• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

SALDANA WINNING WITHOUT NEW ENGINES!

World of Outlaws championship leader Joey Saldana, who drives for NASCAR star Kasey Kahne, was the Newsmaker guest on Wednesday night's The Race Reporters. Dave Argabright and Mike Kerchner joined me for the roundtable and the interview. Then, Jeff Burk was on to talk drag racing.

Among other things, Joey told us he hasn't had a new-built engine in two years! Yet, he's won 30 A-Features in the last 1 1/2 years!

Use this link to listen to the show:
http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=47029

[ more Monday . . . ]

Sunday, July 25, 2010

TROUBLE ALL ROUND

Everywhere I look, I see trouble.

NASCAR has problems -- don't let the spin doctors tell you otherwise. You don't have to look any further than the TV ratings, grandstands (Sunday's Indianapolis Embarrassment), or that even Jeff Gordon has expressed concern about his own sponsorship situation for 2011. Yes, that's right: Jeff Gordon!

I haven't and don't always agree with former Charlotte Motor Speedway President Humpy Wheeler, but he was 1,000 percent right with this recent quote: "The fault lies with some of the sponsors. Some of these companies have people that don't understand the race fan and are making bad decisions."

You better believe it!

What prove that to me, totally, is how many sponsor reps (and team owners) have no clue how poorly represented they are by their "PR" people. As I've said to NASCAR on more than one occasion, try this: Put a sign-up sheet in the media center and see just how many don't even bother to come to the media center, say hello, introduce themselves to journos they don't know, offer information, ask if any assistance is needed. The answer would be shocking to some, but, absolutely not to my trained eyes. Take away maybe a half-dozen pros, and the situation is BS. As the guy who had the completely unprofessional Twitter photo amateurishly said to me earlier this year (I still have the recording), "These things happen."

I had the pleasure of working with sponsor managers like Ron Winter (Budweiser), Jim Melvin (Beatrice), Darlene Park (Kmart) and Barry Bronson (Valvoline), who actually wanted to have their own good relations with media. They knew the key players by face and name, reached out, and had well-earned reputations for being available and cooperative. How many can say the same these days?

Meanwhile, everyone should be scared by the intentional crashing antics of this season. I'm personally sick of hearing, "The fans like it," and even some in the media encouraging it. Don't all of these people realize how this will reflect on them, their credibility, when the inevitable happens and someone gets killed? I know we live in a short-attention span nation, but do all of these people really not remember the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500?

Over in the Izod IndyCar Series, enough time has passed that I can accurately say reaction to the 2012 car "strategy" announcement has been less-than-enthusiastic. I still can't believe all those involved don't get it that no Roger Penske, A.J. Foyt, Michael Andretti, Chip Ganassi, Dario Franchitti, Danica, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, etc. etc. etc. in the audience sent the absolute wrong signal. Hey, folks, APPEARANCES DO MATTER!

I have a feeling Eddie Gossage, the Texas Motor Speedway president and member of the recommendation panel, sensed what was ahead when he issued this statement the day of the announcement:

"Anyone who does not get on board and help row this boat in one direction clearly has another agenda. While I know we won’t agree on everything that comes up down the road, I do know that anybody that loves IndyCar racing needs to work together from this day forward. The series may be hesitant to say it, but the day is here for everybody that loves IndyCar racing to link arms and help each other out. Anybody who doesn’t want to do that needs to find something else to do with their time.”

I hope this after Sunday's embarrassing finish at Edmonton: I hope that, after one season, Randy Bernard will feel strong enough to make the needed changes on the competition-side of his business. That means dumping incompetent Brian Barnhart. Add the arrogant Kevin Blanch to the out-the-door list. If Randy is interested, I can offer other names, too. He does not need to be tied to the Tony George hires any longer -- too many of them are part of the problem, not the solution.

