.

The conversative radio talk show host (let me admit, I've been an avid Rush listener since October 1988 -- and that doesn't mean I always agree with him) got railroaded by political correctness and flat-out lazy reporting/commentary and was dropped by a group trying to buy the NFL's St. Louis Rams. Limbaugh says he's not going to sue, but I would have immediately filed against every one of those talking heads who inaccurately repeated unsourced (and, to the best of my knowledge), false quotes attributed to Rush.

Here's a true fact: Very -- and I mean VERY -- few of the media talkers and political activists who teed-off on Limbaugh could withstand similar scrutiny of their personal and professional lives.

And, let me add, the almighty NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, came out of this looking as bad as, well, CNN's Rick Sanchez and MSNBC's David Shuster -- ego heavyweights/journalistic lightweights -- to name two. (Goodell's wife is Fox News anchor Jane Skinner and I wouldn't be surprised if her ratings take a short-term hit.)

The most enormous hypocrisy is Goodell and the media elites see no problem in NBC's Hater-In-Chief spewing tons of lunacy and divisiveness five nights a week on cable, but he's just fine for Sunday Night Football.

Anyway, if the NFL doesn't want Limbaugh, some Cup team owner should. (Please, don't even try to tell me Rush's controversial nature means he doesn't measure-up to the standards of some other owners. Check the record.)

I well remember Limbaugh's comments about Dale Earnhardt the day after The Intimidator died at Daytona. Rush admitted he hadn't met Dale, but was laser-on in explaining why Earnhardt had connected so powerfully with the American sports public. And, why, his passing triggered such an outpouring of grief.

If you doubt Rush would be enthusiastically welcomed by NASCAR fans, let's put it to a test: At Daytona, or Talladega, or Bristol, or Darlington, introduce four celebrities on the pre-race stage and let's see who gets the loudest ovation -- David Letterman and Brian Williams . . . or Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh.

I guarantee you, the liberal comic and liberal newsman won't accept the challenge. Their egos couldn't handle the embarrassment.

FAST LINES: Per last week's posting, suggesting racing Town Hall meetings, New Hampshire Motor Speedway communications director Fred Neergaard informs me Bruton Smith and Jerry Gappens, often joined by Marcus Smith, have held such gatherings with pre-race pit pass holders at both Sprint Cup events last year and this season. "The feedback that we get from the fans at these meetings is extremely important!!!," writes Neergaard . . . To begin Brickyard 400 ticket sales and start a fan contest to win a trip to the Sprint Cup awards ceremony in Las Vegas, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had Elvis impersonator/Indiana State Rep. Bruce Borders perform in the lobby of its administration building. Sad, what that tells us about IMS these days, and politicians . . . I thought David Pearson (to Richard Petty what Jack Nicklaus was to Arnold Palmer) would make the NASCAR Hall of Fame's first class and Bill France Jr. would lead the second group. Here's what I learned watching NASCAR Race Hub last week -- Rick Allen should not have had a NASCAR Hall of Fame vote. Too inexperienced to make such an important decision, one based largely on a strong historical knowledge of the sport. There were two other media judges picked on the basis of their title or media affiliation, not their personal knowledge of (or, in one case, interest in) the sport. I guess I should be glad Digger wasn't a voter . . . I'll say this for the second consecutive year -- It's ridiculous Formula One doesn't make the new world champion available on its world-feed video.

The American Media, October 10, 2009: Ex-ESPNer Stephen A. Smith appears on CNN -- to talk about health-care reform.

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

October 21 -- Antron Brown. Panelists: Larry Henry, Bobby Bennett, Corinne Economaki.

October 28 -- A.J. Allmendinger. Panelists: Dave Kallmann, Lewis Franck. Plus, Paul Page.

November 4 -- Mark Kent (GM Racing manager). Panelists: Bob Pockrass, Dave Argabright. Plus, Dave (The King) Wilson.

[ Anton Brown news nuggest Thursday . . . ]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

SPERBER ON INDUSTRY COOPERATION

Bryan Sperber, president of Phoenix International Raceway, was my Newsmaker guest on Wednesday night's The Race Reporters show on Power Up Channel. PIR hosts the Sprint Cup Chase semifinal, the Nov. 15 Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500k, plus USAC on Thursday night, Nov. 12; Camping World Trucks on Friday night, Nov. 13; and the Nationwide Series on Saturday, Nov. 14. Terry Blount, of ESPN.com; and Ron Lemasters Jr., of National Speed Sport News, came on for the journalists' roundtable and joined in questioning Sperber.

