• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, January 29, 2017

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS IN THE BIZ OF RACING

History will record January 22-29, 2017 as one of the most important weeks in the Business of Racing.

Consider:

Liberty Media concluded its (reported) $8 billion acquisition of Formula One. The first order of business? Relieve Bernie Ecclestone of his iron-fisted control of the sport's commercial activities. Only the Bill Frances, Sr. and Jr., stand on the same podium with Ecclestone for their one-man decades-long control of a series and building it to unthinkable riches and prestige.

For now, new CEO Chase Carey is best known for his prominent mustache, as Ecclestone was for his slight stature. I rolled my eyes at Carey's pronouncement that more U.S. street venues, such as New York City, Los Angeles or Las Vegas, are a priority and should be week-long Super Bowls for F1. Really?  A review of the long and unsuccessful (Long Beach being the one exception and gold standard) history of such ventures -- IndyCar's Boston fiasco last year being the most recent example and Whatever Happened to the Northern New Jersey deal? -- suggests otherwise. Unless Liberty Media is willing to dig very deep into its own pockets. Or find more tax revenue-hungry politician dupes.

NASCAR, now controlled by Brian France, announced its new "segments" race format. It's the sanction's latest attempt to improve the entertainment value of its racing and regain lost popularity. At least as measured by TV and at-track audience. Most significant was what was said to be the unprecedented collaboration with drivers, teams, OEMs, track operators and the $$$ Fox and NBC TV partners. A stark contrast to France Sr. and Jr.

NASCAR's new buzzword is "enhancements." As in the segments racing rules being competition "enchancements." I won't be using that in my stories as it sounds too much like something having to do with ED medications. An unfortunate choice of words by NASCAR IMC.

All of this happened at the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway media tour, no longer including a visit to CMS or anything specifically regarding CMS and no longer a "tour." To save money, drivers were brought to one location, instead if busing media to the various race team shops. And it was drivers only. No team owners. No crew chiefs. This in the days immediately after the "segments" announcement and driver-after-driver telling reporters it will be interesting to see what decisions crew chiefs make to try to gain those points. Not making crew chiefs available created a massive media void. Sure didn't make sense to me.

Various team sponsor announcemements were made. Nice, but no blockbusters. The BIG sponsor-related news was Nature's Bakery apparent backing-away from its primary deal for Danica Patrick's Stewart-Haas Racing (now) Ford. Danica without strong corporate funding? My, how things have changed. What domino's could this trigger? SHR's four-car lineup (including a not fully-funded No. 14 with Clint Bowyer in for Tony Stewart) couldn't exist without mega-rich Gene Haas, who can fill the funding shortfalls with Haas Automation. But for how long? Is it possible lack of NASCAR sponsorship could lead Patrick elsewhere, even back to IndyCar? 

Oh, in case you didn't pick up on this, NASCAR has officially retired the "Chase." Now it's the "playoffs." The reason for this change is so obvious it makes you wonder why it wasn't done years ago.

Carl Edwards to run for the U.S. Senate from Missouri? Hey, it makes as much sense as anything else I've read to try to explain his out-of-left-field decision to stop racing. And we thought it would be Jeff Burton who would become a senator. If it happens, I'd like to think Edwards could help speed up action in the slow-moving upper legislative chamber.

IMSA opened its new DPi era with the traditional Rolex 24 at Daytona. I'll congratulate the sanction on an excellent race with three exciting class finishes. The controversial non-call by Beaux Barfield gave IMSA the best outcome for its short-term national profile as it helped put Jeff Gordon into victory lane with the emotional Taylor family and Max Angelelli in his retirement drive in one of the new Cadillac DPi entries. That was the best story for mainstream media who often only care about IMSA for this one day a year and also the specialist racing media and, for sure, NASCAR fans. 