In NHRA, after extensively reporting and interviewing for a long story for last Thursday's Arizona Republic (see link below), I'm left shaking my head how many in the pit area don't seem to get it: After one spectator and two driver deaths, pit-area arguing and an incident that seemed to have racial overtones, drag racing has a serious and growing national image problem. Pathetic that someone in-the-know whispered to me last week, "I don't think they (NHRA) think they can do anything about it." At least Alan Johnson, Jack Beckman, John Force, Bob Tasca III and Graham Light stepped-up to address the issue with me -- that's more than I can say for some others.

Oh, by the way, did you know there are two professional sports car series in this country? It only took winged sprint car racing one season to figure out how destructive it was to run two tours. The 15-year IRL-CART split changed the sport forever -- and it will never again (at least, not in my lifetime) be what it once was. But ALMS and Grand-Am continue to sputter along in a fog of ego, with ALMS, in particular, constantly overstating its real and true standing and importance (with only a couple of ticket-selling, headline-generating prototypes). Come on -- Let's take a walk and see how many people can name one ALMS driver or give an accurate one-sentence description of what the series is about.

Finally, what a terrible, TERRIBLE week for the American media, old and new.

I'm just being realistic. I'm just being honest.


FAST LINES: ESPN's SportsNation -- a show that can best be described as "stupid" -- reached a new low last week. Comical sound effects were added to replays of Texas Rangers' pitcher Dustin Nippert getting struck on the right side of his head by a line drive. Yes, SN, that surely was funny. Around The Horn has real competition now for worst on ESPN . . . No surprise in our celebrity-driven society: ESPN's British Open ratings tanked with no Americans in contention and a runaway win by a true no-namer. This should be yet another reminder to IRL management about what must be done to help cure what ails the IndyCar series . . . What a hypocrite: AnchorActor Matt Lauer, blasting other mediaites on last Wednesday's Today, for having an "agenda." And you tell the story 100 percent straight, right Matt? Look no further than the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, where fraud Lauer gushed over the Chinese (dissenters had been jailed and Internet access restricted despite promises to the contrary to the IOC), especially the zombie-like children used for the opening ceremonies. All, of course, to advance employer GE's business ambitions in the Communist nation. And then, there was CNN journalistic sleezebag Rick Sanchez Friday night, lecturing on the importance of "truth" . . . Credit to Justin Wilson, who, after blowing what looked like a sure win in Toronto, made himself available for everyone who wanted an interview . . . Wow! John Force taking a shot at Fox News, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck Saturday on ESPN2 . . . Three more terrible, inept TV victory lane interviews from last weekend, where either the obvious questions that had to be asked weren't, or where the microphone-holder felt the need to be buddy-buddy with the driver: Jack Arute at Edmonton, Dave Burns at Indy, and Jamie Howe at Lime Rock. Despite what the egos think, it is NOT rocket science!


Here's a link to my NHRA safety story in last Thursday's Arizona Republic. At almost 1,100 words, it's the longest auto racing story of any kind to run in the paper since I did 1,250 words on Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2008. All original reporting, with quotes from one-on-one interviews with Jack Beckman, John Force, Graham Light, Alan Johnson and Bob Tasca III:
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2010/07/22/20100722nhra-safety-mark-niver.html


As I've written before, ESPN made an inspired choice in selecting TV legend Don Ohlmeyer as its Ombudsman. Here's the latest example why:
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=ohlmeyer_don&id=5397113


A "must read" from Dustin Long:
http://hamptonroads.com/2010/07/graying-nascar-woos-younger-set

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

[ Joey Saldana news note Thursday . . . ]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

THE STEVE KINSER INTERVIEW

American racing icon Steve Kinser, the 20-time World of Outlaws champion, was my Newsmaker guest on Wednesday night's The Race Reporters on PowerUpChannel.com. Keith Waltz of National Speed Sport News and Jim Chiappelli of Speed joined me for the roundtable and to question The King of the Outlaws. Writer/broadcaster Bob Margolis was on in the last segment to preview the Brickyard 400. I'm very self-critical, but I do think this was one of the best shows we've ever done.

