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Sunday, October 27, 2013

MINDLESS

Brad Keselowski's tenure as Sprint Cup champion has been disappointing, at best, and unsatisfactory, which is my true opinion. And I'm talking off-track. You all know of his various comments and controversies this season but Brad locked-up the Tin Ear of the Year Award on Friday at Martinsville by questioning NASCAR's (at least one year too late) decision to mandate imPACT baseline concussion testing for 2014. Just hours after legendary NFL quarterback Brett Favre admitted to memory loss, Not So Special K said he was concerned, "Because doctors don’t understand our sport.  They never have and they never will.  Doctors aren’t risk takers.  We are.  That’s what makes our sport what it is and when you get doctors involved, you water down our sport.  I’m trying to be open-minded to the possibility that they can help us, but past experience says no.”  He added, "I don't like doctors in our sport."

Hey, Brad, anyone who has ever known a surgeon (I have, more than one) would say they ARE risk takers. Like racers, they are confident enough to accept the risk.  Oh, and I can think of many dozens of racers who DO like doctors in the sport and -- in IndyCar and Formula One -- with the decision-making power to keep drivers out of races. Alex Zanardi, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, the list goes on and on and on . . .

Let's remember it was only last year that Dale Earnhardt Jr. missed Chase races because of the effects of (at least one) concussion. As surprising as Keselowski's diss was, Junior's support of the rule was no surprise: "If you care about your wellbeing and your health and quality of life it’s a smart move to embrace.”


It never seems to end. Kevin Harvick did a promotional visit in my area the other week to hype the Nov. 10 AdvoCare 500k at Phoenix International Raceway. Maybe his PR rep talked to some other media there, but not to me or Mark Armijo, both there interviewing Harvick and I wrote an Arizona Republic story the next day. Quick: Someone PLEASE explain to me how you can be a "PR" person but not talk to the media! Here's another hint: Media should be contacted in advance and asked if any stats, photos, info, whatever was needed. And they should be thanked afterwards. Since Harvick has rotating primary sponsors, the first question I asked him was what sponsor would be featured on his car at PIR. He said he appreciated that I asked. I used that ID in my story the next day. But I guess that wasn't important to the sponsor PR person. 

(Our coverage of NASCAR at PIR begins Sunday, Nov. 3 with my Arizona Republic / AzCentral.com story on "why are fans fans?" Mark and I will be daily starting Tuesday, Nov. 5. and I'll have more on the Keselowski concussions controversy. No doubt some Twitter updates along the way, too.)


It was fantastic that A.J. Foyt attended the announcement at Auto Club Speedway that Anne Fornoro had won the 2013 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports PR. A.J., of course, knew Jim and Jim respected Foyt a great deal. 


I was glad to hear Scott Dixon say in his post-Fontana news conference that he was willing to get out into the public and promote the IndyCar series as its new champion. Dixon admitted he'd grown more comfortable in the role since his 2003 and even 2008 titles. But the real issue is what can the series, team, sponsors and marketing partners do with him? Ryan Hunter-Reay was willing and able to do whatever asked of him as last year's champion, but IC's greatly diminished standing among mainstream media decision makers didn't allow for the opportunities he'd have wished for. It's another test and challenge for CEO Mark Miles and staff.


I'm not much into predictions, but based on experience (and common sense), I'll say this: The fact that IndyCar is jamming so many races back-to-back in 2014 will hurt the quality of the racing. This isn't NASCAR, where teams have the manpower and cars and resources for such a stretch. Those mechanics will have their tongues hanging out of their heads as the championship is to be decided. Human error and mechanic failures will increase.



I have to acknowledge Tim McCarver, calling his last World Series before retirement. When I was at the Philadelphia Daily News in the late 1970s, Tim was Steve Carlton's designated catcher. Carlton was infamous for not speaking with the media so McCarver was the go-to guy for quotes after those games. And, plenty of other times -- good and bad, too. I wasn't the regular beat writer, just a periodic visitor to the clubhouse, but no matter, McCarver was always nice to me and answered my questions with respect. His insight into the game from the booth has well served both the casual and avid fan and Tim's career has taken him to assignments I bet he never thought possible, such as co-hosting the Olympics with Paula Zahn on CBS. Thanks, Tim. Enjoy whatever is next. 


Those on Twitter ( @SpinDoctor500 ) saw this first last week: Of Einstein, NHRA and ESPN. My new CompetitionPlus.com column --
http://www.competitionplus.com/drag-racing/editorials/26835-michael-knight-improving-fan-experience-mandatory-for-nhra

[ more next Monday . . . ]