• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

'BIG GO' IS BIG NEWS

Only members of Congress, at Town Hall meetings, have taken more heat lately than NHRA. There's been more controversy than John Force Racing wins. I'm not going to recount all of that now -- Jon Asher on CompetitionPlus.com and Susan Wade in National Speed Sport News, among others -- have done it well. I have my own angle on this and will deal with it later.

For now, let me remind you this is "Big Go" week -- the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals -- and management performance aside, this is worthy of your time and attention.

This is the third consecutive year I've called for attention to drag racing's most prestigious event, at O'Reilly Raceway Park, near Indianapolis. I think it's important because, from my observation, PR and marketing people engaged in other motorsports' series -- and, yes, journalists -- would do well to see for themselves. (Hint to those active in the IRL: It's an off-weekend. Get out to ORP and learn something.) The access fans have to drivers -- and, maybe more importantly, the drivers' happiness to interact with the public -- is the best I've experienced anywhere.

Reporters who don't know much about the straight-line sport but who seek nothing more than a good story, well, this is like going through an all-you-can-eat buffet. Great personalities, interested in telling their tales, and it's easy to get to them. It'll repeat what I've often said: NHRA is an under-reported motorsport, and deserves more respect from the non-drag racing media.

ESPN2 has six hours of coverage Labor Day Monday. I plan to watch it all, with special focus on the endlessly fascinating Funny Car class. Including my friend Jack Beckman, pictured above.
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FAST LINES: When will Speed TV senior production management insist on some standards? Just one week after Krista Voda's crude opening on Wind Tunnel (see last week's blog), Justin Bell said this on Sunday's ALMS-at-Mosport show: "I think I just peed myself." In what lowered the bar for the worst pit reporting anywhere this season (even making Robbie Floyd look OK), Bell's equally amateurish pit partner, Jamie Howe, blew the call on Gil de Ferran's pit stop. Even though Howe was standing on pit road, directly in front of de Ferran's car, she inaccurately reported that there was a driver change even though Gil got back in (he hadn't completed his minimum time behind the wheel.) Howe was looking right at it, just a few feet away, and still couldn't get it right! . . . What were they thinking? Starting an Indy Car race after 10 p.m. EDT (9 p.m. local) at Chicagoland. Ridiculous. And just what does it tell you about how severely the series' fan base has been eroded that the IRL president says the embarrassing ratings on Versus are what was expected? . . . Perception can = reality. Words mean things. Maybe this was just poorly phrased (I sure hope so), but I was concerned to read the following on Krista Voda's website (emphasis mine): "Recently, I attended the Iowa State Fair with Ron Hornaday and Ricky Carmichael. NASCAR sent us there to promote the September 5th truck series race at the Iowa Speedway." NASCAR "sent" a journalist somewhere to "promote" a race? . . . Going back to what I wrote following the U.S. Formula One team's unveiling on Speed, that network needs to stop breathing in the fumes of self-interest, and start asking more pointed, legitimate questions about this enterprise . . . As in years past, I encourage you to participate, if you are able, in the upcoming NASCAR blood drive for the Red Cross. I'll be at Phoenix International Raceway Sept. 10. Check with your local NASCAR track, or NASCAR.com/foundation, for details.

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:

September 2 -- Newsmaker: Joey Logano. Panelists: Mark Armijo, John Sturbin. Plus Mike Dunn to preview the U.S. Nationals.

September 9 -- Newsmaker: Scott Pruett. Panelists: John Oreovicz, Jeremy Shaw, Jim Pedley.

September 16 -- Newsmaker: Lee White. Panelists: Matt Yocum, Peter De Lorenzo.

September 23 -- Newsmaker: Jeg Coughlin Jr. Panelists: Alan Reinhart, Mike Kerchner, Jeff Burk.

[ Joey Logano news nugget Thursday . . . ]

Thursday, August 27, 2009

ASKING ASHLEY

Ashley Force Hood was Newsmaker of the Week for the second half-hour on last night's The Race Reporters show on PowerUp Channel. Holly Cain, Jeff Wolf and Bobby Bennett joined me in asking questions and for the journalists' roundtable.

