• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

PENSKE WOULDN'T BID for IMS

Many people have asked me to write about the reaction I received to my "Untenable" posting of Oct. 26. I appreciate it. I've avoided doing so because I believe that blog speaks for itself and, given the sensitive and difficult nature of the subject matter, I have not seen a reason to keep after it.

So, allow me to leave it this way: Without any question, "Untenable" produced more response than anything I've ever written. (For the record, that goes back to the late 1960s.) As expected, some elements of the chatroom crowd personally attacked me, and posted anonymous (of course) FALSE "facts" about my career and supposed IRL vs. CART political leanings. Far more importantly to me, however, were the truly amazing comments and insights provided by some of the most significant players in the Business of Racing industry -- including very well-known participants from within the IndyCar series. Not one of these Big Names -- not one -- said they disagreed with a single word. One described the IC series as being "derailed" and "not sure if it can be put back on its tracks." Another told me, "Even you don't know how bad it is."

Oh -- these thoughts came from people routinely praised by chatroomers.

As I explained back then, I carefully considered every word -- "Untenable" was chosen with great care for literal accuracy -- and I will say here I continue to stand by every word.

Now, here's a follow-up: Straight reporting as done by me Sunday, Nov. 13 before the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Phoenix International Raceway. After Sam Hornish Jr.'s Nationwide series win the day before, I asked Roger Penske to give me some one-on-one interview time the next morning. Following the mandatory pre-race driver/crew chief meeting, Penske invited me into his motorcoach, and we sat down in his private meeting area in the back.

Since I had listed Penske as a possible bidder for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway if the Hulman-George family put it up for sale, I asked Roger point-blank if he would do so. I reminded him that, way back in my Philadelphia newspaper days, Penske had been quoted as saying he'd like to make an offer should such an opportunity present itself. And, of course, Penske once did have a racetrack business as part of his overall enterprises, including Michigan International Speedway, California Speedway and Nazareth Speedway. Here is Penske's answer to my question about IMS:

"No -- we're out of the racetrack business. I've got so much commitment to my own businesses. It's not something that I would be interested in. It's going to take a big number (price) and someone who's in the entertainment business would be better off with that type of an asset."


Anything -- ANYTHING -- Dave Argabright writes is worth reading. I oh-so-miss his "American Scene" column in the now-gone print edition of National Speed Sport News. I've just gotten Dave's latest book, Sprint Car Salvation, which is something different from him. It's based on 1970s USAC sprint car racing from a fictional serial that was in Sprint Car & Midget Magazine about a half-dozen years ago. I plan to get started on this later this week but for more information on the 240-pager ($24.95) go to http://AmericanScenePress.com .



I'll be in Las Vegas for the concluding events of NASCAR's Champions Week, including the NMPA Myers Brothers award luncheon, media activities, and Friday night's Sprint Cup awards banquet. Please come back here next Monday for some news and observations . . .

Sunday, November 20, 2011

HUMOR MIGHT BE A USEFUL TOOL for STEWART

UPDATE: The Formula One season ends Sunday in Brazil and I'll be on the year's final The Checkered Flag show with Rick Benjamin on Sirius XM 94/208 shortly after race ends.


The reality of the modern media environment is plenty of people will say it's a bigger story that Jimmie Johnson didn't win his sixth consecutive Sprint Cup than Tony Stewart becoming the new NASCAR champion.

There's some merit, and some unfairness, in that. From a PR perspective and the standpoint of the Cup winning sponsors, I would definitely consider countering it with some interview one-liners and a humorous TV commercial playing off the end of Johnson's reign. Humor -- used correctly -- has become a well established way of deflecting a controversy or making a key point.
Ronald Reagan did it brilliantly: Watch this YouTube clip of the way Reagan took care of the issue of his age during a 1984 debate with Walter Mondale. It's a classic and proves my point exactly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkVUEETinj0

If and when all the Jimmie talk gets underneath the skin of the new NASCAR championship collective, "well," they might try this famous line from Reagan's 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=Wi9y5-Vo61w


Let's just say it -- and NASCAR critics, give credit where it is due: The new championship points system worked. And Tony Stewart -- in an A.J. Foyt-esque drive -- and Carl Edwards produced a championship race for the ages. Congratulations.


Kenny Bernstein's retirement from racing must be noted here. I've known Kenny going back to the early 1980s and spent some quality time with him just a few weeks ago when NHRA was here in the Phoenix area. Kenny will forever be remembered as "First to 300 mph" but long-ago earned his reputation as one of racing's great business people. When he's inducted next spring into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala., (I voted for him) that demands to be recognized along with all his winning, six NHRA championships, and, as an owner, Indy 500 pole plus NASCAR and Indy Car series wins.