I asked Sperber about increased cooperation among track operators, drivers, teams and sponsors to out-reach to fans in this current economic environment:

"All of them, the tone of the conversation is, what can we do to help? I like to think that we also, on the track side, exhibit that same level of cooperation. We are able, as a sport, now to work together in ways that we didn't do years ago. The fans are going to benefit from that. The fans will be able to see this level of cooperation in our race weekend, as we did in April, we're going to have drivers and other personalities give of their time to do fan forums in our midway . . . I don't know that we could ever have pulled something like that off a few years ago."


Listen to the entire show using this link:
http://www.modavox.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=41714


Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

October 21 -- Antron Brown. Panelists: Larry Henry, Bobby Bennett, Corinne Economaki.

October 28 -- A.J. Allmendinger. Panelists: Dave Kallmann, Lewis Franck. Plus, Paul Page.

November 4 -- Mark Kent (GM Racing manager). Panelists: Bob Pockrass, TBA. Plus, Dave (The King) Wilson.

[ more early next week . . . ]

Sunday, October 11, 2009

TIME FOR RACING TOWN HALLS

Last week's announcement, via media teleconference, that NASCAR and its TV partners have agreed to earlier and more uniform starting times for 2010 Sprint Cup races was a welcome sign that the Powers-That-Be are listening to "real fans" -- as well as reading the ratings. (The memory of last February's rain-shortened season-starting-dud of a Daytona "500" remains strong after the Fox-mandated, ticket-buying public insulting, 3:42 p.m. EST green flag.)

NASCAR's release included this: "In making the decision . . . NASCAR consulted its Fan Council, comprised of 12,000 avid fans who serve as a sounding board on important topics."

Good. Now it's time to take the next step.

In August, the hottest action was not found on any NASCAR, NHRA or IRL track. It was in countless political Town Hall meetings, as American citizens exercised their Constitutional right to assemble and be heard by their so-called "representatives" in Washington, D.C. (Except in places like where I am, Scottsdale, Ariz., where our Democrat Congressman Harry Mitchell was afraid to come out in public and only connected with voters via a teleconference.)

I say NASCAR, as well as IRL and NHRA, should have their own Town Halls -- with "real fans" -- before the year is over.

NASCAR should have two -- Texas and Homestead make sense from a logistical and geographic standpoint. I bet SPEED would provide its stage for Brian France, Mike Helton and Jim Hunter. Some car owners, drivers and sponsor reps also should participate. NHRA could do this at Pomona before its Full Throttle finale, and ESPN2 has the platform for its pre-race show to offer Tom Compton, Graham Light and Jerry Archambeault. Whatever IndyCar Series fans who might still be out there could be invited to the Brickyard Crossing in the next few weeks to interact with whoever will, by then, be running the show at the League and the Speedway. I realize it might be tough to get top-name drivers to attend, since an American has not won a series race since Ryan Hunter-Reay at Watkins Glen -- in July of LAST year.

Such Town Halls would make good business sense and certainly would be a PR hit with those who actually spend money on tickets, concessions and souvenirs. I'm sure they would generate a nice slice of positive media coverage, too.

The only two unknowns are: 1) Who will man-up to the challenge? 2) Who will make excuses not to hear from the customers?


In a year of weak-tea pit reporting being passed-off as bourbon, add Chris Neville's interview with Roger Penske during Saturday's Grand-Am finale at Homestead. Twice, while talking to Penske, SPEED's Neville said he "hoped" Roger's Rolex Series team would return in 2010. Hey, Chris, why didn't you ASK Roger -- yes or no -- if he was coming back? (!) Fans deserve better, and it's long-past time for the sanctioning organizations to demand it from their TV "partners."


