• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

FORD's JAMIE ALLISON

It's always important to hear what the automakers have to say about their involvement in motorsports, so Wednesday night's The Race Reporters with Ford North America Motorsports director Jamie Allison was timely. Especially with the debut of the Mustang in NASCAR's Nationwide series Friday night at Daytona. Media panelists included Larry Edsall, Lewis Franck and Jonathan Ingram.


Use this link to listen to the entire show:
http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=46627


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.)

July 7 -- Newsmaker: Jack Beckman. Panelists: Alan Reinhart, Stan Creekmore.

July 14 -- Newsmaker: Ralph Gilles (Dodge president and CEO). Panelists: Mark Armijo, Jim Pedley. Plus, Larry Edsall.

July 21 -- TBA.

July 28 -- Newsmaker: Joey Saldana. Panelists: Dave Argabright, Mike Kerchner. Plus, Jeff Burk.

[ more Monday . . . ]

Sunday, June 27, 2010

PONY UP

I admit it -- I've always been a Mustang fan.

So, I'm one of those who thinks the debut of the iconic Mustang in NASCAR's Nationwide series this Friday night at Daytona is a BIG deal. I'm glad Dodge is bringing in the Challenger model and am sorry Chevrolet couldn't find a way to use the Camaro body style.

Let's be honest: The Nationwide series REALLY needs a boost. If the introduction of the new car, and especially the Mustang and Challenger, can be a step toward a separate identity for NASCAR's No. 2 tour, that would be a good thing.

This also means it's a great time to welcome Jamie Allison, director of Ford North America Motorsports, as the Newsmaker of the Week guest on Wednesday night's The Race Reporters.

The automaker racing bosses are huge decision-makers in the sport, which is one reason I like to feature them on my show. GM's Mark Kent has been on twice. I've also hosted Brian Wolfe, Allison's predecessor, Toyota's Lee White, and others. And it's the reason I'm pumped to have scheduled Dodge President and CEO Ralph Gilles for my July 14 show.


Here's a question that really should be answered in the aftermath of last week's Gen. Stanley McChrystal mess. WHO were the public affairs officers who decided it was a "good idea" to give agenda-driven Rolling Stone that kind of extensive access? I'd like to find out those names and hear their thinking on this subject. Based on this fiasco, sounds to me like they are qualified to handle PR for BP. Or Jamie McMurray's NASCAR team.

This fiasco reminded me of the embarrassing 1993 Sports Illustrated feature on Michael Andretti's Formula One misadventure. Despite Andretti's on-going bad season for McLaren, the Marlboro publicists ignored the circumstances -- and writer Bruce Newman's well-established reputation for stories focused on the negative (Rick Mears later told me this was the reason he quietly declined to cooperate on an article Newman was considering) -- and blindly inhaled deeply of the SI prestige. Newman got his access -- and humiliated Michael's then-wife, Sandy. The CART crowd was gearing up for the Michigan 500 when that issue was published. I remember Carl and Berni Haas reading it in the back of the team motorhome and then stepping outside, Berni saying to me, "You never would have let that story happen," as Carl patted me on the shoulder.


I won a gold and silver medal in the 2009 International Automotive Media Awards, results announced last week. The gold was in the newspaper interview category for the Q&A I did with Jeff Gordon that ran in the Arizona Republic on the Phoenix International Raceway NASCAR weekend. The silver was for Internet commentary -- this blog. In my career, I've now been honored to receive more than 40 awards for journalism, public relations and contributions to motorsports. Very humbling. A most sincere thank you to all who have helped me along this interesting, long and winding road.


The American Media, June 2010: Gretchen Carlson, co-host of Fox & Friends, equated President Obama's decision on Gen. McChrystal to those she has to make as a TV talker. Meanwhile, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski admitted she had been "working with the White House" on oil spill talking points.


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.)

June 30 -- Newsmaker: Jamie Allison (Ford North America Motorsports director). Panelists: Larry Edsall, Lewis Franck. Plus, Jonathan Ingram.

July 7 -- Newsmaker: Jack Beckman. Panelists: Alan Reinhart, Stan Creekmore.


