• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

STRONG WORDS and INFLUENTIAL PENSKE

"More times than not, the fan at home does not believe NASCAR."

From a PR standpoint, that's about as damning a statement as you can get. And it didn't come on Twitter or from some anonymous forum poster.

This sentence was the focal point of a column written post-Auto Club 400 by Jenna Fryer, motorsports writer for the Associated Press, the world's largest news-gathering organization. As opposed to Mike Harris, who preceded her on the beat, Fryer does an opinion column in addition to straight news coverage. Her column came out of the controversy of a couple of late-race invisible (at least, to the TV audience) cautions at Fontana, which clearly impacted the final results. Here's a link:

http://racing.ap.org/article/column-nascar-fans-are-buzzing-over-debris-cautions

The column, and the debate it triggered, should have been a Big Time Wake-Up Call to Brian France. And shaken the management of the Integrated Marketing Communications department. As I have said here many times, including just last week, the IMC theory is to PR what global warming is to real science.

It is, by nature, dehumanizing. And certainly not in keeping with how people like Bill France Jr. and Jim Hunter built the NASCAR business. Essential 1-on-1 professional relationships have been all-but neglected as IMC has gone all-in on social media. Traditional and basic media services have been dropped this season -- without notice -- despite the department being populated by more than 40 people. The approach is all about driving traffic on Twitter and other social media outlets. "What's Trending?" is EVERYTHING to them.

I wrote here last week that, sooner or later, this new dehumanized approach would have consequences. Now, let me be clear, I haven't spoken directly with Fryer about her column. I wasn't at Fontana and Higher Priorities meant I didn't closely follow the race on TV. But here's a FACT: Building and maintaining solid professional relationships is what media relations is all about. The NASCAR Industry, largely, isn't doing that. It's stunning to me how few PR people actually make the rounds in the media center, introducing themselves, saying hello, offering information or help, a cell phone number and E-mail address. I personally observed NASCAR's Chief Communications Officer in the Phoenix International Raceway media center but he did not offer the personal touch of coming around to say "hello" or -- God forbid -- "thanks for the coverage." The unspoken attitude conveyed: Well, of course, you're going to cover NASCAR! After all, we're NASCAR!

That's the way it was for decades at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Please note how that has turned out.

The importance of individual human relationships cannot be overstated. Great PR leaders like Jim Chapman didn't have to be told this -- they just knew it. This was one of the greatest compliments I ever received in the decades I lived the 24/7/365 racing PR life: I did the PR for the factory Porsche Indy Car team in 1988. Porsche greatly underestimated the challenge and produced an uncompetitive chassis (later replaced by a customer March) and engine. About a month before his death in an airplane crash, my great friend Al Holbert -- director of Porsche Motorsports North America -- was asked by Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch if he was surprised the national media hadn't been hammering Porsche for its embarrassing performance. While I wasn't present for this interview, I heard later than Holbert credited my own good relationships with the media as one reason. (I say Al's was the main reason.) 

Until NASCAR -- at its highest executive levels -- understands that nothing is more meaningful than the sound of the human voice, a handshake, a pat on the back, a face-to-face conversation, I expect more media earthquakes like the AP column. 

But will Brian France notice? And change course? First, he has to do some homework and understand what the problem is.


POWER PLAYERS for the week of March 29: This week's 10 most influential people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight. 

  1. Roger Penske -- His powerhouse IndyCar team qualifies 1-2-3-4 and finishes 1-2-4-5 at St. Pete. And American racing's most successful team owner speaks out strongly about messing with tires in NASCAR, against IndyCar international events, and calls for car rules stability to 2020 in the name of cost containment in a sponsor-challenged environment.

  2. Jenna Fryer -- The Associated Press' motorsports writer's very blunt column about NASCAR's invisible cautions -- intended to cost bad boy Kurt Busch the win at California? -- stirs-up the sanction's fan and Mainstream Media critics. And lays bare the lack of relationship building from the Integrated Marketing Communications department.

  3. Mike Helton: -- Is NASCAR's vice chairman and senior racing official about the lower the boom on any Cup crew chiefs for tampering with tires? A huge call -- or no call -- awaits.

  4. Sebastian Vettel -- Ends his own, and Ferrari's, long winless streak with pace and strategy in Malaysia. Ferrari remains motorsports' most passion-stirring name. A straight-up season-long Vettel/Ferrari vs. Lewis Hamilton/Mercedes battle is the best thing that could happen to Formula One right now.