Interview request: I would dearly love to talk with the Pepsi person responsible for making successful the sponsorship of last weekend's Pepsi 500 at Auto Club (California) Speedway. As part of the track's new policy to charge journalists for media-center meals (and, I say again, providing food is a courtesy, not an obligation), the options available to non-payers were the coffee pot and bottled water. PR Kindergarten should have taught someone, anyone, that comp Pepsi for reporters covering the Pepsi 500 was so obvious as to not even need to be mentioned. I'd call this dumb, but I don't want to insult dumb people . . . That sound I heard Sunday wasn't engines revving, but PR giants like Jim Chapman, Jack Duffy, Bill Dredge and Dick Ralstin -- who understood real PR centered around developing good one-on-one relationships with journos -- calling down from heaven, "Don't do it!"


Here's a link to my new "All Business" column in the October Drag Racing Online.com:
http://dragracingonline.com/columns/knight/xi_10-1.html



Gil de Ferran did his second retirement the same way as his first. Saturday, at Laguna Seca, he started on pole and won the ALMS finale in his self-owned Acura. In 2003, that's how Gil wrapped his IndyCar career -- pole and win at Texas Motor Speedway. It doesn't matter if you're a NASCAR or NHRA fan, you should listen to the smart things Mr. Gil said on The Race Reporters last week. Here's the show link:
http://www.modavox.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=41510


The American Media, October 7, 2009: Today -- produced by NBC's NEWS division, had its "journalists" dress-up in 1970s style. Why? To mark the 35th anniversary of People magazine.

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

October 14 -- Bryan Sperber (president, Phoenix International Raceway). Panelists: Terry Blount, Ron Lemasters Jr.

October 21 -- Antron Brown. Panelists: Larry Henry, Bobby Bennett, Corinne Economaki.

October 28 -- A.J. Allmendinger. Panelists: Dave Kallmann, Lewis Franck. Plus, Paul Page.

November 4 -- Mark Kent (GM Racing manager). Panelists: Bob Pockrass, Greg Zyla. Plus, Dave (The King) Wilson.

[ Bryan Sperber news nugget Thursday . . . ]

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

WHAT 'THE MOST INTERESTING MAN' HAD TO SAY

In one of the best The Race Reporters shows yet, Gil de Ferran was the Newsmaker guest Wednesday night on Power Up Channel. Gil is retiring -- for the second time -- after Saturday's ALMS season finale at Laguna Seca to focus on team ownership. Ten years ago, I wrote a column calling Gil "The Most Interesting Man in Motorsports," and he proved it again on my show.

We had a great journalists' roundtable with Mike Harris and Gordon Kirby, who stayed on to help interview Gil. Actually, what we had was a good conversation. Among the questions Gil answered: Having gone through retirement once before, will it be easier for him to deal with his emotions at Laguna? What's more fun, driving an Indy Car or ALMS Acura? What's the status of his team for 2010? What was the difference in driving for Jackie Stewart vs. Jim Hall? Does he regret not driving in Formula One? What should the next generation of Indy Cars be like? (Hint: GREAT answer and I agree with Gil completely on this!)

In a question you couldn't put to a lot of people, I asked Gil, as a team owner in an American series, is his responsibility to hire the best available driver for his team and sponsors, or, perhaps, to help build the series by taking on a qualified American?

"I think my greater responsibility is always to put the best available driver behind the wheel. As a team owner, I've always thought that way. Even in the sports car program, we always felt that way. I have to say, as a driver, and not American born, I actually benefitted from that attitude from several team owners and two American team owners. One was Jim Hall and the other was Roger Penske. My opinion is a simple one: I think there are some very good, very talented, American drivers. In fact, some very good ones currently racing in Indy Cars. The one who particularly comes to mind is Graham Rahal, who is extremely young, and extremely talented. He's already getting some great results. I think the reason you don't see more American drivers coming to prominence is a simple one. It has to do with the success of NASCAR, and the draw NASCAR has in the younger generation. From an early age, many of the drivers who would have the potential to be successful in Indy Car racing, takes to a different branch of the sport and grows toward finding a ride in NASCAR. Hopefully, if Indy Car regains its rightful place in the world of motorsports, that will change."

Listen to the entire show using this link:
http://www.blogger.com/www.modavox.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=41510

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

October 14 -- Bryan Sperber (president, Phoenix International Raceway). Panelists: Terry Blount, Ron Lemasters Jr.

October 21 -- Antron Brown. Panelists: Larry Henry, Bobby Bennett, Corinne Economaki.

October 28 -- A.J. Allmendinger. Panelists: Dave Kallmann, Lewis Franck. Plus, Paul Page.

