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Sunday, August 24, 2014

NOTES FROM MY LEGAL PAD

Chris Economaki used to clean-out his notebook weekly for National Speed Sport News readers. Here are items written in recent weeks on the legal pad that's on my office desk:

The NASCAR weekend at Michigan International Speedway provided a useful insight into the mindset of the media these days. Despite layoffs and big budget cuts in the print industry, the MIS media center population was up over recent times as even out-of-state journalists traveled in case Tony Stewart was there. 

Here are five words that are as unlikely to appear on Internet forums as Terry Labonte is on Comedy Central: "I was wrong. I apologize."

The most troubled American racing series? No, not IndyCar. Big-time drag racing has very, Very, VERY serious problems. For the Powers-That-Be to deny this is ridiculous.

I don't know how it could be much better for NASCAR with both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon making headlines with major victories. If that continues into the Chase, lame-duck ESPN's ratings should be up. If they aren't, well . . . 

Did Joe Gibbs consult with Kyle Busch or Matt Kenseth before hiring Carl Edwards? You know, about personality clashes. Just asking . . .  

The Indianapolis and Bristol Motor Speedways are case study examples of how difficult it is to rebuild the fan base after doing things that turned-off the ticket buyers. Popularity is a very fragile thing, especially in the era of cell phone cameras and social media.

"Rebuilding" is a term usually associated with losing stick-and-ball sports teams. But that is exactly what Roush Fenway Racing will be doing next season.

I see no evidence that Toyota's on-track performance has improved since Lee White was replaced as TRD president.

Shame on the grassy-knoll Internet types and lazy media for not bothering to learn that sprint car drivers use the throttle to help steer on dirt tracks.

NASCAR's Cup schedule needs more than a little tweaking. From a ticket-selling standpoint, it's just dumb to have Phoenix-Las Vegas-Fontana and Dover-Pocono-Watkins Glen so close together. That might work in the south, but not elsewhere.

No disrespect to the ladies involved, but I've yet to meet or see any race queen that's in Linda Vaughn's league. And not just in appearance. And, as a group, Bill Brodrick's Union 76 RaceStoppers were a great part of the NASCAR scene. (I bet Chris would approve of this note.) I was a member of the old Union 76 Racing Panel of Experts, which set the favorite for major races, and those annual Panel dinners in Daytona before the 500 are fondly remembered. Those kind of gatherings simply do not happen today. Budget is just one reason. The philosophy of how to work with the media (relationship building) is anohter big one. I know the likes of Brodrick, Jim Chapman and Jack Duffy (who was Linda's boss at Hurst) would not approve.

Times change, but one thing that doesn't is my list of three favorite road courses includes Watkins Glen, Road America and Laguna Seca. Not just for the track, but also the beautiful surrounding area.

One disgraceful change that came with the welcomed ALMS and Grand-Am merger has been the demise of the ALMS' traveling medical and safety team. This is even more important in sports car racing. That's because of the high number of competitors and vehicles in different classes, which must be studied to know how to safely shut-off systems and extract drivers. Local "one-off" course workers cannot be expected to know how to deal with a crashed DP vs. a GT.

If, as we often are told, it's all about entertainment and keeping the fans happy, why prevent teams from working on their cars during a red flag? Having those cars on the track in competition surely is more interesting than being parked in the garage.

And, if safety is truly as important as we're all told it is, why ban tire-pressure sensors? It's insane for drivers to guess "I think a tire is going down" when there's passenger-car technology that can prevent or reduce accidents and crashed cars. NASCAR, please note, and get with it!

Sprint car racing, as a sport and industry, desperately needs to get the Knoxville Nationals back on live national TV. It would make business sense for World of Outlaws' series sponsor STP to get together with other involved companies and guarantee to buy the number of commercial spots necessary to make this happen. I know it's easy to tell other people how to spend their money, but I don't see how anyone involved could argue with this imperative.

I don't get it why more tracks don't offer "all you can eat" ticket packages. Seems to be a popular option at some other sports venues and perceived by fans (especially with families) as good value.

Every year public opinion polls show trust in, and respect for, the media goes down. Yet the gimmicks continue. In the last several weeks I've seen a guy sitting in a Fox News Channel studio in Los Angeles "report" on stories taking place in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Just to give viewers the impression of real shoe-leather journalism. Please, don't be fooled.

Will Power gets another chance this Saturday night, at California's Auto Club Speedway, to prove he really is mentally tough-enough to win the Verizon IndyCar championship. His actions Sunday at Somona again call this into legitimate question.

Racing-developed technology really does transfer to passenger vehicles. I'm amazed at the electronic performance, fuel saving and safety features in today's cars (which I've recently test driven) such as paddle shifters, traction control, front-and-rear cameras, data displays, collision-prevention systems and so forth. Plus all sorts of electronic gizmos like navigation and voice command. Now, as long as the on-board computer doesn't crash . . . 

[ more next week . . . ]