July 14 -- Newsmaker: Ralph Gilles (Dodge president and CEO). Panelists: Mark Armijo, Jim Pedley. Plus, Larry Edsall.

July 21 -- TBA.

July 28 -- Newsmaker: Joey Saldana. Panelists: Dave Argabright, Mike Kerchner. Plus, Jeff Burk.

[ Jamie Allison news nugget Thursday . . . ]

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

RANDY BERNARD, CALL DAYTONA

Robin Braig, president of Daytona International Speedway, was the Newsmaker guest on Wednesday night's The Race Reporters show on PowerUPChannel.com. Dave Rodman and Larry Woody joined me for the roundtable and to ask Robin the questions about the country's most infamous pothole, repaving, and other NASCAR issues of the day. Plus, Jon Beekhuis and I talked the Izod IndyCar Series in the last segment.

You never know what will happen on a live show. For the last question, I asked Robin why nothing has happened since IndyCars tested at Daytona four years ago. His answer, perhaps a surprise:

"Joie Chitwood, coming on board here at International Speedway Corp., he is my boss, he is managing our IndyCar relationships for all 12 (ISC) racetracks. We being the 'World Center of Racing' can't call ourselves that we're not the 'World Center of Racing' and listen to any opportunity with IndyCar. We've raised our catch fence. That was one of the concerns. We'll have new pavement. Of course, it would be the road course opportunity. We'll listen if they want to call us."

Use this link to listen to the entire show:
http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=46489

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.)

June 30 -- Newsmaker: Jamie Allison (Ford North America Motorsports director). Panelists: Larry Edsall, Lewis Franck. Plus, Jonathan Ingram.

July 7 -- Newsmaker: Jack Beckman. Panelists: Alan Reinhart, Stan Creekmore.

[ more next Monday . . . ]

Sunday, June 20, 2010

STAY TUNED

The biggest sports story of recent weeks -- NCAA conference realignment centered on major football powerhouses and more and more money -- likely will come into play in the next round of racing TV contracts.

Although almighty Texas' decision to stay in the Big 12 (for more $) dragged the brakes on what could have been the Pac-16 and the Big 10 + ? (it will happen in future years, though), it's the promised gusher of fresh dollars for TV and new media rights that's driving all of this. Make no mistake: Big-time college football is going to get bigger as a result.

ABC/ESPN and Fox are major players in the action. Both, of course, are closely aligned with NASCAR. In the next few years, what ESPN platform will be available for Saturday Nationwide races? Meanwhile, IndyCar's partner, Versus (especially with the upcoming Comcast-NBC deal) could be in a position to pick up more of the lesser football properties.

I bet this will lead to another round of debate about condensing the Izod Series schedule, so it ends around Labor Day. Sounds good on paper, but . . . let me reminder Randy Bernard et al we at CART (when I was the communications director) tried this in the early 1980s to get away from the competition of football. It didn't last long, as opportunities for new events that needed to happen in certain months, arose. Then, a few years ago, the IRL got rolled on this concept by an ESPN exec whose agenda was to clear programming time for NASCAR (and who then left the company). With the six-month hiatus came team job losses, reduced sports marketing value for sponsors, and the series falling off the national media radar screen for half the year.

For now, just be sure of this: The rise of the Super Conferences will be a factor the next time TV deals are negotiated.


FAST LINES: Again, the new IRL PR people did the right thing last week by releasing specific findings of the investigation into the Simona De Silvestro-Texas fire fiasco. Conclusions -- a "procedural error in the packing of a fire hose" and a "breakdown in Safety Team protocol in its response to the incident." This adds credibility at an important time, as new people-in-charge try to establish themselves in these roles. Good deal . . . Anyone else notice the title sponsor of the Iowa Indy Lights race? AvoidTheStork.com. Take a guess what that's about. The site shows a copyright to the University of Iowa -- another step forward in the American educational system . . . Is it possible the BP (might-as-well stand-for Bad Publicity) senior-most executives could have played the PR game any worse? NOT LIKELY! Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg's "small people" remark -- destined-for-the-sound-bite-Hall-of-Shame (even factoring in cultural/language differences) -- only added to CEO Tony Hayward's elitist and out-of-touch image. Hayward is corporate toast -- it's a matter of when, not if . . . This is another reminder those who spout the old "Any publicity is good publicity" nonsense don't know a damn thing about PR or image management . . . This does not fall under the category of breaking news, but there certainly was media grumbling out of the Grand-Am weekend about the slow and unreliable Internet service in the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course media center. It's been that way for YEARS. Enough excuses. Fix it. Sanctioning organizations, put it into your sanction agreement . . . Don't try this at home: An Internet writer last weekend described a team's publicist as a "PR ace" -- the same day said "ace" allowed his driver to be interviewed on TV with a puke-green rag around his neck, covering sponsor logos . . . Those of you with an interest in short track racing, please read Jim Chiappelli's important column on Speed.com. Here's the link:
http://auto-racing.speedtv.com/article/chiappelli-short-track-safety/