Use this link to listen to the show:
http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=47276


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

[ more Monday . . . ]

Sunday, July 18, 2010

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CONCEPT

The song No Particular Place to Go played as background music during last week's IndyCar of the Future announcement at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It was a highly orchestrated event, including an Apprentice-esque boardroom sequence, where the ICONIC panel members used some Verizon gizmo to cast votes for their recommendation. (Oh for the days when A.J. Foyt would have pounded-home his message with a sledge hammer!)

Appearances mean a lot and the Izod series sent the wrong signal with the absence of Foyt, Roger Penske, Michael Andretti, Chip Ganassi, Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Danica Patrick (off at the ESPYs) and the other Big Names not in the audience. Word needed to have come down from On High: It's a Command Performance. Be There!

I kept thinking about that choice of music, in the context of the important decision that was made, because Randy Bernard and Co. had best understand the only Place to Go for the deeply-wounded and devalued Indy brand and sport is UP.

I have and will continue to talk about this new concept on The Race Reporters, in this blog, and elsewhere. Below are transcripts of the questions I asked, and answers received, on the media teleconference, which should let you know what I think is important.

Q. Looking at this new car from a strictly commercial standpoint, in an attempt to address your TV issue, and also to provide additional value for sponsor identification, do you envision the dimensions on the body work of this car to be significantly longer than the current package so as to make the cars more easily identifiable for the TV audience, especially on ovals, and also to provide just more space for sponsor commercial ID?

RANDY BERNARD: It's a great question and probably a better one for Tony (Purnell) or Brian. I did ask that question, and when we were going through the process is how much more space will there be on the cars for sponsorship, and I think that, you know, some of the areas that I don't think anybody right now can tell you that there's going to be a tremendous amount more space on these cars. It's going to depend on the aero kits that are designed. But I think that you can see how a fin could be created could create more sponsorship elements to it. That would be primarily my answer.

BRIAN BARNHART: I would certainly agree with Randy. It's certainly been part of our RFP and goal to improve and maximize sponsor exposure and what we are doing. We have a challenge with our cars running 230 mph, and as small as they are, it is difficult to get that sponsor signage where we want it, so it's something that's at the top of our list so there's a lot of components that went into this deal. So certainly going to be part of the package when we as a safety body sit down and draw up the rule book for 2012, we want to leave those windows and those boxes open as much as possible. Yet at the same time, we do want to define them enough so that we get an increase in square inches to improve sponsor visibility.

Q. Randy, Governor Daniels made reference to grants and tax credits from the State of Indiana in order to facilitate Dallara bringing its facility to Speedway. Can you put a total dollar value on the State of Indiana's commitment in terms of these grants and tax credits?

BERNARD: We started visiting with the governor and his office about two months ago, and Jeff was involved in those preliminary meetings, as well. The governor wanted to make sure that we would ensure that the next manufacturer would locate here in Indiana. What we did is we had as a mandate in our request for a proposal, we felt that it was great to bring jobs and manufacturers over here from Italy, but we wanted to take it one step further, on how could we retain the different team owner shops here and how could we promote a way to bring more here. We want to make this, again, and renowned for the racing capital for the world. I think that we addressed that in what the governor presented today; that there will be basically 150,000 per car, per team owner, if you are located here in Indiana. So hopefully it's going to bring some new business, and if you add that up on 28 cars, it should be close to 4.3 million, so that's basically what that part of that grant is.

Q. Is there a ceiling on the amount of funding from the State of Indiana?

BERNARD: From the State of Indiana, I believe it's at $5 million, but you might want to get that from the Governor's Office.

Q. Gil, when you were a guest on my The Race Reporters radio show last year, you described your view of the IndyCar brand as, quote, insanely fast, unquote. Do you envision this new car package to advance your perception of the IndyCar brand as insanely fast?