We covered many topics with Ashley in advance of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Including what she experienced in a major engine explosion last weekend and what she's doing to improve her reaction-time skills. I asked Ashley if she was more pleased with five No. 1 qualifying runs and six final rounds, or more frustrated at only having one win:

"I'll take No. 1 qualifying spots and I'll take final rounds all season long, because that means we're going rounds. We're getting experience and we're gaining points. Of course, you always want to have a win, but it's the toughest thing in the world to have a win and then, in the next race, not qualify or not be able to go a round. When we get on a roll, like we were earlier this season, when we were going to semis and finals week-after-week, as much as we want to win, we do want the points . . . I can see a team getting frustrated by that, but we're not."

Listen to the entire show using this link:
http://www.modavox.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=40638

Upcoming show guests:

September 2 -- Newsmaker: Joey Logano. Panelists: Mark Armijo, John Sturbin. Plus Mike Dunn to preview the U.S. Nationals.

September 9 -- Newsmaker: Scott Pruett. Panelists: John Oreovicz, Jeremy Shaw, Jim Pedley.

September 16 -- Newsmaker: Lee White. Panelists: Matt Yocum, Peter De Lorenzo.

September 23 -- Newsmaker: Jeg Coughlin Jr. Panelists: Alan Reinhart, Mike Kerchner, Jeff Burk.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]

Monday, August 24, 2009

BIG SHOW

Chris Economaki, appearing on my The Race Reporters show, lamented the absence of "drum-beaters" in motorsports. So let me take his words to heart and say I'll have a BIG SHOW this Wednesday, 7 p.m. Eastern, when Ashley Force Hood (left) will be the Newsmaker interview subject for the second half-hour.

Depending on whose survey or metrics you use, Ashley is one of the five most popular drivers in the country. Better yet, she's a legitimate contender for NHRA's Full Throttle Funny Car championship. Ashley is third in points, with one win, six finals rounds, and five No. 1 qualifying runs, heading into the Labor Day weekend U.S. Nationals. Last weekend, at Maple Grove, Ashley went No. 1 but had a major engine explosion that meant she had to race a backup Ford Mustang. She won in the first round only to have the car DQ'd as underweight.

For my journalists' roundtable, and to join in interviewing Ashley, I have: Holly Cain, of AOL Online Sports and AOL Fanhouse; Jeff Wolf, of the Las Vegas Review-Journal; and Bobby Bennett, editor of CompetitionPlus.com.

Click on the show logo in the right-hand column to listen.
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FAST LINES: Need proof on the power of celebrity? Look no further than golf. The PGA Championship final round on CBS was up 150 percent in household ratings over the previous year, when Tiger Woods wasn't in the field. Meanwhile, the LPGA -- which recently bounced its Andrew Craigesque commissioner -- has fallen way off the media scope post-Annika Sorenstam, who was in the hunt to win in virtually every tournament she played . . . Can't let the Sprint Cup season go on without noting Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch's pro-active media relations efforts. Kurt comes to the media center for his NASCAR-required media avail, a move his team describes as "his effort in reaching out to the media rather than making them come to him at the team transporter" . . . Oh, my, how the bar has been lowered: Nicole Manske and Brad Daugherty chosen to interview the President of the United States. It wouldn't have been more gushy if the South Lawn sprinkler system pipes had burst. And, by the way, it would have been journalistically appropriate to have respectfully asked the president about appealing to the voting force known as "NASCAR Dads" . . . The death of political reporter-columnist Robert Novak deserves mention here, because Novak was one of -- if not the -- last of the true "shoe leather" journalists. In a half-century of covering the political scene, Novak was not one to sit at his desk, rewriting news handouts, or waiting for a newsmaker to come to him. He worked the telephone relentlessly, was up on Capitol Hill, traveled with the campaigns, and -- yes -- ate and drank with the decision-makers. As every writer wishes for, Novak was a "must read."