  5Jack Beckman -- Fan favorite ends long Funny Car winless streak at the 4-Wide Nationals. Cancer survivors throughout the motorsports world are cheering.

  6. Dave Moody -- The first "off" weekend of the Sprint Cup season will provide plenty of opportunity for NASCAR fans to sound-off with SiriusXM's Main Man. How Moody steers the conversation will be a signal of how the season is going. 

  7. Ricky Craven -- He's the authority for those who get their NASCAR news on ESPN's SportsCenter. Should have gotten a spot on NBC's new crew.

  8. Donny Schatz -- The World of Outlaws' Main Main wins twice -- including his first in California since 2012.

  9. Don Schumacher -- The Roger Penske/Rick Hendrick of NHRA team owners doubles again with Jack Beckman and Antron Brown at the 4-Wide Nationals. "The Don" is recovering from cancer treatments.

10. Mike Davies -- Fox Sports' field operations senior VP tests a virtual reality software application at Auto Club Speedway. The technology supposedly enables viewers to "experience the event as if they were there." NASCAR's next revenue stream?

more next week . . . ]

Sunday, March 22, 2015

PENSKE, HARVICK 1-2 ON NEW 'MOST INFLUENTIAL' LIST (AND A FEW POST-PIR ITEMS)

A few things coming out of the NASCAR weekend  at Phoenix International Raceway:

Could Formula One help save Danica Patrick's NASCAR career?

I don't see any evidence the Patrick-(crew chief) Daniel Knost pairing is working. And, remember, this is the last year of Danica's contract with GoDaddy.com, which has new ownership, management and marketing objectives since former CEO Bob Parsons signed her last deal. Return On Investment may be declining, based on at least one yardstick (see my March 15 Arizona Republic story http://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/motor/2015/03/14/danica-patrick-financially-strong-decade/24760663/  ), and GoDaddy's ad campaign is no longer "Look at me!" But international is a new focus for GoDaddy, and that's where Gene Haas, her Cup team co-owner, comes in.

Haas will field his own Formula One team starting next season, his own play to build international market share for his Haas Automation machine tool business. I guess, if Haas wants to, he could give GoDaddy space on his F1 cars as part of an agreement to keep Patrick's Sprint Cup sponsorship going. It's something to watch for . . . 


The next step in NASCAR's slow-crawl toward a high (or, at least, higher) tech future will be seen on steering wheels. No, they won't be F1, or even IndyCar, ish, but more control buttons and a display screen to allow drivers to scroll through a menu of options is evolving. NASCAR will approve more of this.


It's more obvious than ever that NASCAR's Integrated Marketing Communications business model is less service to traditional media and all-in on social media. (Probably proven by last week's PRWeek award.) No more printed copies of media guides or weekly statistical update books. Fewer driver media center avails. Driver-media conference calls no longer a weekly staple. Someone is brought to the media center Sunday morning, but that's only a play to stir-up social media traffic and try to drive-up TV viewership. This dehumanization is sad, wrong, counter to what Bill France Jr. and Jim Hunter fostered, and at some point will have profoundly negative consequences for the sanction. I observed the Chief Communications Officer in PIR's media center but there was no effort to go around and actually TALK to journalists working away on their stories. There is no substitute -- NONE -- for the sound of a human voice, a face-to-face conversation, a handshake, a pat on the back, a personal thank you for coverage. That's all-but gone in today's NASCAR. A price will be paid.


The lack of real-life journalism experience among today's new crowd of team/sponsor "publicists" is costing their clients/employers coverage. They have no clue what journalists' needs are, how to "pitch" a story, develop meaningful story ideas, or build valuable one-on-one relationships with media. Too many think they are doing the job simply because they send out a few Tweets. One rep for an Xfinity series driver, who candidly, I had never heard of, wanted me to interview the driver (I appreciated the outreach) but offered no legitimate news reason why I should. I guess just because he's a race driver. There were about 100 of those at PIR.

And: Back when I was doing PR year-round, I had personal note cards, in boxes of 100, I used to send out hand-written "thank you" messages -- many to reporters for stories they had written. I went through about a box a year, or more. These days, forget notes, too many PRers don't even have the words "thank you" in their vocabs. 