GIL DE FERRAN: Well, I have to say yes, and perhaps we didn't talk enough about it. Throughout this process, we discussed many subjects about I won't even call it a new car. I will call it this new strategy, new concept, and certainly one of them was performance. And when I talk about performance of an IndyCar, I can't help but wear the driver hat. I spent most of my adult life as a professional racing driver, and it's hard to give up that mentality sometimes. So as a driver, I very much wanted this new generation of IndyCars to not only retain and maintain this kind of, shall we say, this high speed aspect of it. But I wanted this enhanced. I wanted IndyCars to become more difficult to drive, more challenging to drive; so that frankly not everyone can do it. I think if we make this car such that, you know, a couple of guys when they step out of it, they are a little bit scared; that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. The performance targets that were set for these cars, both on road courses and ovals, I think are in keeping with that idea, and I am confident given all of the parameters that were set, and capabilities that I think all of the companies involved have, that these targets will be achieved, and this new generation of cars will enhance that brand value of IndyCar Racing?

Q. Are you saying that you envision these new cars will, in fact, be more difficult to drive, and do you see the potential for this configuration of vehicle to set new track record, speed records at Indianapolis or any place else?

DE FERRAN: I think they will be more difficult to drive from the standpoint that they will be faster. And in my book, any car that is faster is typically more difficult to drive, because you have usually less time to perform the same functions with the same or more precision. So a faster car will always demand a higher level of skill from a driver. Performance targets in the ovals were to be in the same neighborhood as they are today, however, I think the latitude is there for those performance targets to increase if we can prove that that can be done safely with new safety enhancements that are not only happening on the chassis but in motorsports in general. So I think the potential is there if we can work out a way to do it safely; but that you will see some improvement in increasing speed in ovals, but I can tell you that you will definitely see that in the road races, too.


FAST LINES: It's a thrill to have Steve Kinser as my guest on Wednesday's The Race Reporters. The American racing icon typically does not do a lot of interviews like this . . . I'm a collector (and former writer) of clever headlines, so this one in USA Today, about the British Open, had me smiling: "At St. Andrews, hallowed by thy game" . . . ESPN's Mike Tirico (who I've met and like), straight off a politically correct performance in South Africa at the World Cup, told USA Today from St. Andrews that the British Open is "referred to as the Open Championship everywhere else in the world except the U.S." Thanks for making my point for me, Mike. Your audience IS in the U.S. (!) . . . Take note, Randy Bernard: The LPGA, nose-diving in U.S. public interest after domination by international players, has gotten a bounce following major championship wins by Americans Cristie Kerr and, especially, Paula Creamer. Paula could be a Danica-esque game-changer if she continues to win and becomes the face of the tour . . . I remember a time when journalists wanted to be in on covering a Big Story. It didn't matter if they were "off" -- they wanted to be in on the action. No more, apparently. One ESPN PTI host was on vacation when LeBron James made his "Decision." And both hosts were off-air the day of baseball's All-Star game, still an important annual sporting event, which also was the day George Steinbrenner died. Those are the times, from the standpoint of professional pride if nothing else, you get off the golf course and contribute to Big Story coverage . . . No surprise, this: All those media people, trying to be politically correct, pretending to be engaged by the World Cup in South Africa when their real level of interest was nil, dropped the subject about 30 seconds after the last match. You won't hear another word from them about soccer for four years . . . One of my favorite words is "consequential" and this must be said of George Steinbrenner: The New York Yankees' owner was a very, very consequential figure, as opposed to the Twitter phonies . . . Here's one of the many PR problems faced by NHRA in the aftermath of three fatalities this year -- writers writing that story who don't know anything about drag racing. Example: Last Friday, a The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif., writer reported that Mark Niver died in a "Top Fuel dragster." Actually, Niver was in an alcohol class dragster, a much different beast . . . Following my interview last Saturday on Fox Sports Radio on this topic, look for a lengthy story by me on NHRA's safety issues in this Thursday's Arizona Republic or read it at http://www.azcentral.com/ . . . And here's a link to an NHRA safety related story I wrote last Friday http://www.competitionplus.com/index.php/drag-racing/news/14920-light-1000-ft-unlikely-for-top-alcohol-classes

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 21 -- Newsmaker: Steve Kinser. Panelists: Jim Chiappelli, Keith Waltz. Plus, Bob Margolis.