Even though her NASCAR assignments have shown she needs to sharpen her interviewing skills, one might have reasonably thought personable Krista Voda a good substitute host choice for vacationing Dave Despain last Sunday night on Wind Tunnel. One would have been wrong. What turned out to be the worst episode in WT history began with Voda introducing herself by saying -- and, NO, I am NOT making this up -- "I may not pee standing up" but had less hot air. What was she thinking? What did that crude remark accomplish? Not too classy! Which only served to undercut the credibility of her subsequent response to a caller's question, a by-rote defense of female pit reporters. (Yes, there are plenty of bad male announcers, too. Speed employs more than its share.) This was followed by a desperately-in-need-of-media-training Ken Anderson's (of the start-up U.S. F1 team) pitifully bad interview. Followed by the embarrassing Rob D'Amico, who Voda probably would trade a Despain bobblehead to for his earrings. Meanwhile, Robin Miller -- with legitimate news on Danica Patrick apparently staying in Indy Cars -- was relegated to the show's Internet afterthought. Voda then put one of her shoes on the desk as a prop. Voda closed by plugging Tommy Kendall and Danica for the next show and said she was sure they'd be talking about the upcoming motorcycle race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.(!) What?

THIS is destined for the political sound-bite Hall of Fame:
http://www.breitbart.tv/obama-on-dc-handwringing-everybody-in-washington-gets-all-wee-weed-up/
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National Speed Sport News, marking its 75th anniversary, issued a report on the history of advertising in the weekly. It's interesting and here's a part of it:

"The first issue of National Speed Sport News contained 13 advertisements with a combined total of 41-column inches, or less than half of a page. The list of companies purchasing space included: Midget Parts Co., Green Engineering Co., Clymer Motors, Paterson Body Co. and Vorhees Photo. The only product advertised was Pyroil, a racing lubricant used extensively in midget racing.

"By 1936, classified advertising appeared on a weekly basis and ads for upcoming races across the country had become a major part of the paper. Champion began using National Speed Sport News to promote its spark plugs and Montgomery Ward ran several advertisements for its line of midget racing tires.

"As corporate involvement in racing grew, so did the number of companies purchasing advertising space. Race ads continued to be the cornerstone, but by the 1960s ads for companies such as Firestone, Autolite Spark Plugs, Humble Oil & Refining Co. and Oilzum Motor Oil appeared regularly. The Feb. 13, 1963, issue marked a significant milestone when Pepsi placed the first non-automotive consumer product advertisement.

"As corporate sponsorship became an integral part of racing during the 1970s and '80s, brands such as Winston, STP, Goodyear, Valvoline, BFGoodrich, CRC Chemicals, Wrangler and Gatorade supported their racing efforts with ads in the pages of National Speed Sport News. Isuzu Trucks was the first advertiser to include spot color when red appeared in the company's Dec. 5, 1984, advertisement, and Chevrolet published the first four-color ad in the Feb. 3, 1988, issue."

[ Ashley Force Hood news nugget Thursday . . . ]

Thursday, August 20, 2009

WHAT FORD's BRIAN WOLFE SAID

Brian Wolfe, director, Ford North American Motorsports, was last night's Newsmaker on my The Race Reporters show. Dustin Long, Larry Henry and Bob Margolis joined me in the questioning and for the journalists' roundtable.

Wolfe said he's in favor of fuel injection for NASCAR engines, that Ford will debut its new Cup engine before this season is finished, and that technical assistance is available to teams which might want to change manufacturers for the 2010 season. As for the No. 1 reason Ford remains committed to motorsports, Wolfe said:

"The main selling point in all of motorsports is about marketing. We have a couple of different metrics we use. J.D. Powers has a survey and we also have an internal survey. What we find in both of those surveys is somewhere between 45 and 50 percent of people that are market-active are race fans. So, if you want to appeal to a large portion of the car-buying public, racing is a great way to do that. Also, then, you look at the favorable opinion of Ford Motor Co. for race fans vs. non-race fans, we see that we get a significant improvement. It's just working."

Listen to the entire show using this link:
http://www.modavox.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=40516

Upcoming show guests:

August 26 -- Newsmaker: Ashley Force Hood. Panelists: Holly Cain, Jeff Wolf, Bobby Bennett.

September 2 -- Newsmaker: Joey Logano. Panelists: Mark Armijo, John Sturbin. Plus Mike Dunn to preview the U.S. Nationals.