Kenny knew how to deliver Return on Investment for sponsors. One thing he always did was send a thank you letter to journalists for their coverage -- I've received several. NHRA President Tom Compton said this about Bernstein's career and he's completely correct:

“He paved the way for team sponsorship in NHRA and showed others how to not only win on the track, but how to service team sponsors and develop long-lasting business relationships."

There's more to the story and I'll get into that in my December "Drags, Dollars & Sense" column on CompetitonPlus.com . For now: Kenny helped make racing, as a sport and as an industry, what it is in America. My congratulations, thanks, and best wishes to Kenny and wife Sheryl.

[ more next week . . . ]

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NASCAR at PHOENIX

It was a long but interesting NASCAR weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Here are links to all of my Arizona Republic stories and I hope you might enjoy some of this on-site reporting instead of the usual blog posting this week. Thank you.


Monday -- New PIR exceeds expectations
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2011/11/13/20111113pir-exceeds-expectations.html

Monday notebook -- (Kyle and Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, etc.)
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2011/11/13/20111113pir-kyle-busch-performs-well.html

Sunday -- Q&A with Kevin Harvick
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2011/11/12/20111112nascar-kevin-harvick-kolbalt-tolls-500-pir.html

Sunday notebook -- (Mike Helton, Adrian Fernandez, etc.)
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2011/11/12/20111112nascar-pir-notebook-president-mike-helton-moves-past-busch-controversy.html

Sunday -- Hornish wins first NASCAR race
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2011/11/12/20111112pir-nationwide-sam-hornish-jr-wins-wypall-200.html

Saturday -- Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2011/11/11/20111111nascar-kyle-busch-back.html

Saturday notebook -- (Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, etc.)
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2011/11/11/20111111nascar-denny-hamlin-tracks-surface.html

Friday notebook -- (Trevor Bayne, etc.)
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2011/11/10/20111110nascar-trevor-bayne-roller-coaster.html

[ more next Monday . . . ]

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

VIDEO: JEFF GORDON's LAP of the NEW PIR

UPDATE: I'll be on NASCAR SiriusXM Friday at about 1 p.m. (ET) to talk about this weekend's Phoenix weekend.


As promised, I've posted on YouTube the video of Jeff Gordon taking me, Mark Armijo and Chris van der Beeck around the new Phoenix International Raceway layout. This happened during the Sprint Cup test at PIR last month. Click this link to watch:
http://youtu.be/IqIzbV6uZm0

Mark and I will be covering PIR for the Arizona Republic all weekend. Please check out the newspaper or read us on http://azcentral.com/ . I'll have notebooks every day plus the Nationwide race story in Sunday's paper and my traditional newsmaker Q&A.

Thursday notebook -- (Jeff Gordon's lap of the new PIR)
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2011/11/09/20111109nascar-jeff-gordon-pir-track-impressions.html

Thursday -- Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2011/11/09/20111109nascar-team-chemistry-phoenix-race.html

Wednesday notebook -- (Track preparation; Danica says no reality show) http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2011/11/08/20111108nascar-pir-track-grooves-repaved.html


I guested Wednesday on my friend Larry Henry's Pit Pass USA show. Here's an audio link and I'm on right at the start:
http://www.voiceamerica.com/Show/1547


Yes, I'm thinking NASCAR, but here's a link to my November "Drags, Dollars & Sense" column on CompetitionPlus.com. It's about the pressure on Courtney Force and others to "move the needle" for NHRA:
http://www.competitionplus.com/drag-racing/editorials/19568-drags-dollars-a-sense-will-they-entice-interest

[ more next Monday . . . ]



Monday, November 07, 2011

BILL YORK WINS 2011 JIM CHAPMAN AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN RACING PR

This news release was issued Monday morning. Congratulations, Bill!

Bill York, whose half-century of work in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center earned him the respect and friendship of journalists from around the world, today was announced as winner of the 2011 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations.

The Chapman Award is considered by many in the industry as the highest honor in racing public relations. It is named in memory of Chapman, the legendary PR executive and innovator, who worked with Babe Ruth and was named Indy Car racing’s “most influential man” of the 1980s. Chapman died in 1996 at age 80.

The announcement was made by Michael Knight, chairman of the selection committee, and one of Chapman’s closest friends. The award is determined by vote of media members, most of whom knew Chapman, and is authorized by the Chapman family. PR representatives from all forms of motorsports are eligible for consideration.

“It is impossible to think of anyone more deserving,” said Knight, the longtime journalist/publicist and award rights-holder. “Bill York is more than one of Jim’s countless friends and admirers. Bill’s professionalism is in the example and spirit of Jim Chapman’s.

“Bill, like Jim before him, believes in the ‘old-school’ approach to working with the media – that it is essential to build one-on-one relationships with journalists. That’s too often missing today, when far too many PR representatives think an E-mail or text message constitutes ‘relationship-building.’ Jim was a true ‘people person’ and knew nothing could replace a handshake, a face-to-face conversation, or the sound of another person’s voice.