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

[ Steve Kinser news nugget Thursday . . . ]

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A REAL NEWSMAKER -- DODGE CEO RALPH GILLES

LISTEN ALERT: I'm scheduled for a live guest shot on Fox Sports Radio this Saturday at about 1 p.m. EDT with hosts Andy Furman and Sean Farnham. They want to discuss drag racing safety given the recent fatalities. You can hear this on 300 Fox Sports Radio affiliate stations, markets including Los Angeles, Dallas, Seattle, Detroit, Atlanta, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Miami, Phoenix, Washington D.C., Pittsburgh and San Francisco. FSR can also be heard on XM Channel 142 and online at www.FoxSports.com .




In a major industry Newsmaker interview, Dodge President and CEO Ralph Gilles was my Newsmaker of the Week guest on Wednesday night's The Race Reporters on PowerUpChannel.com. We got Ralph's views on NASCAR, the auto business, as well as NHRA. Mark Armijo and Jim Pedley joined me for the roundtable and then Larry Edsall was on to help interview Gilles -- who told us Dodge and Ford shared wind tunnel data in developing their new Nationwide series cars!

Use this link to listen to the entire show:
http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=47171


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 21 -- Newsmaker: Steve Kinser. Panelists: Jim Chiappelli, Keith Waltz. Plus, Bob Margolis.

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

[ more Monday . . . ]

Sunday, July 11, 2010

THE LESSONS of LeBRON LUNACY

Last week's LeBron Lunacy only served to spotlight a lot that is wrong in America's celebrity-obsessed society.

It -- again -- showed how far journalistic standards have fallen. A single, unnamed "source close to LeBron" had the power to set off round-after-round of journalism by Twitter: "He's leaning toward Chicago." NO! "He's likely to stay in Cleveland." NO! "He's headed to New York." WRONG! James' real destination turned out to be Miami.

Think of all the time and energy wasted on these no-news reports. All they were designed to do was fill empty Internet and print space, and broadcast air time. Shame on reporters who made important local stories a second priority so they could feel themselves to be a part of LeBron Lunacy.

I can't name a single journalist or news outlet who rose above the madness. Certainly not ESPN, which bent its supposed standards for a truly embarrassing one-hour prime-time special. Jim Gray, who has been living off his reputation for years, took another sad step into the abyss. The list of others following his wretched example runs from here to Terre Haute.

The greatest fraud was casting the ESPN special as a "charity" event. Here's what LeBron, enabled by the media-at-large, taught the children used as props for his announcement: These days, it's a Me-Me-Me society. That's the model for your future, boys and girls: Yourself. What a disgrace!

Lastly, we witnessed yet another example of sports superstars getting very, very bad PR advice. We saw it with Tiger. In my opinion, we're seeing it with Danica. And we certainly saw it with LeBron. He came off looking terrible, his image knocked-down several steps by the appearance of pure egoism.

Now, in fairness, it could be Tiger and Danica and LeBron simply refuse to accept good counsel. But I have also witnessed, first-hand, how strong PR professionals sell their good counsel to bad clients in the client's best interest. IT CAN BE DONE! and don't anyone tell me otherwise! But, sadly, those kind of PR pros are rare today. The only thing that matters to them is the fee check.

Jeff Gordon:I think I learned what not to do. I’m a big fan of LeBron and I think it’s very cool that he’s going to Miami, but I don’t think the way they went about it is the best marketing idea in the world. You want to create hype, but you also want to be a positive and not a negative. I think I saw more, other than the thing that they did for the Boys and Girls Club, I saw more of it being a little negative."