Comforting to see that the Forum Folks are right on top of the up-to-the-minute news. In this case, about Sam Hornish and the Indy 500. I had it all Sunday, March 15 in the Arizona Republic:
http://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/motor/2015/03/14/catching-nascars-sam-hornish-jr/24761087/



Finally, no one at NASCAR or -- especially -- International Speedway Corp. should take the good crowd size at PIR to mean the long-overdue and much-needed facility improvements can continue to wait. Extra people with money to spend in the Valley of the Sun for Cactus League baseball, and near-90 degree weather, contributed to the positive attendance number. As I've written, and said March 13 on SiriusXM, PIR lags far behind the either upgraded or all-new sports venues throughout the Valley. It gives the impression to us locals that NASCAR and ISC take us for granted. 


POWER PLAYERS for the week of March 22: This week's 10 most influential people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight. 

  1. Roger Penske -- Daytona 500 winning team owner gets a victory at the track he built in Fontana, Calif., courtesy of Brad Keselowski. Now, Penske begins Verizon IndyCar series with powerhouse FOUR driver/car lineup. Could Penske sweep the season?

  2. Kevin Harvick -- Eight straight top-two finishes for the defending Sprint Cup champion, THE story and dominant force in NASCAR.

  3. Jim Campbell -- Chevrolet's U.S. motorsports VP gets first Sebring podium sweep and first overall win since Jim Hall's Chaparral did it 50 years ago. Plus Corvette C7.R takes first in GTLM class. Not doing too badly in NASCAR, either. 

  4. Mark Miles: -- Hulman & Co. CEO increases guaranteed Leader Circle payout to $1.25 million per eligible team. Now, he gives condensed IndyCar schedule another try, ending by Labor Day. A lot of teams and sponsors don't like it. What will the bottom line be in terms of TV audience, at-track attendance and sponsor activation?

  5. Matt Yocum -- Fox's Main Man on NASCAR pit roads, he provides professionalism and stability amidst a new (and weak) group of pit reporters. 

  6. Curt Cavin -- Indianapolis Star writer is a primary news source for IndyCar fans. His status is now increased with the series' new deal with USA Today.

  7Chris Berube -- Chevrolet's IndyCar program manager sees his engines and aero kits outpace Honda's in pre-season testing. 

  8. Jim France -- IMSA chairman reaches six-year extension of strategic alliance with Le Mans' Automobile Club l'Ouest. New Prototype regulations coming in 2017.

  9. Chip Ganassi -- Announces two-car Red Bull Global Rallycross Supercar team with sponsor Loenbro (energy services and construction) and drivers Brian Deegan and Steve Arpin.

10. Sebastien Bourdais -- A statement drive at Sebring, essentially lapping the field during his second-half stint behind the wheel of the winning DP-class Corvette. Now onto IndyCar opener in second year with KV team.

more next week . . . ]

Sunday, March 15, 2015

BERNIE, KEVIN, BRIAN 1-2-3 ON NEW 'MOST INFLUENTIAL' LIST

POWER PLAYERS for the week of March 15: This week's 10 most influential people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight. 


  1. Bernie Ecclestone -- The most powerful, influential -- and one of the riche$t -- figures in worldwide motorsports sees his Formula One season begin with more Mercedes domination, Ferrari improvement, Honda disappointment, and the financial struggles of several teams amid debate for (yet again) new car rules, cost controls and more entertainment value. His next move will be . . . ?

  2. Kevin Harvick: -- Defending Sprint Cup champion is driving the series' on-track agenda, now with four consecutive Phoenix International Raceway wins and seven straight 1-2 finishes.

  3. Brian France -- Green-lights decision to reinstate Kurt Busch and declares Busch Chase eligible. The bottom line is NASCAR is a family business and, ultimately, one man has the final say. 

  4. Gene Haas -- Gets Kurt Busch back into his No. 41. And announces European base and key hires (team manager, designer, aerodynamicist) for first U.S.-led Formula One team in 30 years. (I was part of PR for the last one, the Beatrice-sponsored Team Haas USA.)

  5. Joie Chitwood -- Daytona International Speedway president outlines specific safety improvement plans for July NASCAR event and confirms full SAFER installation for 2016 Speed Weeks.