September 9 -- Newsmaker: Scott Pruett. Panelists: John Oreovicz, Jeremy Shaw, Jim Pedley.

P.S. -- Thank you to "West Coast Kenny on the Daly Planet" for his blog technical advice. Now, you can click on the TRR logo at the top and go directly to the show page.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]

Sunday, August 16, 2009

SHOW WILL KEEP ROLLING ALONG

Thank you to those who have asked.

Yes, the original 13-week pilot run of The Race Reporters concludes with the August 26 show, when Ashley Force Hood will be on for the entire second half-hour as Newsmaker of the Week.

And . . .

Yes, TRR will continue. VoiceAmerica.com and I have agreed to an extension, taking the program through the end of the year on PowerUpChannel.com . Depending on how we decide to do things around the holidays, this will mean an additional 13-15 shows. We'll still be on Wednesdays, live, at 7 p.m. ET. You'll still be able to download or listen on demand by going to the show page (see link in right-hand column). All the previous shows are there to be heard.

I think the strength of TRR has been the very strong lineup of Newsmaker (Richard Petty, John Force, Dario Franchitti, Tony Schumacher, etc.) and media (Ed Hinton, Robin Miller, Gordon Kirby, etc.) guests who have found it worth their time and effort to participate. We're coming out of the box in September equally well, with Joey Logano on the 2d and Scott Pruett on the 9th.

I hope you'll keep listening or sample TRR for the first time or even help spread the word.

Thanks again!
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With the continuation of the show, I promptly began booking guests. Those who know me know I don't do "last minute" and my experience (both in PR and journalism) has been the more advance notice that can be provided, the better the chance of lining-up the interview.

Within a couple of days, I had confirmed bookings to mid-October. Three of the PR people I communicated with echoed my thoughts about long-term planning and said they appreciated the level of organization involved with this show.

Except one. Things must be going very well over at Kevin Harvick Inc., especially in generating publicity for sponsors KHI seeks to keep or get for 2010. My request for Ron Hornaday Jr. in four weeks produced this exact sentence from the KHI rep: "At this time I am not planning that far out!"

Four weeks is too-far-ahead to plan? (!)

I don't think too many would agree with that approach. I noted a story in The Hollywood Reporter about how Jay Leno's new 10 p.m. show is pro-actively working with show biz publicists to confirm big-name guests BEFORE they appear on the late-night shows. According to an industry insider quoted in the story, "Now people are being much more strategic, and they are planning it out far more in advance." (Emphasis mine.)
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No doubt some familiar media faces will be missing when the media center at Auto Club (California) Speedway opens for NASCAR this October. From a track news release:

MEDIA LOUNGE:
Auto Club Speedway will charge anyone dining in the Media Lounge (media, team PR reps, photographers, etc.) $25 for meals during the Pepsi 500 weekend in October. The cost includes all meals and beverages for the weekend (lunch and dinner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday). Make checks prior to the event payable to “Auto Club Speedway” and mail to: Auto Club Speedway / Attention David Talley; 9300 Cherry Ave., Fontana CA 92335. Only cash or checks will be accepted during event time.

Food/drink is a courtesy, not an obligation. Still, I question the timing, given the current economic problems within the media business. And I sure as hell would not charge if I had a restaurant or food company as race sponsor! I assume, with virtually every track having either a Coca-Cola or Pepsi deal, there is no charge for beverages. I would say this is more of an issue for tracks lacking proper media work facilities.


