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Sunday, September 23, 2012

BIZ NEWS BIG

Behind the headlines of who won, who lost and who is leading/out-of the championship, the real news action remains in the Business of Racing.


In NASCAR, the pressure to win and fill sponsorship gaps led a family owned-and-operated business -- Junior Motorsports -- to part ways with two family members, Tony Eury Sr. and Jr. Oh, by the way, Dale Jr.'s No. 88 Cup Chevrolet has some sponsorship openings for 2013 with Diet Mountain Dew cutting back. Phoenix International Raceway is about to announce a new title sponsor for its Nov. 11 Sprint Cup semifinal. Roger Penske, who for decades has said he retains the final decision on drivers, conceded Shell-Pennzoil had a huge say in hiring Joey Logano for the No. 22 instead of sticking with Sam Hornish Jr. Denny Hamlin did a great job winning New Hampshire but a boring race and not much from Junior didn't help NASCAR's Chase for TV audience.

Over in IndyCar, with the season over, the Edmonton race is no more but Randy Bernard says he's on-track for 19 events in 2013. Doubleheaders will be his latest try to get something to stick. I was at Auto Club Speedway for the finale and, based on my garage area conversations, there's a better than 50 percent chance up to five entries on the California grid won't be around for '13. There's less than a 50 percent chance of two, maybe three, new entries. The issues remain terrible TV ratings and how that impacts the search for team sponsorship. Paul Page has been told he's not a candidate for either the ABC or NBC Sports Network IndyCar host jobs. NSN is going "younger." IndyCar's bouncer is moving on to run the Detroit Grand Prix and, as one private security expert told me, if the series hires a new one the first order to business will be to keep the guy off TV -- a huge mistake of the past.

In NHRA, that sanction had a worse week than Mitt Romney. Just hours after the responsible official gave an interview proclaiming "parity" in the Harley-dominated Pro Stock Motorcycle class, new rules were published for 2013 and a 10-pound weight penalty imposed on the H-Ds for the rest of this year. What an absolute, total PR fiasco in terms of credibility with media, fans, racers and sponsors. John Force won his own sponsor Traxxas' $100,000 special Funny Car event in Texas (moved after being rained-out at the U.S. Nationals) and daughter Courtney virtually guaranteed herself top rookie honors by qualifying No. 1. In what has too-often been a mess of a Full Throttle season, Courtney is the most obvious positive. Just ask ESPN or any national event promoter.

[ more next Monday . . . ]