• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

'SMOKE' IS NO. 1 ON THIS WEEK'S 'POWER PLAYERS' LIST

POWER PLAYERS for the week of  April 24: 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. Tony Stewart -- Returns from injury to begin what he says will be his final Sprint Cup season. And gets a waiver from NASCAR to be eligible for a place in the Chase. And gets fined by NASCAR for his safety-related criticism of not enforcing via the rulebook five lug nuts on every wheel. 


  2. Brian France -- NASCAR chairman defends his organization's on-going push to make stock car racing more safe, and fields other questions, at the prestigious Associated Press Sports Editors' meeting. 

  3Denny Hamlin -- As spokesman for the drivers council, defends Tony Stewart's right to speak his mind about NASCAR safety. The drivers' council paid Stewart's reported $35,000 fine. 

  4. Carl Edwards -- Two straight Sprint Cup victories for The Backflip Man . . . even if he had to bump his teammate Kyle Busch out of the way on the last lap at Richmond.

  5. Joe Gibbs -- What will The Coach have to say in this week's team meeting? Was it OK for Kyle Busch to get dumped by a teammate on the last lap with victory in sight? Gibbs and Toyota are on a powerful roll right now, so keeping the athletes calm and cooperative this week's important task.

  6. Simon Pagenaud -- After performing below expectations in 2015, his first with Team Penske, Pag has gone 2-2-1-1 this IndyCar season.

   7. Brittany Force -- Sister Courtney's long winless streak continues, but Brittany now has two NHRA Top Fuel wins and is in line for some "star" treatment from the media. 

  8. Lewis Hamilton -- Named one of worldwide sports' most influential people, the defending (but winless) world champion calls on Formula One's leaders to have the courage to experiment more with fan-friendly rules and race weekend format changes.

  9. Alan Johnson -- Drag racing's nitro class genius tuner, he consults on tune-up for Brittany Force's second Top Fuel win. She was 0-for-3 seasons until father John signed-up with AJ.

10. Graham Rahal -- With the Andretti Autosport team in a deep and unexplained performance slump, Rahal has resumed his role from last season as Honda's best hope. 

more next week . . . ]

  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

COMPLAINING INDYCAR DRIVERS ARE THIS WEEK's 'MOST INFLUENTIAL'

POWER PLAYERS for the week of  April 17: 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. Verizon IndyCar Series drivers -- This isn't what IndyCar CEO Mark Miles had in mind on the road to the historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" that this time will be the "Race of the Century," the storyline trends this season have been: Drivers saying they cannot pass, the cars have too much downforce, the racing is "boring" (Tony Kanaan at Long Beach), the racing was better before aero kits, controversy over dome skid plates and strakes (try to explain that to any major city sports columnist who might consider writing about the 100th Indy), and (shocking!) concerns about the officiating. This as the series will present two more hard-to-pass road course events before the Big I500. Will Miles take dramatic action? Will he impose secret fines to any drivers because of their complaints? Oh, that makes two more storylines to follow that don't mesh with the 100th Indy. Help wanted: Chief Communications Officer for IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway who will be a part of the senior management team.



more next week . . . ]

  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

AN OLD-FASHIONED ACT MEANS MORE THAN EVER

A column in Sunday's Arizona Republic caught my eye. The writer, Karina Bland, told of how she received an actual hand-written letter from a reader. And how she showed it to disbelieving co-workers and how special it was because it wasn't another E-mail. It was a real ink-on-paper letter.

I could not help but make this connection: In the days immediately after the recent IndyCar event at Phoenix Raceway, I sent hand-written thank-you cards to six people for their special help. Six for that one race. In recent times the only personal note of this type I've received from anyone in motorsports has come from Anthony Vestal of NHRA. Yes, I noticed, and appreciated the gesture. Just thought I'd let you know . . . 


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  April 10: 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. Kyle Busch -- How could it be anyone else? Four NASCAR national series wins in eight days. 


  2. David Wilson -- Toyota Racing Development president has the biggest smile among his manufacturer rivals in NASCAR these days.

  3Joe Gibbs -- Yes, Matt Kenseth has had plenty of frustration so far this season, but Coach Gibbs' team is the one getting it done in NASCAR right now. 

  4. Jim Michaelian -- This weekend marks another chapter in the amazing success story that is the Long Beach Grand Prix. As the LBGP president well knows, there's a garage area full of those who tried and failed to duplicate that success.

  5. Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip -- This is the Fox Sprint Cup telecast I've been waiting for. Two champions who knew how to get it done at Bristol. Now TV booth teammates, they will have short laps to offer what likely will be differing opinions. Don't doubt there will be a Number 1 and a Number 2 expert analyst post-Bristol

  7. Nico Rosberg -- Can he beat Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton for the third straight Grand Prix this season?

  8. Marcus Smith -- The Speedway Motorsports' track boss unveils his huge video screen hanging over the Bristol infield.

  9. Mario Andretti -- Says "no" to halos for open-cockpit cars and wants all cars to use the same type of aero kit for the Indianapolis 500, saying that's what's needed to make the 100th running full of the dramatic entertainment people want. And expect.

 10. Al Unser Jr. -- "King of the Beach" on the Long Beach streets is the pre-race favorite for the last-ever Toyota Pro-Celebrity race.

more next week . . . ]

  

Sunday, April 03, 2016

TAKING A RISK MAKES 3 THIS WEEK's 'MOST INFLUENTIAL'

POWER PLAYERS for the week of  April 3: 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.  Mark Miles, Jay Frye and Bryan Sperber -- IndyCar's top two executives and Phoenix International Raceway's president took the risk and successfully brought the series back to the Valley of the Sun after an 11-year absence. Crowd of a little under 20,000, with good corporate sales, wasn't quite enough to make a profit but there's enough bottom-line optimism for a 2017 return to PIR. 


  4. Eddie Gossage -- Let the hype begin. NASCAR heads to the Texas Motor Speedway's president's showplace. It's Saturday night to avoid Sunday conflict with The Master's final round.

  5. Kyle Busch -- Sweeps Martinsville in Truck and Cup series.


  6. Jason Line -- The Summit team boys continue to dominate NHRA's Pro Stock class, with Line winning at Las Vegas. He's been in four consecutive final rounds with two wins.


  7. Antron Brown -- Top Fuel winner in Vegas, everytime he's in the winner's circle it's good for the drag racing sport. 


  8. Matt Yocum
 -- He proves you can have a pleasant presence and still ask meaningful questions on pit road.



  9. Keke Rosberg -- Wow! Two-for-two in Formula One this season. Yes, it's in a Mercedes. No, it's not Lewis Hamilton.  

 
10. Scott Dixon -- American racing's most relentless driver wins Phoenix and has to be the pre-Indy 500 favorite. At least for this week.

more next week . . . ]