• 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 . . . ]