  6. Beaux Barfield -- Sebring is one of the most difficult races anywhere in motorsports to officiate. Barfield's back in IMSA race control after a few years in IndyCar.

  7. Dave Allen -- New Auto Club Speedway president gets his first Big Test in charge of this weekend's NASCAR events. And ticket sales will be . . . ?

  8. Davey Hamilton -- Indy 500 veteran driver joins USAC as racing executive director; says he seeks to increase series/event sanctioning and business opportunities.

  9. Claire B. Lang -- Everyone in the garage area talks with SiriusXM NASCAR channel 90's VERY hard-working reporter. Then she talks to fans post-race -- and that's not always an easy thing to do.

10. Rick Benjamin -- Hosts CBS Sports Network's Trans-Am series coverage starting Tuesday, 8 p.m. EDT. Amy Ruman won the Sebring opener in a record-setting field of 69 cars.


Links to all of my NASCAR-in-Phoenix Arizona Republic stories are on Twitter: @SpinDoctor500


more next week . . . ]

Sunday, March 08, 2015

DO FOX NEWS & SPORTS TALK? (And a Tie at the Top of This Week's Most Influential List)

Just wondering: Does anyone at Fox News speak to anyone at Fox Sports?

Hello?

I can't help but wonder after watching FNC's NASCAR reports on the Daytona and Atlanta weekends.

Some talking head sitting in a studio in Los Angeles "reported" on Kurt Busch's suspension Daytona 500 weekend. And then when Kyle Busch was injured. Did the weekend producers even put 2+2 together that Fox Sports has the NASCAR rights? Why not put Matt Yocum on to provide some real on-site reporting? I guess the FNC correspondent in Antarctica wasn't available.

(This is a journalistically-unsound but regular FNC "gimmick" as I've seen some L.A.-based head "report" on stories in New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., etc. It's credibility-bending.)

Then, when driver Travis Kvapil's car was stolen from a hotel parking lot before it ever got to Atlanta Motor Speedway, it was more appearance-of instead of real reporting. Weekend anchor Julie Banderas, who I think hasn't done any homework since the third grade, repeatedly botched Kvapil's name. I guess it would have been too much work to check how to say "Kvapil" during a commercial break.

FNC boss Roger Ailes -- a legitimate TV genius -- should be very, VERY embarrassed.


For over a half-century Chris Economaki criticized short-track promoters for not keeping the show moving along and thus keeping fans in the stands past midnight. Then, he pointed out, these same promoters would wonder why those with children didn't return or the race results weren't in the paper. I went to USA Raceway in Tucson Saturday night for the only World of Outlaws event in Arizona this season. (See my story on Donny Schatz in last Friday's Arizona Republic, link @SpinDoctor500 .)The opening ceremonies were at 7 p.m. and the checkered flag over winner Brian Brown (six different winners in six Outlaws' A-Mains to start this season) waved at about 9:45. Some of that was car count -- 26 -- but mostly it was clean racing (which, yes, can be exciting) -- no big flips or wrecks -- and a fairly efficient staging process. The show could even have been shorter if not for what seemed to me to be an overly-long track prep process before the features, which no doubt was go buy beer and hot dogs time, and a little extra entertainment then would have been good. We live in a short attention-span society -- baseball is enacting new rules to speed up games -- and so a briskly-paced Saturday night program is SMART and GOOD BUSINESS. I enjoyed it. 


POWER PLAYERS for the week of March 8: This week's 10 most influential people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight. 

  1. Brian France and Jim Campbell -- Delaware's justice department decides not to file criminal charges against Kurt Busch in the case of alleged domestic violence. And the decision of NASCAR's CEO regarding Busch's eligibility to compete is . . . ?  And ditto that of GM's motorsports VP who suspended Chevrolet's relationship with Busch a few weeks ago. NASCAR rules don't allow for unbranded cars. The exact percentage is not clear, but lots of women buy Chevys.

   3. Jeff Gordon -- Takes Las Vegas pole, talks about safety, and schedules a meeting this week with NASCAR officials. Gordon has the BIGGEST microphone right now because every media person wants to know what he says during this, his last full-time season.

  4. Kevin Harvick -- Sprint Cup champion goes 2-1-1-2-2-1 in his last six races and wins in Las Vegas. Next? Phoenix, where he has been dominant.

