• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, May 15, 2016

CAREFUL READING (and F1 TAKES THE TOP 'MOST INFLUENTIAL' SPOTS)

May is America's Race Month. I've been saying and writing that for years and it's never been more true than in 2016 with the 100th Indianapolis 500.

An important part of the way we experience May is via the written word. At least four books have been published to coincide with the Indy Centennial. There's a nice not-for-sale piece from Borg-Warner celebrating one of sport's most famous trophies. Lionheart commemorates the life of double Indy winner Dan Wheldon. Indy 500 Memories from Art Garner and Marc Spiegel is self-explanatory. (My memory is on Page 59.) Gordon Kirby's much anticipated Penske's Maestro, Karl Kainhofer & the History of Penske Racing launches May 27 and comes as Penske's team marks 50 years of winning competition.

Of course daily news has given way to hourly news to social media's second-by-second news and most fans will be consuming much of this from Indy and Charlotte and Monaco as well as other news hubs. And it says here that I suggest you all be careful of what and who you read. There is a crucial difference between "cynical" reporting and "skeptical" reporting. Skeptical is actually a healthy thing while cynical can go all the way to evil. We have needed more skeptical in recent years: Some media outlets went way overboard hyping the Whatever Happened To? second U.S. Grand Prix in New Jersey. Most of the same gave an accepting pass to that first attempt at an American F1 team based in the Charlotte area. That deal never came close to turning a wheel. An all-female team was announced at the Brickyard last May and the most recent headline to come out of that was the laughable and credibility busting "all we need is a car." Isn't that one of the first things to be done? No matter what happens this week, way too much of the coverage on this lacked critical assessment and went heavy on the hype. And, in truth, we've seen several driver-team announcements in the last several years where, if you paid attention to the fine print, you'd see were based on securing sponsorship.

So I hope the regular "establishment" and "legitimate" journalists will bring a more critical eye, as needed, over the next few weeks. And, as for the "inside" info offered by anonymous posters in social media and on the Internet, well, buyer beware -- even if you didn't have to pay for it. Especially when personal attacks are involved. I have found the "delete" button to be especially useful in those circumstances.

For what anybody thinks it's worth, I plan to be on-site for my 38th Indy 500 as of Sunday, May 22. I'll be on Twitter ( @SpinDoctor500 ) with worthwhile words as needed and will be working on a couple of big stories for the Arizona Republic, especially a blowout on the status of the "Greatest Spectacle" scheduled for race day, Sunday, May 29. And, I was informed last Saturday, while there I'll receive three awards from the 2015 AARWBA journalism competition, including first-place efforts for my Republic Page A-1 feature on Jeff Gordon's career and my CompetitionPlus.com column on the introduction of Peter Clifford as NHRA's new president. This brings my collection of awards for journalism, public relations and contributions to motorsports to 75. Very humbling. Thanks to every editor and reader who helped make it happen.


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  May 15: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. Toto Wolff -- Mercedes-Benz Formula One team boss must decide what to do after the embarrassing Lewis Hamilton-Nico Rosberg collision on lap one of the Spanish Grand Prix. How will he prevent a repeat of something that never should have happened in the first place?


  2. Max Verstappen -- In his first race for Red Bull, the 18-year-old Dutchman becomes F1's youngest winner -- ever.

  3Simon Pagenaud -- He's gone 2-2-1-1-1 to open his second season with Team Penske. But how will the Indy road course winner do trying four flat-out laps in Indy 500 qualifying? 

  4. Roger Penske -- Why? It's Indianapolis 500 practice, qualifying and 100th race time for the Brickyard's winningest team owner.

 5. Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott -- Their dramatic 1-2-3 finish at Dover gives the media something legitimate to talk/write about going into the most meaningless race of the year, the so-called "All-Star" non-points exhibition.

 8. Jim Campbell -- The VP overseeing all things Chevy motorsports unveils new Camaro Funny Car body at John Force Racing. 

 9. Jason Line -- Win number four for Line, who has made the finals in all seven national events this season, as the Summit Racing Chevy Camaro team continues to dominate the electronic fuel injection version of NHRA Pro Stock.

10. Brad Sweet -- It's May and Donny Schatz isn't leading the Craftsman World of Outlaws sprint car point standings. Sweet, with six feature wins, is. 

more next week . . . ]