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Sunday, April 15, 2012

CATCHING UP

This week, let me catch up on a few items . . .

I always find it interesting how people choose to spend their money. In the case of Texas Motor Speedway, for last weekend's NASCAR weekend, track boss Eddie Gossage unveiled his new TV studio-like set in the media center (right). Impressive, certainly, but perhaps a surprising use of the capital improvements budget. "It is important that Texas Motor Speedway always be first, best and most creative in all aspects and how we present ourselves to the world through the media is another tool," said Gossage. "There is no one else in professional sports, not to mention motorsports, that has such a set in its press room. It is a big step forward for not only 'The Great American Speedway,' but for auto racing as well." Special drafting chairs position those on the set at the right height to show their sponsors more prominently. Texas, of course, is an SMI-owned track. I keep waiting -- and hoping -- ISC will OK the funds to upgrade Phoenix International Raceway's infield facilities, including garages, media center, medical building and parking. That's surely needed -- more, I wonder, than the latest spending on Michigan International Speedway.

I can't say who sent me the E-mail, other than it was a journalist reporting on both NASCAR and IndyCar, but the point was made that the PR people who need to be reading this blog the most are the ones who don't. Which is not a surprise.

On a related note: As I noted the other week, no team or sponsor or track or sanction should employ a PR representative without proof he or she has, at least, passed a basic Newswriting 101 course. Journalists don't care that someone is "proud" or "excited" about a new sponsor -- it would be NEWS if they WEREN'T happy. That's about as basic as it gets. Unfortunately, Bryan Herta Autosport and Circuit of the Americas don't get it. Herta's new publicist was back at it again last week, with a lead graph of a so-called "news" release that the team is "proud to announce" sponsorship of an Indy Lights car. Graph three told us said sponsor is "so excited" about the deal. CotA, meanwhile, was "proud to announce" a new investor. Too bad those involved don't understand what a turn-off this is to legitimate media. In my case, it leads to an immediate push of the "delete" button.

Formula One should not go to Bahrain. The reasons are so obvious I don't know why this is still an issue. Well, check that, I do know: MONEY.

Here we go again: Jeff Gordon NEEDS a win.

And, now, so does Jimmie Johnson. (You thought this category was reserved for Dale Jr.?)

Roush Fenway's Nationwide program is hurting for sponsors (Trevor Bayne wasn't even entered at Texas), so it was a bad move when winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. thoughtlessly used a Terrible Towel to cover over sponsor IDs on his uniform in victory lane Friday night. Where are the PR people who are supposed to be observant enough to notice this sort of thing?

In a similar vein, it was disrespectful for Michael Schumacher to sit with his uniform pulled-down for the world feed TV interview after China GP qualifying. I'm surprised the FIA would put up with this since it's so concerned about its image. A fine would be meaningless but I'd penalize Schumacher and Mercedes one world championship driver's and constructor's point.

I didn't watch much of the Texas Nationwide race, only flipping on occasionally. I didn't even think about where Danica was running until 50 laps to go. She was 20th at that time and finished eighth.

I'm about ready to admit standards of what is acceptable are gone. In the worst move since video of Carl Edwards' flip into the Talladega catch fence was used to sell tickets and promote TV viewership (remember, people were injured), Fox hyped Sunday's morning news program all week with word that host Chris Wallace would offer a "touching" tribute to his late father, Mike Wallace, the TV news legend. Respect went out the door in the name of an extra ratings point.

So Howard Beale has filed a $70 million lawsuit against his former employer Al Gore's lefter-than-Daytona's turn one network, which counter-sued The Mad Hater. Count me as one who is cheering for this to go all the way to trial, even though I'm sure it will be settled for an undisclosed amount. I can't help but wonder what the evidence-gathering process, known in legalese as "discovery," might reveal about both Keith Olbermann and Gore -- personal stuff they don't want in the public domain.

How out of touch with reality is ESPN's Michael Wilbon? He described the horrendous, disrespectful version of our National Anthem played before the NCAA men's basketball final as "authentic." I guess so -- if you ignore almost 200 years of American history. Apparently Wilbon's ego has gotten so big it covers his ears.

I don't like that CBS bends over and permits Augusta National to dictate journalism (for fear of losing the prestigious broadcast rights), but I will say this about the Masters' telecast: How refreshing to watch a sporting event where the announcers know to park their egos and allow the event and the athletes their rightful place in the spotlight. Was anyone at NASCAR paying attention? Just wondering . . .

Whit Watson, the TV lightweight who will forever be remembered by racing fans as the NASCAR know-nothing ESPN inexplicably had host rpm2night the night Dale Earnhardt was killed, showed up on The Golf Channel's Masters coverage. Nit Whit was paired with obscure tour player Notah Begay and formed one of the worst TV combos in recent memory. Not Dan Rather-Connie Chung terrible, mind you, but B-A-D. CNBC's Melissa Lee-Simon Hobbs is another bizarre pairing, making you wonder what those high-priced network execs and producers are thinking. The late Mark Haines and Erin Burnett were boffo together on CNBC. I'd say today's best duo are Fox News Channel's Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer.


I think Jeg Coughlin Jr. is the best pure driver in NHRA's Pro Stock class. He's back after a one-year hiatus and his family's Jegs.com mail order business is an important part of the Business of Drag Racing. My April "Drags, Dollars & Sense" column on CompetitionPlus.com is 10 Q&As with Jeg:
http://www.competitionplus.com/drag-racing/editorials/20794-knight-talking-business-with-jeggie

USA Today explains how the New York Yankees media train their players. I've used some of the tools described in the story. A lot of people in racing should pay attention to what is revealed here:
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/al/yankees/story/2012-04-12/Yankees-player-media-training/54238364/1

[ more next Monday . . . ]