  5. Lewis Hamilton -- World champion -- and arguably F1's most popular driver -- opens the season in Australia. Will Grand Prix racing's worldwide TV numbers dip again this year? A lot probably depends on if Hamilton and Mercedes-Benz dominate while Ferrari runs as a backmarker. 

  6. Bryan Sperber  -- Phoenix International Raceway president's NASCAR weekend is two weeks later than in recent years. Will grandstands -- typically full for the November race -- be that way vs. baseball Cactus League competition? Will new tire wall inside Turn 4 be tested?

  7. Marcus Smith -- Speedway Motorsports CEO announces five-percent decline in admissions revenue in 2014. "Our core fans have been particularly hard hit and certain markets are recovering slower than expected, with underemployment remaining a substantial headwind," he says.

  8. Derrick Walker  -- IndyCar's competition boss to oversee open test with new aero kits at Barber Motorsports Park. Will he deem it a success or order changes? new class into his International Drag Racing Hall of Fame before the Gators.

  9. Jon Asher -- Drag racing's most insightful and influential writer makes his "Insider" season debut on CompetitionPlus.com at the Gators. If you want to know what's REALLY going on, read Asher.

10. Lou Ferrara -- Associated Press managing editor announces deal with technology company Automated Insights to use NCAA game data to have computers "write" some event reports. Plenty of stats come out of NASCAR's races, too, so . . . ?

I'll have stories in the Arizona Republic all week and through the NASCAR weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Read me in the paper, on AzCentral.com, and I'll also post links and updates from PIR on my Twitter: @SpinDoctor500 . Stories will include the "rebuilding" of Roush Fenway Racing, Trevor Bayne, explore how NASCAR's new car rules and electronic officiating could impact the PIR show, look at the marketing of Richard Petty Motorsports and -- of course -- talk to Danica. And more. Thank you.

[ more next week . . . ]

Sunday, March 01, 2015

BAD BUSINESS & BRIAN FRANCE (Plus Harvick, Logano, Buck atop new 'Power Players' Most Influential list)

News headlines last week provided cautionary tales for how business mixes with competition in motorsports. This is something I've been signaling for attention for many years.

Chartwell Investments, the minority owner of Richard Childress Racing, says it wants to sell. Chartwell is a private equity business, meaning it buys into companies to make money, then sells when it decides maximum value has been gained. The clear message, to me, is Chartwell has scanned the sponsorship landscape and believes it's not likely to return to the pre-2008 financial collapse levels. At least, not anytime soon. From a dollars-and-cents standpoint, the best of the deal has been attained, so it's time to cash out and move on. I can't say this is a surprise because, one look at the blank fenders especially in the Xfinity and Truck series, and even Big Time Cup organizations like Roush scratching to get fully-funded, should tell you the racing sponsorship economy remains tenuous.

I was covering NHRA here in Arizona during Daytona weekend. I wrote a long Arizona Republic story ( you can find the link on my Twitter: @SpinDoctor500 ) about John Force's struggles to keep his family business in business. Force says he never expects to get back to what he had, sponsorship-wise, due to the econony. Pro Stock class winner Rodger Brogdon admitted he didn't decide to bring out his self-owned, self-funded car until a few weeks before the season. He owns and operates a Texas company called RoofTec, and Brodgon admitted in his post-race winner's media availability that it takes 800,000 shingles, 400 18-wheel truckloads, to run a $1.5 million Pro Stock program. (!!!) Reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens, who lost to Brogdon in the Arizona finals, only has funding for 15 of the season's 24 Mello Yello events. Even powerhouse Don Schumacher Racing lost Valvoline as a sponsor and has two of its Funny Car drivers, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr., funded via Terry Chandler as a way to raise awareness for Infinite Hero Foundation and Make-A-Wish, respectively. (No donations are used to pay for racing.)

Finally, it took Kyle Busch's foot-and-leg injuries to get International Speedway Corp. to understand the PR bomb it dropped with all the hype of $400 million in grandiose spending on "injectors" and "neighborhoods" and such while big sections of the track were unprotected by SAFER barriers. That commitment to completely line the oval should have been made in the original "Re-Imagining" announcement.

