Sunday, May 27, 2012


Last week I explained key Business of Racing reasons why the Indianapolis 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Monaco Grand Prix needed great races. In that battle, Indy easily won.

OK. Now what will the IndyCar series do with it?

The first of several tests comes this weekend, as ABC televises the reborn Detroit Grand Prix. Will the record number of lead changes and celebrity mainstream media star Dario Franchitti's win move the needle to an improved ratings number?

It had better. Although Detroit most likely will be another follow-the-leader, not pass-the-leader, temporary road course parade.

But that is just one test. Will Indy give IndyCar a bounce that lasts the rest of the season? Just what are the series' plans -- and capabilities -- to take advantage of this opportunity? How will this gift be used to increase ticket sales, sponsorships, general media coverage (no, I'm not talking about the Indianapolis media cheerleaders) and build a TV audience that is at least acceptable instead of embarrassing?

The industry is waiting for those answers. And results.

Here's a link to my story in last Friday's Arizona Republic, which also was posted on the USA Today website. It's the unhappy and disturbing story of IndyCar crewman Eric Scheumann, injured when hit by JR Hildebrand's car last October at Kentucky Speedway. Paul Tracy sent me a kind text in praise of this article. The Indianapolis media cheerleaders won't report this but the so-called "real" fans should be concerned about what they learn here:

P.S. -- Memo to Beaux Barfield: You had one week to get back to me on my request for an interview for the above story. That's part of your job. Not the most important part, but absolutely part of it. You didn't -- and that is UNPROFESSIONAL. As is, as I've unfortunately come to expect, the ICS so-called "PR" department. Wake up, Randy Bernard. Stop wasting time on nonsense like a race in China and fix your internal issues. It's a people business. You don't have the right people.

I got four awards in the 2011 American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association's annual journalism contest. The results were announced Saturday in Indianapolis.

Last year's controversial blog posting "Untenable" got a second-place award in the web log category. My "Drags, Dollars & Sense" column won first place in the online column writing category. That was for a controversial July 2011 offering advocating that drag strips improve their appearance to create individual identity, such as Fenway Park enjoys. The long piece Mark Armijo and I did for the Arizona Republic on the history of Arizona racers in the Indianapolis 500 took second place in the newspaper feature category. A column I did for National Speed Sport News on the repaving of Phoenix International Raceway took second in the newspaper column category. Thank you to all who helped make this success possible and to my readers for taking the time to read what I write.

Congratulations to Mark Armijo who won the newspaper newswriting category for his Republic story on Jeff Gordon's win at PIR.

Congratulations to my friend Paul Page, 2011 winner of the Bob Russo Founders Award for dedication to auto racing. The award was presented to Page by Russo Award Chairman Bill Marvel during the AARWBA Indy breakfast. Russo, the late racing journalist/publicist/historian, founded AARWBA in 1955. He died in 1999 at age 71. The Russo Award is presented for “profound interest, tireless efforts and undying dedication to auto racing as exemplified by Russo throughout his lifelong career.”

Previous Russo Award winners include: 2005 – Michael Knight; 2006 – Wally Parks; 2007 – Chris Economaki; 2008 – Bob Jenkins; 2009 – Shav Glick; 2010 -- Bill York; 2011 -- Bill Marvel. A permanent plaque with all winners’ names is on display in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center. The award is sponsored by Collene and Gary Campbell, the sister and brother-in-law of the late Mickey Thompson.

FAST LINES: I laughed when Orlando Sentinel columnist George Diaz, in comparing IndyCar and NASCAR, wrote that the Izod-sponsored IC is the one wearing "Polo shirts vs. tank tops." While it points (again) to the not-paying-attention-to-the-details/not-working-to-develop-professional-relationships IndyCar PR department, it's also a serious pointing of the fingers to Izod, which, unlike what PPG or Winston did, doesn't have a serious and on-going PR presence focused on its entitlement . . . As expected, Jean Alesi and Simona de Silvestro were black-flagged within 10 laps at Indy because of the embarrassing lack of horsepower from the Lotus engine. Yet Indy's official boxscore listed their reason for retirement as "handling." Race results are important historical documents which should be HONEST more than politically correct . . . With Rusty Wallace going into the NASCAR Hall of Fame (congratulations!), I hope Miller will run the No. 2 later this season in a special Wallace/HoF graphics design . . . Smart move by NASCAR to add a media award to its HoF ceremony, named in honor of the first two recipients, broadcasters Ken Squier and Barney Hall . . . And best wishes to Dick Berggren, who I have known for many years, who ends his Fox pit-reporting career Sunday at Dover. Always well prepared for any assignment, Dick is a true pro -- not many like him left . . . I bet Darrell Waltrip's blood pressure went up when Wallace went into the Hall in his first year of eligibility, as DW had to wait until his third try . . . One of the least surprising things I've heard in a LONG time is that TV ratings for the NASCAR All-Star race were down double digits . . . With the name "Infineon Raceway" null and void as of June 1, the track temporarily will just call itself "Sonoma" while potential replacement naming rights are negotiated. I can't think of any other major track that went for any period of time without a formal and proper name . . . A PR Disgrace: The Health and Human Services Department awarded $20 million PR contract to agency Porter Novelli to promote ObamaCare -- which could be thrown out by the Supreme Court in June. You tax dollars at waste.

[ more next Monday . . . ]