• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, March 09, 2014

SEEING THE 'SALUTE TO THE KING'

What I've been calling Arizona Speed Weeks concluded last Saturday night with the World of Outlaws' only scheduled event in the state. This following NHRA at Wild Horse Pass and then NASCAR at Phoenix International Raceway. The Outlaws were at Tucson International Raceway, a 3/8-mile dirt oval, for the NAPA Wildcat Shootout.

As I've said here before, anyone who considers him/herself a serious race fan needs to see an Outlaws' show this year, because it's Steve Kinser's last full season on tour. Maybe his last season, period, as Kinser admitted to me a few weeks ago. He'll decide after this season. My feature on Kinser was in last Friday's Arizona Republic. The link is on my Twitter
( @SpinDoctor500 ) or you can find it at AzCentral.com . With a large action photo of Kinser, it was good publicity for sprint car racing.

Jeff Gordon, who grew up a Big Time Kinser fan, told me at PIR he considers Steve to be one of America's 10 greatest drivers. So I made the run down to Tucson from Scottsdale to talk a bit more with Steve and witness what likely was his last Outlaws' event in Arizona. It's the "Salute to the King" tour.  I'm sure all AZ fans are proud that Steve told me the legendary, now sadly no-more, Manzanita Speedway was his "all-time favorite track."  See @Spindoctor500 for a photo. I was IROC's PR director when Steve won at Talladega in 1994.

It looked to me like a full house in the main grandstands. I chose to watch from the pit area on the backstretch, where there is a viewing mound and grandstand, as this allowed me to keep an eye on the cars and crews and drivers all night. A strong desert wind kicked-up dust about mid-way through the program, adding a night-time chill and to the drivers' challenge. Kinser won his heat and finished third in the A-Main behind Brad Sweet and Kerry Madson. With a win and second-second-third in his last three starts, Kinser is just 14 points behind Paul McMahan for the STP series championship lead. A serious Kinser run for his 21st Outlaws' crown would be one of 2014's best stories.

The Outlaws put on a great show which only makes the lack of a consistent live TV package that much more frustrating. And, as Gordon said to me at PIR: "To me, sprint car racing is one of the hardest things to do" because it's "very physical." So I left with even more respect for sprint car drivers and you should take a look, in person, if you haven't recently. 

These guys are REAL RACERS!


Congratulations to the Phoenix International Raceway team for what appeared to be a successful start to the track's 50th anniversary celebration. Fantastic to have legends like A.J. Foyt and Bobby Allison at the track. The Memory Lane exhibit behind the main grandstands was excellent, featuring Foyt's 1964 PIR-winning roadster, and Alan Kulwicki's 1988 winner Zerex Ford Thunderbird. It was well designed and executed and I understand almost 13,000 fans visited over the race weekend. And a reminder that Phoenix at 50: A Half-Century of Racing is available at Amazon.com . It's PIR's coffee-table style commemorative book. Several writers, including me, generated the copy.


A few weeks ago I wrote about my concerns with NASCAR's Integrated Marketing Communications. I received some very interesting Es from people I respect telling me of their own experiences. My experience covering the recent events at Phoenix International Raceway mostly added to my views on this subject.

NASCAR IMC had no print copies of any national series media guides at the track. Does it get any more basic than that?

As I wrote before, the impression NASCAR IMC leaves with me is that it's constantly trying to be the quarterback who throws the long, spectacular touchdown pass to win the Super Bowl. (In this case, that being nice stories in major national media outlets and in non-traditional media.) However, any good QB would tell you such a play would be impossible without the fundamentals of blocking and tackling. In my Constitutionally-protected and experienced opinion, NASCAR IMC too often doesn't do its blocking and tackling.

I told that to a senior official, who claimed not to understand the analogy.


And here's yet another example of what's going on on the front lines and in the real media world, not the gizmoed-up PR theory sold to Brian France.

On Feb. 17 I E'd a specific and detailed request to Roush Fenway Racing's Chip Farrar, listed on the NASCAR media site as the "PR" contact for Trevor Bayne. I asked for five minutes with Trevor Friday morning at PIR. There was no courtesy of a reply until the afternoon of Feb. 28, an E apparently generated only because of a heads-up from Ford's on-site rep. In his E, Farrar wanted to know what I needed with Trevor. I had explained that in my original message.


Unacceptable. Unprofessional. 


And, sadly, not uncommon.


It's NASCAR IMC's job to establish expected standards of professionalism for those working under its sanction. Ditto for sponsors and automakers -- in this case, Advocare (where's the sponsorship manager?) and Ford -- who contractually align themselves with these teams. 


[ more next Monay . . .