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.)

June 23 -- Newsmaker: Robin Braig (Daytona International Speedway president). Panelists: Dave Rodman, Larry Woody. Plus, Jon Beekhuis.

June 30 -- Newsmaker: Jamie Allison (Ford North America Motorsports director). Panelists: Larry Edsall, Lewis Franck. Plus, Jonathan Ingram.

July 7 -- Newsmaker: Jack Beckman. Panelists: Alan Reinhart, Stan Creekmore.

[ Robin Braig news note Thursday . . . ]

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A NEW AGE RIVALRY at INDY?

Could the Delta Wing vs. a more traditional Indy Car be the 21st century version of the rear-engine cars vs. the roadsters?

Bruce Ashmore thinks so.

Bruce is a friend of mine from back in the day when he designed the Lola and thus worked closely with Newman/Haas Racing when I was the PR director there. I had two conversations with Bruce over in Indianapolis the other week. He's part of one group (another friend of mine, Tim Wardorp, is part of Bruce's BAT group) which has proposed a design for the next generation of I500 car, supposedly coming in 2012.

In brief, Bruce says his thought is to have the BAT car (of course) be approved for all Izod IndyCar Series races. But, his twist, is to make the radical Delta Wing eligible for Indy only -- at least at the start of the new formula. Bruce told me he thinks that would generate a lot of media and fan interest, stir passions as people take for-and-against sides, because the two designs are visually so different. Thus, memories of the early-mid 1960s, with rear engine machines vs. the venerable roadsters.

Interesting idea. But, as I said to Bruce, the first -- and huge -- obstacle to me is cost. How many team owners could afford to do it? Two? Three? Maybe that's enough to create the buzz Bruce has in mind.

Do I think it will happen? Honestly, no.


Common sense and professionalism tell me "make-goods" -- long a part of broadcast advertising -- should have a place in PR.

A "mg" is a commercial spot given by the network to the advertiser when the guaranteed audience number isn't reached.

A "mg" in PR should come when a journalist doesn't get the interview he/she is promised.

In the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's media center the other week, I very purposely went over to speak to a certain publicist. I kept the conversation general and friendly, very intentionally setting-up a situation to see if the light-bulb would go on and the subject of a past offense, indirectly involving this rep, would be mentioned. It wasn't. I also very intentionally set-up a situation to see if the light-bulb would go on with the offer of, "We owe you one. So, if X happens, can I call you to schedule an interview?"

The test was given and the result was not a "passing" grade, pardon the racing pun.

Make-goods should apply to PR as well as advertising. Think about it.


FAST LINES: The IRL did the right thing in quickly issuing a statement regarding the unsatisfactory safety team response to Simona De Silvestro's fire at Texas. However, specific findings of the investigation should be made public . . . Congratulations to Al Pearce -- we became friends back in the 1970s while waiting-out many rain delays at Pocono -- on having the Langley Speedway media center dedicated in his name . . . Memo to Fox News (and other networks) -- When you "tease" a story and say "coming up next," and it's 35 minutes later and that's when you finally get around to presenting the report, well, 35 minutes later is not "next." That actually happened last Friday morning . . . Les Richter, 79, football star and racing industry executive, died Saturday. I worked with "Coach" for many years in IROC and it was an educational experience. Les also was a NASCAR vice president, president of Riverside International Raceway, and a key player in building California Speedway. He also was the motorsports' industry point-man in Washington during the late 1970s "energy shortage" and considered running for congress from California.


