• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

BOLES' GOOD MOVE MAKES HIM No. 5 ON THIS WEEK's 'MOST INFLUENTIAL' LIST, BUT . . .

Congratulations to Doug Boles, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for being pro-active and getting out of his office to tour Indiana and speak to various community and business groups as a way to boost IMS and its events (including the troubled Brickyard 400.) Tony Hulman used to do the same. This is a very good return to a very good idea and that personal relationship-building is something the Speedway very, Very, VERY much needs. And, in recent times, hasn't done. Or, at least, hasn't done enough.

I hope, leading up to the 2016 100th running of the Indy 500, Boles will expand this outreach. And instruct his staff to follow his example, across the board, in all their constituent and customer relationships.

A couple of years ago it was Boles' idea to have Boston Marathon runners, who didn't get to complete that run because of the bombing, come to IMS and sprint to the Yard of Bricks to finish their race. It was a greatly needed positive gesture and the sort of thing that, sadly, has largely been lost within the IMS culture. 

A respectful suggestion from someone who has been a part of the IMS scene since 1969: The next, logical and necessary step, is for Boles to engage this way with the media. I mean the regional (still in ticket-selling range) and national (what sponsors notice) media. IMS once had very good relationships with media across the country -- the oldtime off-season annual media party was considered so important reporters would come in from New York and Los Angeles. But those kind of relationships were allowed to decay away.

Especially now, with the historic facility finally getting a facelift just as Chicago's Wrigley Field is doing, and with the 100th running just over a year away, Boles and Mark Miles and the entire Hulman & Co./IMS/IndyCar series team need to reach out with a hand of friendship and in the spirit of goodwill and open communication. Some bad media-related decisions have been made in the last year, partly due to a lack of communication, and some highly unfavorable opinions have been and are being shaped even as this is written.

If you need to know what happens when long-term unsatisfactory relationships with the influential national and key-market media are further irritated by more recent troubling decisions -- just when you are at your Big Moment and including from outlets normally considered "friendly" -- look no further than Hillary Clinton.

She should be a case study for Miles, Boles and IMS/IndyCar.

If IMS, not only for itself, but for its history and heritage and sponsors and city and state -- and to honorably reflect Mr. Hulman's spirit -- really wants the 100th to be the kind of Big Time National  Media Story it deserves to be, Boles, etc. must go out and make it happen. That starts by talking.


POWER PLAYERS for the week of April  26: 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  -- NASCAR chairman implies sanctioning body had some responsibility in Kyle Busch's injuries at Daytona, telling the Associated Press' sports editors, "what happened to him was on us." France suggested NASCAR is more likely than not to give Busch a Chase-eligibility waiver. As for more SAFER barriers, which might well have prevented or reduced Busch's injuries, France said: "I met personally with the track ownership groups and they satisfied me completely that they were going to spend millions and millions of dollars right now, not down the road, to get it right. If that doesn't play out the way they have talked about and assured me, then we'll deal with it. You can't run around and say that safety is your No. 1 priority and get that stuff wrong."

  2. Tony GibsonOld-school crew chief leads Kurt Busch to victory at Richmond after missing Bristol due to a kidney stone. Is this consistently fast combination the next Kevin Harvick-Rodney Childers? 

 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Why? It's Talladega weekend.

 4. Josef Newgarden -- Promise finally fulfilled as much-touted 24-year-old from Tennessee gets his first IndyCar series win, at Barber Motorsports Park, for owners Sarah Fisher, Ed Carpenter and Wink Hartman.  

  5Doug Boles -- Indianapolis Motor Speedway president takes a page out of Tony Hulman's playbook and tours Indiana talking-up IMS and its events.

  6. Claire B. Lang -- News and quotable quotes will be flooding out of the Talladega garage area and Sirius XM's Claire B. is the one who will have it all.

    7. Erica Enders-Stevens -- Defending Pro Stock champion wins again, near Houston, and has emerged as the headliner in the troubled NHRA class. 

  8. Ashley Force Hood -- Father John names double U.S. Nationals winner team vice president with addition of racing-related business responsibilities. She had been president of Force's entertainment company, now folded into the racing operation as a cost-saving measure. She's NHRA licensed and JFR's standby driver if needed. 

  9. Donny Schatz-- Devil's Bowl win in the Texas Nationals the sixth World of Outlaws victory for the face of the touring winged sprint car series and American short and dirt track racing.

 10. Scott Bove -- Pirelli World Challenge president issues penalties to half the field at Long Beach and offers an apology to fans and partners for the on-track product presented at the Grand Prix.

more next week . . . ]