[ more early next week . . . ]

Sunday, October 04, 2009

GIL GUESTS 3 DAYS BEFORE GOODBYE

I will consider it a great pleasure to welcome Gil de Ferran (left, photo courtesy of Dan R. Boyd) to The Race Reporters on Wednesday, 7 p.m., on the Power Up Channel. (Click on show logo in right-hand column to listen.)

I had the joy of working with Mr. Gil for two years in CART. He's one of the smartest -- and nicest -- people I've ever met. Ten years ago, I wrote a column calling him "The Most Interesting Man in Motorsports." It was true then, when we talked about issues ranging from world affairs to U.S. politics to gun control to movies to TV production and ratings. And, it's true now, as he prepares to retire from driving for the second time.

I'll let you in on a secret: Even when he captured consecutive CART championships in 1997 and 1998, Alex Zanardi thought de Ferran was Honda's true favorite son.

After winning two PPG Cups and the 2003 Indianapolis 500, and increasingly concerned about the IRL's pack racing format, de Ferran retired. The record shows that, at that last event, at Texas Motor Speedway, he took the pole and race victory. A brief stint as an ABC/ESPN commentator followed but then Honda offered the opportunity to Gil to be sporting director of its Formula One team. One of Gil's key hires was Rubens Barrichello, now contending for the world championship for Ross Brawn, who took over the Honda team this season.

He returned last year as owner-driver to help develop Acura's ALMS P1 class car. With four wins this season, he has an outside shot at the championship in Saturday's finale at Laguna Seca. Since I passionately believe that, once a driver retires, he should never get back in a car, I'll be happy when the checkered flag waves. I'm hoping the story will end the same way it did at Texas six years ago.

Mike Harris and Gordon Kirby, who have covered all of Gil's career in America, will join me for the journalists' roundtable. They'll stay on as we talk with Gil in two segments in the show's second half-hour.


Let me say this once again: Hiding behind an E-mail is no substitute for the personal communication of a telephone call. Especially when it comes to media relations.

I'm not going to get into specifics, but I had two bad experiences last week. In one, the response to a long-scheduled but botched interview was a weak E from an experienced publicist. Only when I called him out on that did I get a phone call. In the other case, a lesser experienced person admitted to a bad bit of mis-scheduling, but at least she called right away when she realized the problem. It was a major hassle, took a lot of effort, but we worked out a solution.


To showbiz and society publicists, getting on the New York Post's Page Six is like going to Mecca. How to do that? Some tips that apply elsewhere, too:
http://http//www.mediabistro.com/prnewser/pitches/how_to_plant_an_item_in_page_six_136581.asp


Mike Kerchner, National Speed Sport News senior editor, commented on the Juan Pablo Montoya satellite TV fiasco on TRR. I give the last word to what was in Chris Economaki's notebook last week (and I agree):

"Drivers tend to stick around when television is involved. Montoya didn’t. But when it comes to print media, it is common for drivers — and their public relations representatives — not to show up, to be late and to not return phone calls."


The American Media: September 23, 2009: The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner headline caption with a photo of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's speech in Hong Kong -- "A Broad in Asia." (The paper printed an apology.)

The American Media, October 2, 2009: The NBC/MSNBC and CNN coverage of Chicago's failed bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. It represented cheerleading at its worst and lazily not bothering to educate themselves about the byzantine machinations of International Olympic Committee politics. Just a couple of hours before the IOC eliminated Chicago on the first ballot, Natalie Morales said on MSNBC from Copenhagen, "It's Chicago's to lose." She added, "It's Chicago's time" and rattled on about President Obama's "rock star" appearance at the IOC meeting and how IOC members "rushed" to meet Obama. (Based on media reports, I thought the world loved U.S. now that George W. Bush is out of office and Obama is in.) A perfect example of why all the surveys show the public's greatly diminished confidence and trust in what the media reports.

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

October 14 -- Bryan Sperber (president, Phoenix International Raceway). Panelists: Terry Blount, Ron Lemasters Jr.

October 21 -- Antron Brown. Panelists: Larry Henry, Bobby Bennett, Corinne Economaki.

October 28 -- A.J. Allmendinger. Panelists: Dave Kallmann, Lewis Franck. Plus, Paul Page.

[ Gil de Ferran news nugget Thursday . . . ]