If on duty for a team or sponsor Cal weekend, I'd go to the boss, and find the relatively small budget needed to host working journos over at the hauler or motorcoach. (A couple of times in the past, I've had team sponsors pick up the cost of lunch in the media center, only to be floored by the huge mark-up from the speedway's official caterer.) As Jim Chapman taught us, as detailed in this blog many times as well as in my public comments in presenting the Jim Chapman Award, hospitality is an essential tool in relationship-building.
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FAST LINES:
ALMS' self-dubbed "value" restructuring of its classes for 2010 is a bow to economic reality (read that: car count, especially in prototypes) for a series that bet BIG on manufacturer interest (read that: investment) in its innovative-yet-expensive "Green Racing" philosophy . . . Given all the pre-race hype on Speed, it is ridiculous all parties don't agree, in advance, on a TV Plan B when there's a rainout . . . More worthless? It was a tossup between the weather forecasters who predicted "zero chance" of rain Sunday at Michigan International Speedway and the golf announcers who said the PGA Championship was over with Tiger Woods leading at halfway . . . CBS' golf crew proved just how out-of-touch it was with its U.S. audience by gushing over the international importance of the outcome of the PGA, rather than what was best for golf in America. I say with confidence most of the audience cared not one bit about the headline in the South China Post, as marveled at by the CBS elitists. By the way, there's a lesson in that for IRL executives, which, of course, will be unrecognized, or, ignored.

Here's a link to my August Drag Racing Online "All Business" column on Tony Schumacher and the Army sponsorship:
http://dragracingonline.com/columns/knight/xi_8-1.html
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Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:

August 19 -- Newsmaker: Brian Wolfe (Ford North America motorsports director). Panelists: Dustin Long, Larry Henry, Bob Margolis.

August 26 -- Newsmaker: Ashley Force Hood. Panelists: Holly Cain, Jeff Wolf, Bobby Bennett.

September 2 -- Newsmaker: Joey Logano. Panelists: Mark Armijo, John Sturbin. Plus Mike Dunn to preview the U.S. Nationals.

September 9 -- Newsmaker: Scott Pruett. Panelists: John Oreovicz, Jeremy Shaw, Jim Pedley.

[ Brian Wolfe news nugget Thursday . . . ]


Thursday, August 13, 2009

DEVELOPING NEW STARS

We talked road racing driver development programs on Wednesday night's The Race Reporters. Newsmaker guests included Vicki O'Connor of the Atlantic Championship, Jim Jordan of Mazda, and Clark Campbell of VW. Jeremy Shaw, Mike Kerchner and Jamie Reynolds were media panelists.

Campbell, VW motorsports manager, on the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup series:

"The Jetta TDI Cup is certainly a value in motorsports. Volkswagen, in nine other countries and now the 10th country being the United States market, has a penchant for doing two forms of motorsports. One of them is young driver development series . . . what we're trying to do is showcasing some of our technology with the TDI clean diesel engine . . . It's a driver development program with more than just on-track activities. We bring other things to the program, such as media training for the drivers, a fitness program both on-line and off-line, at the racetrack, we have hospitality, we have a nutrition program and we even list the fat calories on the menu inside the hospitality tent. We give them sponsorship development classes. We try to make it something where a non-professional driver can have an opportunity to become more known."

Listen to the entire show here:

http://va.radiopilot.net/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=40342

Upcoming guests:

August 19 -- Newsmaker: Brian Wolfe (Ford North America motorsports director). Panelists: Dustin Long, Larry Henry, Bob Margolis.

August 26 -- Newsmaker: Ashley Force Hood. Panelists: Holly Cain, Jeff Wolf, Bobby Bennett.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]

Monday, August 10, 2009

WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE?

A friend of mine told me a couple of years ago that the team owner he worked for had endless patience for the boorish off-track behavior of his driver "as long as he keeps winning."

I guess the same goes in journalism.

There was lots of reporting last week that NBC (read that GE) and Fox management, at the highest levels, had met and agreed to end the personal attacks that go on between their hosts -- most noteably at 8 p.m. ET. When an on-air person or those networks are in the news, that's fair comment, but the stuff about wives and children and other bad taste blasts should stop. It makes all involved look small. I'm not going to rehash the whole thing here, if you are so interested, see the story in last Friday's Washington Post or check out MediaBistro.com.

The deal didn't last long. The Grassy Knollist on MSNBC, in effect, showed his employers a middle finger and went right back at it last week. No surprise, the "Worst Person In the World" over at Fox News fired right back.

You try a very public act of defiance like that and see how soon the paycheck stops. But, apparently, because these guys bring in an audience -- and that translate to revenue -- they can get away with it.

The most insulting thing, to me, is the one who is also permitted to pollute Sunday night football claimed he did what he did to protect his journalistic credibility. BS. It's all about ego, not ethics.