Max Papis in Top Fuel? Here's a link to my June "Drags, Dollars & Sense" column in CompetitionPlus.com:
http://www.competitionplus.com/index.php/drag-racing/editorials/14461-drags-dollars-a-sense-racing-to-the-max


Marty Snyder, Bob Dillner and others who conduct interviews as if they are as important as the driver need to listen to the opening commentary on my one-year anniversary The Race Reporters:
http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=46040


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.)

June 16 -- Re-Air of One-Year Anniversary Show, with John Force, Paul Page, Jon Asher and special guests.

June 23 -- Newsmaker: Robin Braig (Daytona International Speedway president). Panelists: Dave Rodman, Larry Woody.

June 30 -- Newsmaker: Jamie Allison (Ford North America Motorsports director). Panelists: Larry Edsall, Lewis Franck.

July 7 -- Newsmaker: Jack Beckman. Panelists: Alan Reinhart, Stan Creekmore.

[ more next Monday . . . ]

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

1 YEAR LATER, JOHN FORCE RETURNS

The Newsmaker from my very first The Race Reporters show, John Force, returned for Wednesday night's one-year anniversary program on PowerUPChannel.com. Original media panelists Paul Page and Jon Asher were back, too, along with some surprise special guests from around the racing world.

Use this link to listen to the entire show:

http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=46040

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.)

June 16 -- Re-Air of One-Year Anniversary show.

June 23 -- Newsmaker: Robin Braig (Daytona International Speedway president). Panelists: Dave Rodman, Larry Woody.

June 30 -- Newsmaker: Jamie Allison (Ford North America Motorsports director). Panelists: Larry Edsall, Lewis Franck.

July 7 -- Newsmaker: Jack Beckman. Panelists: Alan Reinhart, Stan Creekmore.

[ more next Monday . . . ]

Sunday, June 06, 2010

1-YEAR SHOW REFLECTIONS

I have to admit I feel a certain amount of amazement this week.

This Wednesday (7 p.m. EDT) will be the one-year anniversary of my The Race Reporters show on PowerUPChannel.com. Motorsports' biggest personality, John Force, will be the Newsmaker guest for the second half-hour. John was my very first guest. Continuing that theme, original media panelists Paul Page and Jon Asher will return. And, we'll be joined by a few special surprise guests from around the racing world.

The opportunity to create (I picked the format, title, and even the day and time the show airs) basically fell out of the sky. It was not something I aspired to do. As I have said several times, if it had ended after the original 13-week run, I would have been glad for the experience. It's not my life. The fact that I'm still behind the microphone in the Tempe, Ariz., studio each week (remember, all past programs can be heard on-demand in the TRR archives on the show home page) is a tribute to the high quality of Newsmaker and media guests who have kindly given their time and insights. We're not just NASCAR -- guests from IndyCar, NHRA, sports car racing, World of Outlaws and industry executives -- have been on. Since I pick all the guests and topics, I am most grateful.

Take a look at the Newsmaker roster from the last year: Jeff Gordon, Richard Petty, John Force, Ashley Force Hood, Dario Franchitti, Joey Logano, Gil de Ferran, Tony Schumacher, Brad Keselowski, Kenny and Brandon Bernstein, Randy Bernard, Arie Luyendyk, Scott Pruett, Adrian Fernandez, Graham Rahal, Larry Dixon, Ron Capps, Antron Brown, Paul Tracy, Robby Gordon, David Reutimann, Melanie Troxel, Hurley Haywood, Patrick Long, Max Papis, Simona De Silvestro, AJ Allmendinger, Bob Tasca III, Bryan Sperber, Terry Angstadt, Scott Atherton, John Daly and Chris Economaki.

I'll have a special opening commentary Wednesday. But let me say this here: This is a guest-driven, not a host-driven, show. I like to believe that makes a big difference in the current journalist-turned-celebrity environment. Yes, we have fun along the way, but this show is all about solid information, informed opinion, and serious conversation. It gives me hope there is still room for such a program in today's shouting/showbiz media world. As we say in every opening, it's a "good, hard, honest, Constitutionally-protected conversation on the motorsports issues of the day."

