• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

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 . . . ]