Speaking of out-of-control media egoheads, Post writer Dana Milbank was forced to apologize for a so-called joke directed at Hillary Clinton. That appeared on a video on the paper's website. That's at least strike 2 on Milbank. Previously, he had been slapped-down by supervisors for commenting on cable on former Vice President Dick Cheney wearing hunting safety orange clothing.

Whatever happened to just reporting?

Too bad Roger Penske doesn't own these media companies. If he did, these guys would find out what Paul Tracy, Kevin Cogan, Gary Bettenhausen and Jeremy Mayfield learned the hard way.

Elsewhere, there was a lot of talk last week about Twitter; what some businesses find acceptable or not. In yet another example of lowered standards, I heard a Phoenix talk show host describe Twitter as a "primary news source." PRIMARY!

No matter how trendy, it's a mistake for one racing organization to suddenly start issuing its news releases in a Twitter-type format. Journos get a brief message but then are expected to download a file for the full story. In some I got, images were added. Especially these days, the goal should not be trendy, but to make it easy for people to access the information. I bet no one involved thought to ask some actual media folks about this first. If that basic had been done, here's one thing that surely would have been pointed out: Sometimes, and in some places, poor signal strength makes downloading a time-consuming process. If I had been asked, I also would have said I don't need the images.

Just the facts, please, in a simple E-mail. Skip the gimmicks.

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:

Wednesday (August 12) -- Newsmakers: Vicki O'Connor (Atlantic series), John Doonan (Mazda), Clark Campbell (VW). Panelists: Jeremy Shaw, Mike Kerchner, Jamie Reynolds.

August 19 -- Newsmaker: Brian Wolfe (Ford North America motorsports director). Panelists: Dustin Long, Larry Henry, Bob Margolis.

August 26 -- Newsmaker: Ashley Force Hood. Panelists: Holly Cain, Jeff Wolf, Bobby Bennett.

[ Show news nuggest Thursday . . . ]

Thursday, August 06, 2009

TONY SCHUMACHER MAKES NEWS on MY SHOW

Tony Schumacher made news as my Newsmaker guest on Wednesday night's The Race Reporters radio show on PowerUpChannel.com. The six-time NHRA Full Throttle Top Fuel champion spoke out on trying to win another title without crew chief Alan Johnson, new crew chief Mike Green's plan to have the best car during the Countdown, and what he's learned by being around U.S. Army soldiers during a time of war. Dave Kallmann, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Susan Wade, of National Speed Sport News; and Jon Asher, of CompetitionPlus.com, joined me in the questioning. U.S. Army dragster driver Schumacher is currently second in points with three wins.

Wade wrote the following story for CP.com on what Tony said and here's the link:
http://www.competitionplus.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=11235&Itemid=6

Here's what Schumacher said he's learned from being around Army soldiers:

"When AJ (Alan Johnson) left is a perfect example. Everyone said, 'You know what, when a general retires, we don't wave the white flag and give up. We hire a new general , and we smile, and we go kick butt.' That's exactly the kind of comments, what I get day in-and-day-out, from these great people. I enjoy it more than people could ever imagine. Surrounding yourself with great people, and it's my pleasure to win for them. I also get to be part of something a lot bigger than myself. As people start to get to know me, they find out, when AJ left, people said: 'What are you going to do now? You're never going to win.' I said, 'Really? I've got a beautiful wife and three beautiful kids. I win every day.' My life doesn't revolve around having to win. It revolves around having to figure out how to win and enjoy the challenge. That comes from those soldiers. It's the greatest thing I've ever been a part of."

Use this link to listen to the entire show:
http://va.radiopilot.net/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=40235

The Race Reporters podcast is available on iTunes:
http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=319558548

Upcoming guests:

August 12 -- Newsmakers: Vicki O'Connor (Atlantic series), John Doonan (Mazda), Clark Campbell (VW). Panelists: Jeremy Shaw, Mike Kerchner, Jamie Reynolds.

August 19 -- Newsmaker: Brian Wolfe (Ford North America motorsports director). Panelists: Dustin Long, Larry Henry, Bob Margolis.