On the day before the Indianapolis 500, it was announced that TRR earned first place in the Best Podcast category in the 2009 American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association's annual journalism competition.

According to a network news release on that award, “The Race Reporters has consistently been the top rated program on the Power Up Motorsports Channel since its launch one year ago."

Jeff Spenard, president and owner of World Talk Radio, LLC, parent company of the VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network, said: "This has been one of the highest performing programs on our entire network and is produced with the quality and professionalism one would expect from a true industry professional such as Michael Knight. I’m sure that this is the first of many awards for the program, and we look forward to several more in our continuing relationship.”

My great thanks to all the guests and, most especially, to YOU, the LISTENERS.

The Great Adventure continues Wednesday with John Force. If you listen, you'll learn.

FAST LINES: First, let me clean-up two errors from last week. What I consider to be completely reliable sources inform me that the people within the ABC/ESPN operation who had previous entertainment-related work activities no longer do so, so this wasn't a distraction from the Indy 500 production . . . Two, the Saturday suites/media parking lot situation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where parking passes were not being honored, was the result of a miscommunication between the Yellow Shirt supervisor and overall operations command. I'm told, after I raised the issue, it was corrected. I accept both explanations and duly correct the record . . . TV people, PLEASE remember this -- The most important on-track activity to follow (and report on immediately) is a CHANGE OF LEAD. Getting locked-in to a format that doesn't allow for a quick cut-back to what is happening up front is about as big a mistake as can be made in race coverage . . . I say Saturday night at Texas was Danica Patrick's best overall IndyCar driving effort (although internal team chemistry might well take another hit because of her chop-job on Tony Kanaan) . . . Leadership test for Brian Barnhart (and Randy Bernard should be overlooking this) -- A proper investigation into the safety crew's response to Simona De Silvestro's crash and fire. Both the response time, and immediate actions on the scene, were unacceptable. Drivers cannot be pulled out of these cars at a sideways angle. Competitors and fans deserve a full report . . . Here's the difference between other umpire mis-judgement calls and what happened last week that cost Detroit Tigers' pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game. It was the LAST play of the game. Yes, precedent is important and concern for opening Pandora's Box is legitimate, but Commissioner Bud Selig could have/should have declared a one-time exception and fixed what obviously was ump Jim Joyce's wrong call. Dopey Matt Lauer said on the Today show, "it was a very close call." No, by baseball standards, it was NOT a close call! Nice PR move by GM to give the pitcher a Corvette -- as long as taxpapers ultimately don't pay for it.

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.)

June 9 -- One Year Anniversary Show featuring original Newsmaker John Force and first panelists Paul Page and Jon Asher. Plus: Special surprise guests from around the racing world.

June 16 -- TBA.

June 23 -- Newsmaker: Robin Braig (Daytona International Speedway president). Panelists: Dave Rodman, Larry Woody.

June 30 -- Newsmaker: Jamie Allison (Ford North America Motorsports director). Panelists: Larry Edsall, Lewis Franck.

July 7 -- Newsmaker: Jack Beckman. Panelists: Alan Reinhart, Stan Creekmore.

[ John Force & One-Year Anniversary show news notes Thursday . . . ]

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

PANELISTS on INDY and CHARLOTTE

It was an all-journalists edition of The Race Reporters" Wednesday night on PowerUPChannel. To review the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600, I spoke with Holly Cain, Al Pearce, Ron Lemasters Jr. and Larry Henry.

Use this link to listen to the show:

http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=46194


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.)

June 9 -- One Year Anniversary Show featuring original Newsmaker John Force and first panelists Paul Page and Jon Asher. Plus: Special surprise guests from around the racing world.

June 16 -- TBA.

June 23 -- Newsmaker: Robin Braig (Daytona International Speedway president). Panelists: Dave Rodman, Larry Woody.

June 30 -- Newsmaker: Jamie Allison (Ford North America Motorsports director). Panelists: Larry Edsall, Lewis Franck.

July 7 -- Newsmaker: Jack Beckman. Panelists: Alan Reinhart, Stan Creekmore.

[ more next Monday . . . ]