“Over many decades, Bill has shown he understands the value of actually talking to people and getting to know them, and that having those professional relationships best serve clients in good times -- and bad.”

York began working in the Indianapolis 500 press room in 1958. As a popular goodwill ambassador with journalists, York filled many roles, including gathering statistics and managing the media center through 2008. He was instrumental in creating the Stark & Wetzel Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award. He served as a Speedway media liaison last May.

York has earned many auto racing honors, including the 2010 Bob Russo Founders Award for lifelong contributions to the sport. He’s also worked in the NBA Indianapolis Pacers and NFL Indianapolis Colts media rooms. The Pacers’ media center is named in his honor.

Chapman (left) started as sports editor or managing editor of several Southern newspapers before joining the New York Times. He served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He entered the PR business in 1946, as regional PR director for Ford Motor Co. in Detroit.

Soon thereafter, Chapman hired Ruth as consultant to the automaker’s sponsorship of American Legion Junior Baseball. They traveled together for more than two years for personal appearances and became close friends. Chapman was one of only three friends at Ruth’s bedside when he died in August 1948.

In 1950, Chapman left Ford to start his own PR firm. One of his first clients was Avis founder Warren Avis. Chapman devoted much of his time to financial PR, which he once called his “favorite form of PR,” and helped companies get recognition among analysts and even gain admission to the New York and American stock exchanges.

Chapman’s first venture into motorsports was in 1951, when he joined with NASCAR founder Bill France to promote the Motor City 250. The race was part of Detroit’s 250th birthday celebration, a Chapman client. In 1967, Chapman entered Indy Car racing with client Ozzie Olson’s Olsonite sponsorship of Dan Gurney’s team, which later featured Bobby Unser as driver.

“Jim was one of the most innovative and imaginative PR men ever to grace a pit lane,” said Gurney. “Jim practically invented most of what is now considered routine sponsor PR work. He was the first, as far as I know, who thought of putting up a sponsor hospitality tent alongside a racetrack (at the old Riverside International Raceway), filling it with extravagant race car ice-sculptures, beautiful food and beautiful people from the business, sports and movie industries. He started an ‘open house’ tradition in Ozzie’s hotel suite in Indianapolis, where journalists could rub shoulders with John Wayne or (astronaut) Scott Carpenter.”

Chapman also coordinated Olsonite’s sponsorship of the Driver of the Year award, orchestrating an annual luncheon at New York City’s famed ‘21’ Club.

Chapman’s greatest professional acclaim came from 1981-1992, as director of CART series sponsor PPG Industries’ program. Chapman was instrumental in raising PPG’s prize fund from $250,000 to more than $3.75 million at the time of his retirement in February 1993. The all-female PPG Pace Car Driving Team was another Chapman innovation, as were the PPG Editor’s Days, when he brought business and feature writers to the tracks for lunch, pace car rides, and driver interviews.

Indy Car Racing magazine named Chapman the sports’ “most influential” man of the 1980s, saying he turned “a public relations assignment into an art form.” After his retirement, Chapman continued to consult PPG, and agreed to Mario Andretti’s personal request that he serve as honorary chairman of Andretti’s “Arrivederci, Mario” farewell tour in 1994.

“The true honor of this award is not the plaque,” said Knight. “The true honor is having your name forever associated with that of the great James P. Chapman.”

York will officially receive the 2011 Jim Chapman Award January 8, 2012, at the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association’s All-America team dinner in Indianapolis. Broadcaster Paul Page, a longtime Chapman friend and a member of the award selection committee, will make the presentation.

PREVIOUS JIM CHAPMAN AWARD HONOREES:
1991 – Michael Knight
1992 – Tom Blattler
1993-94 – Deke Houlgate and Hank Ives
1995 – Kathi Lauterbach
1996 – Marc Spiegel
1997 – Mike Zizzo
1998 – Tamy Valkosky
1999 -- Carol Wilkins
2000-2003 – (Award not presented)
2004 – Doug Stokes
2005 – Susan Arnold
2006 – Kevin Kennedy
2007 – Dave Densmore and Bob Carlson
2008 – Judy Stropus
2009 – (Award not presented)
2010 -- Jim Hunter


It's NASCAR week in the Valley of the Sun. Below is a link to my Sunday Arizona Republic story on Jeff Gordon. Mark Armijo and I will have coverage all this week, starting Tuesday.
http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/sports/articles/2011/11/05/20111105nascar-sprint-cup-jeff-gordon-pir.html


This Wednesday (Nov. 9) I'm going to post on YouTube the video of our ride around the new PIR with Jeff Gordon, so check back here then to watch that.