Kurt Busch: "She’ll (Danica) probably have a one-hour ESPN prime-time special when she wants to announce it (full-time NASCAR career.)”

Don't think for a minute that ESPN or Speed won't slobber over the chance to do just that!


Who is the most significant driver in American motorsports at mid-season? See my new July "Drags, Dollars & Sense" column on CompetitionPlus.com:
http://www.competitionplus.com/index.php/drag-racing/news/14768-commentary-its-the-john-force-show-and-rightfully-so

FAST LINES: How sad this is what it has come to -- Panther Racing's news release that it had been "unable to come to a contract agreement with LeBron James." This is the sort of non-sense and waste of the media's time that happens when a team goes from champion to underperformer . . . I can't help but notice this sort of thing -- NBC is No. 1 among the nightly network news shows, and while I'm not a fan, I believe a good bit of that is due to anchor Brian Williams' work ethic. Williams was on-duty July 5, a holiday, while ABC's Diane Sawyer and CBS' Katie Couric took the night off. Hey, Katie, you are in last place with a record-low viewership. Get off the beach and get to work! . . . Beloved NASCAR media center worker Judy Tucker died last week. I can't even begin to say how much Judy, along with Donna Freismuth, helped me at the Daytona IROC races. God Bless.

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

July 21 -- Newsmaker: Steve Kinser. Panelists: Jim Chiappelli, Keith Waltz. Plus, Bob Margolis.

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

[ Ralph Gilles news note Thursday . . . ]

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

THE INSPIRATIONAL JACK BECKMAN

Sometimes, there's more important things to talk about than racing. That was the case on Wednesday night's The Race Reporters. Winning NHRA Funny Car driver Jack Beckman was my Newsmaker guest, but he's much more than driver of the Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger. He's a survivor of Stage IIIB non-Hodgkins lymphoma. You don't have to be a drag racing fan to want to hear Jack's inspirational story. Alan Reinart and Stan Creekmore joined me for roundtable talk.

Use this link to listen to the entire show:
http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=46450


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

July 21 -- Newsmaker: Steve Kinser. Panelists: Jim Chiappelli, Keith Waltz. Plus, Bob Margolis.

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

[ more Monday . . . ]

Sunday, July 04, 2010

4th of JULY PICNIC on the GRASSY KNOLL

It seemed to take only seconds after Dale Earnhardt Jr. won Friday night's Subway Jalapeno 250 Nationwide series race at Daytona for the conspiracy theories to race around the Internet.

Earnhardt drove a No. 3 Chevrolet in the Wrangler blue-and-yellow colors, fielded with help from Richard Childress, as the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger debuted in NASCAR. The stress and emotion involved were evident in the expressions and comments from Earnhardt, Childress and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. In fact, Junior said beforehand nothing short of a win would be considered a success, and repeated he does not intend to drive a No. 3 again in NASCAR.

The fact that Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski didn't pull out of line to take a run at Earnhardt on the last lap set off the Grassy Knoll buffs. Here's when I'll accept that: When Logano tells me Joe Gibbs told him not pass, Stenhouse says Jack Roush told him not to give it a go, and when Keselowski says Roger Penske ordered him to stay in line. And, then, when Gibbs, Roush and Penske tell me Brian France or Mike Helton told them that's the way they wanted it to end.

Call me naive, but sometimes, things just turn out the "right" way. Earnhardt's win made the fans happy. Let's leave it at that.

Now, if the IRL had somehow managed to have just one American driver finish in the top five of its July 4 race, well, that might have made me suspicious!

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 -- Newsmaker: Steve Kinser. Panelists: Jim Chiappelli, Keith Waltz. Plus, Bob Margolis.

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

[ Jack Beckman news nugget Thursday . . . ]