• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Monday, July 06, 2015

AS I SAID LAST WEEK . . .

The MAVTV 500 at California's Auto Club Speedway has turned out to be a historical marker in the history of IndyCar racing. It yet again divided competitors and fans into opposing "Yes!" or "No!" camps and I can't say that's a good thing for a series already burdened with conflict and problems.

The fan reaction, in many ways, reminded me of the worst of the IRL-CART split days. Anonymous posters tossing personal attacks often based on zero or wrong information. That's pathetic and sad but certainly in keeping with what is going on in the overall American society these days. Apparently it's now impossible to simply disagree and factually explain why. Apparently disagreement must be served with personal attacks. 

In case you're not sure what I mean, that is not a compliment.

I wrote last week Fontana was the scariest race I've ever seen. It was. I did not write that it was the scariest race YOU'VE ever seen.

As for what sport I "follow," I've only been paying attention to motorsports since the early 1960s. For many of the following years I made the vast majority of my income via professional involvements in racing at the highest levels of the sport and with several of its most famous names. 

The first race I ever attended was at Langhorne Speedway, outside Philadelphia, when it was still dirt. A.J. Foyt won. Langhorne makes just about everyone's list of one of the most dangerous tracks ever raced. And, yes, scary. Even after it was paved. I saw this with my own eyes.

For those who think I must not have ever seen a sprint car race, I am a voting member for the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.

For those who referenced the CART Michigan 500, I was CART'S communications director when the event was first created in 1981.

For those who think I must not have seen the 1984 Michigan 500, I just happened to be a member of the winning team that day.

Fontana was more scary than the 2011 Las Vegas race because it was 500 miles in distance.

Yes, racing has always been a dangerous activity. That will never change. It's essential to what attracts eyeballs to the tracks. But today's society will not tolerate the level of danger that existed in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s. 

IndyCar crewmembers are stressed and worried about not having a job during the long off-season. Team Penske has other things going on to keep paying their people full-time. Many other existing teams do not.

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles himself admitted, during a national media teleconference last week, that the series' rulemakers went too far on downforce.

The above is just for the record and for the information of the Internet "Experts."


I spent 20 minutes with Mark Miles before that Scary 500. I sent out, via Twitter ( SpinDoctor500 ), several of his most important and newsworthy comments. Here's three others: He flat-out denied he is cleaning-up the Hulman & Co. balance sheet in preparation for a sale. He likely will have a presenting sponsor for next year's Indy 500. He is taking into account the concerns of owners regarding this year's compressed schedule. That is what he said.


Miles' held a national media teleconference last week and I listened in. I have to give him credit: He actually made news (fines/penalties for being too-outspoken are coming) and answered most questions with at least a degree of substance. That was in stark contrast to another teleconference, later that day, with NHRA Chairman Dallas Gardner and new President Peter Clifford. Not a single question regarding the abrupt "retirement" of Tom Compton was answered in a meaningful or credible way. It was an insult to the participating media and sent Clifford off to a bad start with journalists. After that performance, why would he think anyone would want to waste time dialing-in when he wants to make what he says are upcoming "exciting" announcements?


Another troubling $ign of the Media Time$: Last week a SiriusXM host praised the Sonoma Cup race because, among other things, "A car caught fire and that was great for TV."


POWER PLAYERS for the week of July 5: 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 -- Allows a premier sporting event to begin at almost midmight. Didn't attach his name to a "statement" asking fans not to fly the Confederate battle flag at NASCAR races and passed on his usual mid-season Daytona news conference. But the NASCAR chairman seems to open the door for a long-discussed franchise system for Cup series team owners. And he continues to press his own people to come up with a more exciting rules package, one version of which will be tried this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

  2. Marcus Lemonis -- NASCAR's reactive Politically Correct spinners surely will disagree, but the clear impression remains that the Camping World CEO's threat to boycott the Truck series awards banquet if it again happened at a Trump property forced Brian France's hand.

  3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Doubtful even NASCAR's most popular driver can keep an audience for a race at begins at almost midnight. Admits to be scared by accident that happened behind him as he won Daytona.

  4. Peter Clifford -- NHRA's new president bombs with media in introductory teleconference but promises a series of "exciting announcements" are just "weeks away."

  5. Mark Miles -- IndyCar CEO admits the sanction went with too much downforce at Fontana and says fines/penalties are coming for competitors who go too far in criticisms.

  6. Lewis Hamilton -- Come-from-behind victory in British Grand Prix reaffirms it's not simply all about the car in Formula One. How will Mercedes-Benz USA help promote the U.S. Grand Prix with a talent and personality that should, on paper, click with the American public?

  7Donny Schatz -- Wins two of the week's three World of Outlaws events to bring his season total to 19. And also becomes the first Outlaws' driver to win consecutive features without participating in the dash (started 10th). He is worthy of major Sports Illustrated and USA Today feature stories.

  8. Dave Moody -- Want to talk about flying the Confederate battle flag at NASCAR races? New rules for Kentucky? Happy or not with the NASCAR on-track product? Waiting until almost midnight to start a race? SiriusXM Channel 90's solo afternoon drive-time host's show is the place to air it out. But don't expect him to automaticaly agree or disagree whatever the issue.

  9. Michael Andretti -Says fans must support IndyCar racing at Milwaukee by buying tickets. Will this weekend's IndyCar run at the famed Mile be his last as the promoter? And/or the last for IndyCar?

10. Bill Bader Jr. -- His family's Summit Motorsports Park (Norwalk, Ohio) once again sets the example for all other NHRA track operators on how to be fan-friendly and make people WANT to attend drag races. All others, including the facilities owned by NHRA itself, absolutely should adopt Norwalk as the standard that should be standard.

[ special ninth anniversay blog next week . . . ]