• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, July 31, 2011

INDY: WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR!

What 'til next year!

That's the perception that seemed to trickle-out of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week regarding the Brickyard 400.

There was a time when IMS officials would have been deeply concerned about such a perception. Of course, that was when Speedway "publicists" actually thought it was important to have on-going and strong working relationships with the national media. Today? Well, I'll put it this way: I doubt anyone there today even knows both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times thought it important enough to send writers to the Speedway's old off-season media party.

Outside of the fantasy bubble that exists in Indianapolis, supported by media cheerleaders, the BY400 had as much pre-race energy as a decade-old AAA battery and as much excitement as a scoreless soccer match.

What was upcoming? The Four Hundred or the Snore Hundred?

It only took 23 laps of boring Kasey Kahne up-front, no lead changes, "action" for ESPN to cut away to interview U.S. World Cup soccer goalie Hope Solo in the pit studio -- under the green flag!

The hometown Indianapolis Colts completely blew-away their IMS neighbors Saturday by signing Peyton Manning to a $90 million, five-year contract. Which was the bigger local story? No contest!

How far the Brickyard has dropped from the incredible 1994 debut (I was there) could be measured by this: Budweiser, Army, DuPont and Valvoline were among sponsors who didn't have primary ID on cars. That would have been unthinkable not that long ago. And it should make the Kool-Aid drinkers nuts that longtime Indy 500 entrant/sponsor John Menard took his money to NASCAR and watched his son win the Brickyard. That's a Business of Racing message of another sort.

Come 2012, there will be a name change due to title sponsorship from Crown Royal. The entire event format changes to a so-called "super" weekend with the debut of the Rolex sports car series Friday on the road course and the Nationwide series Saturday. NASCAR pinched that longtime date from nearby Lucas Raceway Park, which meant the short track's companion Truck race will disappear, too.

Congratulations to Paul Menard and team for good driving, good fuel mileage, and the right pit call. And to Jeff Gordon for an incredible charge in the closing laps.

At Indy, however, it's: Wait 'til next year! Questions: Is it too late? And will IMS be handing out Chicago Cubs' caps?


In my fifth anniversary blog a few weeks ago, I explained how the poison of the IRL-CART split and the technology allowing "brave" chatroomers to make anonymous personal attacks has led to the near-destruction of honest, legitimate, fact-based debate.

Liberal writer/commentator Juan Williams has authored a new book -- Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate. I hope to read it soon. You might remember the national outrage last year when ultra-liberal (and paid for by your taxes) National Public Radio fired Williams. In support of his book, Williams wrote an op-ed last week for USA Today. His opening words are worth reprinting here as a follow-up to what I wrote:

"These are the terms of debate in America: Speak your mind and you face being stigmatized, scorned and, in my case, fired."

Perfectly true. Extremely alarming. But definitely true. How sad.


On NASCAR: It was inevitable staff changes would come when the entire concept, organizational structure and philosophy of "PR" changed. But I was sorry to learn that Denise Maloof has departed NASCAR. She was excellent to work with and very helpful. In my experience, she also knew how to say "thank you" for coverage. That doesn't happen very often these days.


Spelling out the formula for F-O-R-M-U-L-A O-N-E success in Austin, Tex., next year:
http://valvoline.com/racing/behind-closed-garage-doors/2899

[ more next Monday . . . ]