Sunday, March 20, 2016


The Haas F1 team made its debut last weekend in Australia and Romain Grosjean finished a good sixth. I thought this was a good time to share some of my Business of Racing quotes from team owner Gene Haas. I interviewed him November 2015 in the NASCAR garage area at Phoenix International Raceway, where one of his drivers, Kevin Harvick, dominates. Some of this was used in my Arizona Republic notebooks PIR week.

On his first meeting with F1 commercial czar Bernie Ecclestone: "He was very nice and cordial, but a year later, when I went to see him again, he goes, ‘Who the hell are you?’ I think by nature he’s (inaudible). He said, ‘You can’t be serious about what you want to do. You have to be out of your mind.’ On the other hand, when he dropped down to seven or eight teams, he allowed four teams to come on board. I guess his perspective is based on how many teams he has on the grid."

On the massive cost of Formula One: "If you look at it over 10 years and you invest $10 million a year, that’s $100 million. That sounds like a lot more. We’ve probably invested at least $10-$15-$20 million in racing for 15 years. I can’t tell you how much I’ve invested in Formula One but I don’t think it will be triple digits yet."

On using F1 to increase international sales of his machine tools: "That’s the No. 1 reason for doing this. Just in the little bit I’ve done, the perception that Haas Automation as a company has received in these overseas venues has been phenomenal. I think it’s worked out beyond my expectations as far as people becoming aware of Haas Automation as a brand and as a machine tool builder.

"(In 2014) we did a little over $1 billion in sales and our long-term goal is to double that. It (Grand Prix team) would actually pay for itself in a 10 percent increase in sales. Ultimately, we expect to have revenue from sponsors. We expect to run it as a business and maybe one day make a profit from it."

On the possibility of hiring an American driver: "It would help from a marketing standpoint to try to sell advertising space to bring in an American driver. But our primary purpose is to learn about Formula One. Our goal is to do the best we can with what we can attain. We were able to attain a current Formula One driver to add some maturity and knowledge. Romain will bring his knowledge of the tracks and little things we need to know about like pit roads, tire strategies and those sort of things."

POWER PLAYERS for the week of  March 20: 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.  Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus -- NASCAR's most famous driver-crew chief combo has won two of five this season and "Superman's" California victory put him one up on Dale Earnhardt's career total.

  3John Force -- Gets first NHRA "double" with Brittany Force and Robert Hight winning Top Fuel and Funny Car at the Gatornationals. 

  4. Gene Haas -- Owner of America's first Formula One team in 30 years gets a points-paying sixth place in Grand Prix debut.

  5. Brittany Force -- Finally, her first Top Fuel win, and in an NHRA "major" no less. This is what NHRA needs, for the Force daughters (Courtney in Funny Car) to win and win and make headline after headline.

  6. Mike Helton -- Is NASCAR's vice chairman and his competition executives about to penalize Kyle Busch for his post-Auto Club Speedway Xfinity Series race actions and non-actions?

  7. Toto Wolff -- The Mercedes-Benz motorsports boss sees Nico Rosberg win season-opener in Australia and influences others to overturn F1's silly new qualifying format after just one try.

  8. Pipo Derani
 -- The Brazilian, 22, is virtually unknown in America, except at Sebring, just as he did at Daytona, takes overall lead and wins a SportsCar classic in the closing minutes for Ligier-Honda.

  9. Donny Schatz -- Sweeps the World of Outlaws weekend at Stockton, Calif., dirt track.

10. Tony Pedregon -- Still getting his legs under him in new FS1 NHRA TV role, but the "how" and "why" of his explanations will shape the opinions of the drag racing audience.

more next week . . . ]