• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Monday, March 16, 2009

SHORT CHANGED

When I got tipped-off last Thursday morning that legendary Manzanita Speedway was being sold and racing would end -- the official announcement came today -- I was disappointed but not surprised.

Reports on the demise of the Phoenix dirt track, where the green flag waved for the first time on August 25, 1951, have been around for several years. I was at Manzy last summer for a night of local competition, when Jim McGee was inducted into Arizona racing's Hall of Fame, and the crowd wasn't at 50 percent capacity. I returned last month for USAC's Silver Crown, sprint and midget tripleheader. Looking up at the grandstands from the pits before the heats began, I'd say they were 60-70 percent full. Doesn't sound too bad in these tough times, but certainly not good enough for a national show like USAC or the World of Outlaws.

Manzanita, for those who don't know, is where people like Foyt and Andretti and Bettenhausen raced on their way to fame. Sometimes, it was tough to tell what was more rough: the competition, track, or neighborhood.

Manzy's passing into history for the sake of property value is not just a sentimental moment for people like me. It's another head slap to the Business of Racing in Arizona. Other than local stars who developed there, like Yeley and Boat, at least three times a year national motorsports media attention was focused on the Valley when USAC and the Outlaws visited. I have no doubt there will be people who cite the end of Manzy as an indication enthusiasm for the sport is diminishing in this state. And, I'm sure, there are a few around here rubbing their hands -- figuring one less competitor for the racing entertainment dollar adds to their own power base.

So, let's everyone be clear about this: It is NOT a positive for racing in Arizona, from a fan or industry standpoint, to be viewed as limited to two NASCAR and one NHRA shows per 12 months.

While it will be very difficult in the current environment, there IS an opportunity for another short-track promoter to step-up and try to fill the void.

To me, the most important question now is: Who -- if anyone -- will that be? There's at least some optimistic talk about a new dirt track in the Valley, possibly even continuing the Manzy name.

Meanwhile, I'm glad that the Outlaws' March 28 event will go on. I'll be there to see Kinser, Swindell, Schatz and Co. take on Manzy one more time. Manzanita's final checkered flag is scheduled for Saturday night, April 11.
********************************************************************
I made the following comment at last January's AARWBA All-America Team ceremony: One of the most insidious trends in modern motorsports is driver BUSINESS managers being allowed to make MEDIA decisions. Where does it say just because somebody knows how to write a contract they also know how to write a proper press release?

I was reminded of this again last week. I received a release touting that Borja Garcia will race in this season's Atlantic series. To quote from this offering, "In a move masterminded by his management company, CJ Motorsport Consulting, the talented Spaniard . . ."

A self-congratulatory quote from a rep of the consulting company followed.

If these people knew anything about publicity or news, they'd know the idea is to promote the driver. Not his manager."Masterminded?" This is a perfect example why many journalists don't want to deal with managers or agents.
********************************************************************
This was lost during the Sprint Cup "off" weekend, but I noted a Jayski posting attributed to Fox. This was about the Atlanta ratings. I quote:

"One month into the season, NASCAR racing is being impacted by two disappointing trends on the track: lead changes per race are at an all-time low, while caution flags per race are near an all-time high. The season's first four points races have averaged just 14 lead changes per race. The same races a year ago averaged 30 lead changes."

As a follow-up to last week's posting, Sports Business News reported Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis defended spending on sports marketing.

"I was never inclined to pump big sums of money into sports marketing until I saw the facts and the numbers. In general terms, for every dollar we spend on sports marketing, we get $10 in revenue and $3 in earnings. This is not wasted money." ********************************************************************
Invented News: ESPN treated as "headline" and "breaking" news last weekend the drivel that one of its self-important "bracketologists" (it even sounds self-important) had changed his opinion on one of the four regional NCAA No. 1 seeds. Let's clearly understand this: ONE guy, who had no role in the actual selections, made a GUESS and ESPN acted like it was REAL, LEGITIMATE news. Oh, and by the way, he was wrong. This is what the media has become. I feel safe in saying this even though I never worked for the New York Times or Washington Post.
********************************************************************
It's no secret charitable giving is down. But the 28th annual CARA Charities' Fashion Show is scheduled for Thursday, May 21 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom. Money raised goes to Riley Children's Hospital and the Cody Unser First Step Foundation. More information from CARA Charities' executive director Cathie Lyon, 317-299-2277, or caraexdir@aol.com .
********************************************************************
First to 300. First to 30. Here's my new Drag Racing Online "All Business" column on Kenny Bernstein's 30th anniversary with Budweiser sponsorship. It was announced today Bud will conclude this sponsorship, as well as its NHRA relationship, after this season:
http://www.dragracingonline.com/columns/knight/xi_3-1.html

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]