• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Monday, July 13, 2009

JUST A FEW THINGS . . .

* TNT and ABC concluded their Sprint Cup and IndyCar seasons, respectively -- and it showed. It's obvious to me NASCAR made a mistake in carving out the Six Week Summer Snooze Series. The most noteworthy thing was the network's cover-up of the reason it parked its lead announcer. Of course, corporate cousin CNN would flash its "journalism" credentials if anyone else tried that. Credibility? Meanwhile, ABC offered-up a classic mail-it-in show from Toronto. It's probably too polite to even call what was thrown out there by the pit-road microphone holders "questions." Instantly obvious incidents involving Will Power and Mike Conway somehow escaped the notice of Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear, who had to wait for replays to figure out which end was up.

* Conventional wisdom is one reason NASCAR's Sprint Cup TV ratings are down is Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s lack of success. NHRA's numbers on ESPN2 are .2 lower year-to-date, as of the Ohio race. Following the CW, is that because John Force hasn't won?

* Tony Eury Jr. faced the press at Chicagoland for the first time since being replaced as Junior's crew chief. Basically, he blamed the media for putting too much pressure on Junior. Where have I heard that one before? Now, I agree there's been too much hype put on Dale, especially since his father's death, and certainly after he moved to Hendrick Motorsports. But . . . Dale Jr. and Tony Jr. accepted that as part of the deal and especially moving into a higher-profile situation with Hendrick and new sponsors. To the best of my observation, no reporter failed to secure a lug nut, consulted on chassis setup, or blocked Junior from getting into his pit cleanly.

* Dale, meanwhile, made a PR visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before heading to Chicagoland. His generally worded, polite, comment that he'd be interested in driving an Indy Car someday was enough to set-off some reporters and chatroomers. I am sure Rick Hendrick isn't the only one wishing Junior would just focus on the task at hand.

* Tony George finally got around to issuing his Internet statement on his ouster as Hulman & Co. CEO. PR hint: It took TOO long. As someone who has crafted a few of these kind of statements myself, my eye naturally went right to the spin. That's OK. Potentially, the most interesting and newsworthy sentences were that Tony will propose a restructuring of the family's Board of Directors. If anything meaningful comes out of that, it will be a legit story.

* There's another way to look at Tony's statement: Some within the industry could worry that a potential change of the IMS Board structure represents more management instability.

* Someone PLEASE explain to me how it's possible to interview Roger Penske and NOT ask him about the IMS and IRL management instability created by the Hulman-George family rift, and if he'd be interested in buying the Speedway, the League, or both.

* Toronto had the network TV spotlight on what once was one of the biggest races of the CART season in a major, great city. Now, in the midst of a PR -- and tourism damaging -- trash workers strike. I was watching to see if any of the drivers copied what a few U.S. Olympians did last year in China -- wear masks. Of course, Marty Reid said it was "beautiful." How did it smell, Marty?

* Yes, they did it again. Lightly-sponsored Dale Coyne Racing finally makes it to the winner's circle, with Justin Wilson at Watkins Glen, and the IRL allows Coyne's sponsor ID to be covered-up with a wreath. When will they ever learn?

* Why didn't CNBC's NASCAR special reveal that Kevin Costner, who was interviewed, is an official NASCAR Foundation spokesman?

* Who was the worst media offender in the absurb coverage of the grotesque Michael Jackson memorial? That's easy: Katie Couric.
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Unfortunately, another round of economy-related layoffs -- part of parent company Gannett's restructuring -- hit the Arizona Republic last week. About 100 jobs were lost, including 20 in the newsroom. Included was Dave Lumia, the editor who took interest in, assigned and coordinated the motorsports coverage.
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Scott Atherton, president of the American Le Mans Series and Panoz Motor Sports Group (which includes Sebring, Mosport and Road Atlanta) will be the Newsmaker guest on my Wednesday night (7 p.m. EDT) The Race Reporters radio show on PowerUpChannel.com. I first met Scott in the mid-1980s when he was working on Domino's Pizza's sponsorship of Al Unser Jr. We'll address the issues relating to U.S. sports car racing and why Scott has basically bet the ALMS' house on "green" racing.

Media panelists will be: Larry Edsall, editor of iZoom.com; broadcaster/announcer Greg Creamer; and Jonathan Ingram, of RacinToday.com.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]