August 26 -- Newsmaker: Ashley Force Hood. Panelists: Holly Cain, Jeff Wolf, Bobby Bennett.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]

Monday, August 03, 2009

JUST a FEW MORE THINGS . . .

* Congratulations to the IRL management and its drivers for finally producing a compelling race this season, Saturday night at Kentucky, using new aero rules and Honda's version of Push-to-Pass. (You could tell by the tone of his voice Bob Jenkins was disappointed Ed Carpenter didn't win. By the way, guys, one good race does NOT mean the "IRL Is Back.") When, however, will League leaders get embarrassed about the lack of decision-making consistency that leaves so many in the industry disillusioned? Latest example: Last weekend's 2010 schedule announcement. It was only the other year that management's stated philosophy was to shorten/condense the schedule, to minimize conflicts with NFL, college football and NASCAR's Chase. To quote from the release on 2010: "More breaks also are built into the schedule . . ." Yes, we notice.

* My theory: The 2010 IRL schedule makes it at least a little more likely Danica Patrick will go to NASCAR. Two fewer ovals (Milwaukee and Richmond), replaced by two more road races (Brazil -- site hasn't even been determined -- and Alabama -- if Danica and her handlers think it's important for her to compete in Alabama, it will be at Talladega), a race in Brazil that does nothing for her non-stop push to celebrity, the oval in marketing-rich New Hampshire (Boston/New England) that went unsigned. Add this to the list of League management instability, yo-yo decision-making, micro viewership on Versus, etc.


* Kentucky: Another IRL weekend. Another "Danica Patrick is in no hurry to make a decision about her racing future" pre-race non-news story from a local AP reporter who apparently didn't bother to Google and see that basically the same thing has been written by every local AP writer before every IRL race for months. Enough!

* Ken Rosenthal, of Fox Sports, was quoted thusly last week in USA Today on the volume of false baseball trade rumors:

"When I started, the biggest sin of all was to be wrong. But it just blows my mind that people don't feel bad about being wrong. Our standards have dropped. And it botheres the hell out of me."

* Allstate was candid in explaining the end of its title sponsorship of NASCAR-at-Indianapolis:

“When we looked at all of our business results,” said Pam Hollander, Allstate’s director of sponsorships and promotions, “they were just stronger in other properties.”

* Steve Ballard, in an Indianapolis Star posting last week, wrote that "I am moving to another job at the Star, and while I expect to still be involved in the coverage of the major events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I won't be covering NASCAR on a regular basis."

* From the Journalists-as-Celebrities File: Katie Couric told David Letterman that Michael Jackson, though a friend, wanted to ask her out on a date. What made her think we should know that? Elsewhere, showing again how ridiculous cable news has become in too many cases, Geraldo interviewed Al Sharpton about -- get this -- the Cash for Clunkers program. Al Sharpton!

* The late PR legend Jim Chapman was a liberal and, I am sure, would have delighted in Barack Obama's election. But, I also am sure, Mr. Chapman would have cringed at a Politico.com report last week: White House aides collected credit card numbers from business leaders who were invited to the White House for lunch with the president. An Obama mouthpiece said the execs were billed for their meals to avoid a conflict of interest. Jim would immediately have pointed out the importance of hospitality and following social convention.

* Here's a thought-provoking read from Susan Wade (yes, I'm mentioned) on CompetitionPlus.com and another from Gordon Kirby on his site:
http://www.competitionplus.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=11&Itemid=21

http://www.gordonkirby.com/categories/columns/theway/2009/the_way_it_is_no195.html

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:

August 5 -- Newsmaker: Tony Schumacher. Panelists: Dave Kallmann, Susan Wade, Jon Asher.

August 12 -- Newsmakers: Vicki O'Connor (Atlantic series), John Doonan (Mazda), Clark Campbell (VW). Panelists: Jeremy Shaw, Mike Kerchner, Jamie Reynolds.

August 19 -- Newsmaker: Brian Wolfe (Ford North America Motorsports director). Panelists: Dustin Long, Larry Henry, Bob Margolis.

August 26 -- Newsmaker: Ashley Force Hood. Panelists: TBA.

[ Tony Schumacher news nugget Thursday . . . ]