• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, August 02, 2015

TIME TO CHECK WHAT'S SCRIBBLED ON MY LEGAL PAD

Time once again to transcribe notes written on my yellow legal pad:

I sure would like one of those Big Time TV executives to explain to me why they keep hiring pit reporters who don't know how to ask a meaningful question. ("How does it feel?" or "What does this mean to you?" don't make the cut.) Or, many a time, no question at all, just make a statement. Isn't the ability to interview the most basic requirement of the job?

It's a good thing Fox hired Jeff Gordon for the booth because NBC's Jeff Burton-Steve Letarte combo is miles and miles ahead of Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds.

Memo to NASCAR's R&D Center: You're never going to create a rules package that will make for boffo racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track layout simply isn't suitable for stock cars. (And, no, IMS isn't going to add banking.) Do your best to create enough of a draft for passing on the long straights and into turns one and three. And leave it at that.

Memo to fans: Go to the Brickyard 400 for the experience and because it's Indy. And leave it at that.

Memo to Doug Boles, IMS president: Bring back the apron. Please. With all the talk about making racing more entertaining, this is what you've gotta do.

It was a very bad decision for the NBCSN director to go with a tight shot of the flagman waving the checkered flag instead of showing the majority of the field finish the Brickyard 400. Just how do you justify that? Fans want to see the cars and their favorite drivers finish, not the flagman. Period. 

There have been some nice tributes to Jeff Gordon this season. But I don't think anyone can top Phoenix International Raceway becoming Jeff Gordon Raceway on Nov. 15.

Hard to believe, but true: ESPN will essentially be out of motorsports next year. As of now, just the racing events that are part of the X Games. This is personal to me because, as CART's communications director, I did the first-ever TV deal between CART and ESPN in December 1980. Our first race on ESPN was Milwaukee in June 1981, with Bob Jenkins, Larry Nuber and Gary Lee calling the action.

As hard as it may be to believe there is such a thing as an "underreported" NASCAR story, here's one: The quality of Cup series road races has improved by a factor of 1,000 since multiple left-and-right turn courses were added to the modern era Cup schedule. Better brakes, transmissions, driving, cars, etc. And double-wide restarts.

Given last week's Internet chatter, let me repeat what I first wrote here in March 2011: Not only would an effort to field a car for Alex Zanardi in next year's Indianapolis 500 be a very, Very, VERY bad idea, it would be "exploitive." Please spare me the talk of how Alex the Great has driven a BMW sports car with hand controls. There is no comparison to doing that and driving an open-wheel car 230 mph on an oval. And spare me the talk about how much publicity this would generate. I happen to know a thing or two about generating publicity. There are some things you want publicity for, and there are other things that the risk is so great of bad publicity, you don't do. I hope a non-PC medical professional puts a stop to this before it goes any further.

Speaking of Internet Nonsense, last week's head-shaker goes to whoever wrote that brakes aren't so important at Indy. Really?  Sure, brakes aren't used doing a normal lap. But how about if you need to STOP?

And then there was the letter that said former CART President Andrew Craig "listened" to the fans. Anybody who was directly involved in CART during that time knows the only person he listened to was himself.

Sprint car racing's premier event, the Knoxville Nationals, comes up Aug. 15 and it's ridiculous this World of Outlaws' headliner doesn't have live TV. It did, for a few years, on the old Speed channel. 

I've often said that the three most important sports franchises are the New York Yankees, Manchester United, and Ferrari. Yes, Ferrari isn't a franchise in the traditional sense, but I hope you catch my meaning. So, when Ferrari wins a Grand Prix, it's not only good for Formula One, it's good for motorsports.

What's not good? Courtney Force winless so far this NHRA Funny Car season.

As one of the millions of Americans who suffer from chronic back problems, especially those with bad issues like bulging discs, spinal compression and nerve pain, I have no doubt whatsoever his own back problems contributed to Jeff Gordon's decision to stop racing.


POWER PLAYERS for the week of August 2: 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.  Rob Kauffman -- His deal to buy into Chip Ganassi Racing -- perhaps taking Clint Bowyer along for the ride -- sets off a tidal wave of talk in the NASCAR garage area about the future of Michael Waltrip Racing.

  2. Joe Gibbs -- Matt Kenseth keeps the Gibbs-Toyota victory streak going. Where did all this speed come from all of a sudden?

 3. Graham Rahal -- Wins his home-state race at Mid-Ohio to move to nine points behind championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya with two races to go. Rahal's is a one-car team vs. Team Penske's four. This plays out against the dropback of Honda's huge decision whether to remain in the IndyCar series. (Rahal is with Honda.) And then there's the issue of a media-friendly American champion vs. a media-reluctant Colombian.

 4. Mark Miles -- IndyCar CEO announces that competition president Derrick Walker "resigned" and has launched a search for a replacement. Walker admits in interviews the announcement wasn't made the way he would have wanted. (That's a hint.) His is yet another name added to the long, LONG list of American open-wheel racing leaders to fall under political pressure.

  5. Kyle Busch -- An out-of-fuel loss in Pocono Cup race, but his amazing comeback story continues with Cup pole and Truck series win. 

  6. Jack Beckman -- A dominant weekend at Sonoma gives the cancer survivor a shot to sweep NHRA's Western Swing in Funny Car.

  7. Art St. Cyr -- Honda Performance Development president says a few issues remain to be resolved before a new IndyCar series deal can be signed.

  8. AJ Allmendinger -- His best chance to win and qualify for NASCAR's Chase comes this Sunday at Watkins Glen, where he's the defending race winner.

  9. Jeff Gordon -- The Glen will be Gordon's last road-course event. It comes at a venue where he won four times in five years, but not since 2001. Not counting Dan Gurney at Riverside, Gordon was one of NASCAR's first road-course aces.

10. Bryan Clauson -- Becomes second three-time winner of the Belleville Midget Nationals.

more next week . . . ]