I say Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood immediately realized the ramifications and went to the media center to own-up and promise fixes. That was a stand-up thing to do because it's difficult to think of any other major motorsports executive who wound admit to a mistake. There would be a dozen lawyers and "communications experts" warning Brian France not to, for example. Chitwood's stance was legitimate, but NASCAR's Steve O'Donnell's wasn't. The bottom-line is it's NASCAR's responsibility to make sure its tracks are as safe as possible -- or no sanction agreement. Period. O'Donnell came across as a day late, a few million $ short, and not pro-active enough. That was NASCAR in this situation.

Now, Busch is in pain, Joe Gibbs' team doesn't have its driver, his sponsors don't have the marketing benefit of Busch's on-track success, promoters don't have his name to help sell tickets, TV networks can't use him for pre-race "hype the show" spots, and fans don't get to see Kyle do his thing. Point that finger of responsibility straight and directly at NASCAR. No one else.

As Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith said to the Charlotte Observer "We rely on NASCAR's guidance on that. We have installed SAFER barriers wherever they have asked us to put it." 

Of course, tracks could be much more pro-active, too. But take Indianapolis, Pocono and Dover out of the mix and all those Big Money decisions are made at a corporate level higher than track president. Speedways get plenty of TV money but, you know, NASCAR could help fund a complete and mandatory SAFER program out of its cut.

Jeff Gordon pounded an unprotected wall Sunday at Atlanta and said: "I don’t think we can say any more after Kyle’s (Busch) incident at Daytona.  Everybody knows we have to do something and it should have been done a long time ago.  All we can do now is hope they do it as fast as they possibly can.”

A star driver is sidelined. A true superstar could easily have been Sunday. That's bad business -- a concept Brian France should understand. 


POWER PLAYERS for the week of March 1: This week's 10 most influential people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight. 

  1. Kevin Harvick -- In a completely appropriate use of his platform as Cup champion, Harvick  describes Kyle Busch's injury at Daytona as a "wake-up call" regarding track safety. Talladega, Atlanta and Kentucky speedways quickly announce new SAFER or tire barriers. International Speedway Corp. issues a statement that all of its tracks will be evaluated.

  2. Joey Logano -- Daytona 500 winner does well on national media tour. NASCAR and the industry hope he will bring in more younger-demographic fans.

  3. Richard Buck -- Sprint Cup series director faces heat for the Atlanta qualifying inspection line fiasco. NASCAR talks non-stop about making events more entertaining for fans, and collects billions from TV partners, yet its system doesn't get Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and others on-track for even one lap. And from his previous experience in non-NASCAR series, including CART, Buck must know how essential it is to get more SAFER barriers up at all tracks. 

  4. Joe Gibbs -- Engineers deal with his sponsors, Toyota, plus Ford and Front Row team to put David Ragan into the No. 18 until Kyle Busch can return. 

  5. Dave Moody  -- Everyone in radio knows afternoon "drive time" is the most cherished slot, and "The Godfather" got it -- for four hours without a co-host -- on SiriusXM NASCAR's channel toward the end of last season. Moody's not afraid to call out uninformed national media NASCAR critics . . . or to challenge the statements of his callers. He's the closest there is to "appointment" listening in racing radio.

  6. David Letterman  -- Welcomes Joey Logano as a guest and that's a reminder motorsports will lose a big friend in the national mainstream media/entertainment arena when Letterman retires later this year. Late Show has been an important opportunity to gain the attention of non-core racing fans.

  7. Roger Penske -- Daytona 500 winning team owner begins his latest racing-as-business adventure with partner Dick Johnson and driver Marcos Ambrose with a 12th place in a Ford Falcon in Australia's V8 Supercar series.


  8C.J. O'Donnell -- Hulman Motorsports chief marketing officer announces multi-year official marketing partnership with USA Today Sports Media Group. Targeted advertising, special sections and increased digital coverage and collaborative editorial effort with the Indianapolis Star are planned.

  9. Michael Shein -- Managing partner of Chartwell Investments, minority owner of Richard Childress Racing, announces the private equity business is looking to sell its stake in the team. 

10. Robin Miller -- His "Mailbag" on Racer.com is one of the most entertaining reads every week and, sometimes, the source of good ideas. It's THE outlet for the remaining thin core of IndyCar fans. Even some -- but not all -- at 16th and Georgetown read it.


The World of Outlaws makes its only Arizona stop of the season Saturday night in Tucson. Look for my story on Donny Schatz in Friday's Arizona Republic (AzCentral.com).

new list and more next week . . . ]