• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, May 18, 2014

BACK FOR THE BIG DAY

I've emerged from the far side of a dark tunnel in time to (hopefully) enjoy racing's Most Important Weekend.

With the admission that lately I haven't been paying as close attention to what's happening, there are several things that immediately come to mind as racing's Christmas Day arrives.

ABC will televise the Indianapolis 500 for the 50th consecutive year. That seems, to me, like something of a Big Deal but I haven't noticed much push for this. Maybe this week . . . And Allen Bestwick will be under the microscope as he calls The Greatest Spectacle for the first time. Meanwhile, Paul Page returns as anchor of the Indy Radio Network, one of the best decisions made at 16th and Georgetown in recent years. I say good luck to both of them.

Indy represents another Big Test of CEO Mark Miles' overall plan to re-energize the Indy Car sport and the 500 in particular. Will it be a memorable race? How many empty seats will there be in the downsized Speedway grandstands? Any bump in TV numbers with ABC's lead-in coverage the last two weekends of the road course race and qualifying? How much of this will be because of Kurt Busch's run at The Double? All important things that, I guarantee you, sponsors and potential sponsors will be monitoring.

Over at NASCAR -- after another running of the least important and most over-hyped race of the year, the "All-Star" event -- there's the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Charlotte has cleaned Indy's clock in recent times as far as the TV numbers are concerned, but NASCAR's TV audience has been down I think at every race this season. It's an increasingly alarming trend and might make ESPN's decision to opt-out of NASCAR look smart. Will those audience totals go up at Charlotte? 

Formula One, now dominated by Mercedes instead of Red Bull, is showcased on NBC broadcast TV for the second consecutive year with the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix. That's one of the best things to have happened in quite a while. No doubt, that was a big reason NBC's sports cable outlet got the F1 rights. I'm sure the Monaco visuals will be great. I hope the racing is, too.

NHRA -- foolishly in my view -- is back on the Memorial Day weekend calendar after staying away for a number of years. Going up against Indy and Charlotte guarantees that Kansas is nothing more than a regional event for the straight-line racers and their sponsors. Just as Phoenix was on the same day as the Daytona 500. National media coverage? Forget it. Don't think sponsors don't notice ridiculous decisions such as this.

And, of course, there will be countless local short-track events from Sea-to-Shining-Sea. These remain the historical backbone of American motorsports and I particularly wish these promoters success and these racers good -- and safe -- runs.

This weekend's Winners and Losers will be decided in the marketplace as well as the racetracks. Those results will be known next week. This weekend, though, I am going to try to just enjoy it all as much as possible. I hope you can, too.

[ more next week . . . ]