As I've said before, sports car racing must feature a robust Prototype class to be successful. Sorry, but I don't see the DPis, featuring a great sponsor ID billboard but untraditional and eyeball-unpleasing stability fins, satisfying that imperative. At least not right now. I continue to be disappointed overall in what IMSA, as the authority for the combined ALMS/Grand-Am series, has accomplished since the merger. I should say what IMSA -- and I'm talking Jim France, Ed Bennett and Scott Atherton -- have NOT accomplished. Yes, I know, it's not easy. Let's be clear and honest: No matter the hype you hear from various entities (including the participating OEMs), sports car racing (which I love) has a LONG way to go to even be an * on the USA sporting scene.

Nice to see the new Rolex all-auto racing theme TV spot, featuring sports car, land-speed record and F1 images. And a SPECTACULAR still-frame from the 1960s of Jackie Stewart's BRM four-wheels in the air!

The SCCA Runoffs -- an often wonderful and always underappreciated event in U.S. motorsports -- set Sonoma Raceway as its 2018 host. This year the amateur national championships will be decided at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


Tickets for the July 15-16 FIA Formula E New York City ePrix went on sale, according to a news release. The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal was site of a photo-op. Stop me if you've heard this one before: A race on the streets of New York City. I'll believe it when I see it!

The Bottom Line results from this unbelievably newsworthy and historic week in the Business of Racing likely won't be known for years. But they will be worth watching and certainly most consequential.



No comment: Ryan Ellis, a Cup series driver as recently as last November, is now PR man for Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 32 GoFas Racing team.


What's the Big Controversy in Washington, D.C., about "alternative facts?" PR people have been presenting AFs to the media for decades! Trust me, I know!



With Motorsports 2017 officially underway, I'm going to make two points that I feel very strongly about, and will be a recurring theme for me throughout the year:

1. It's time for Public Relations People to Act Like "Public Relations" People. I attended the NASCAR awards in Las Vegas last December and watched so-called PR representatives walk past journalists who had written positive stories about their clients without saying a word. Others stayed in their seats, not bothering to get up and greet reporters who were just a few tables away. More apparently haven't bothered to update their media lists for years. There's one prominent NASCAR supplier who has been sending media material to a decreased reporter, to another who no longer covers the sport, but has yet to send Word 1 to the appropriate journo who has been writing for a decade. A partial ditto for a championship team in more than one series. There are plenty of PRers who don't bother to visit the media center on race weekends to say hello and introduce themselves to media types they don't know. Shame on the supervisors who allow their entities to be represented in such an unprofessional manner. ENOUGH. This year, I'll be naming names, as required.


2. Text LESS, TALK more: Yes, I understand, there is no putting this genie back in the bottle. But I will make this Common Courtesy/Common Sense point which I know, in my heart, the late + great PR legend and Gentleman Mr. James P. Chapman would be screaming from the mountaintop of manners: Texting is not the honest and sincere vehicle for anyone TRULY interested in what is going on in someone else's life. You can't hear the other person's voice with a text. The sound of that person's voice, it's strength or weakness, what is said or isn't said, is how you really find out what's going on. As Mr. Chapman knew, nothing will ever replace a face-to-face conversation, but a phone conversation is the next best/easiest option. (Skype would even be better.) I don't mind a text for anything routine, like a reminder of an appointment. But when someone sends a text "I hope you are feeling well" or "feeling better" or "doing OK," I don't consider that a sincere expression of honest concern. It might even be considered a lazy way to ask. It's obvious to me some people use a text as the modern version of voice mail. Back in the day, if you had to answer someone but really didn't want to speak with him/her, the trick was to call and leave a voice message at a time the other person wasn't likely to pick up. A text now can serve the same purpose. Bottom line: If you really CARE, CALL! 



John Haverlin, of PopularSpeed.com , recently wrote a very nice story about me and my career. Thank you to John and PS. Here's the link:

http://www.popularspeed.com/a-career-in-motorsports-journalism-and-pr/ 



This will be a HUGE week in Arizona racing. Official announcement and details of the $178 million Phoenix International Raceway rebuild on Monday. NASCAR testing at PIR Tuesday and Wednesday, marking the on-track return of Dale Earnhardt Jr., and debut of Daniel Suarez. Then NHRA nitro-class testing Thursday-through-Saturday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. I'll have a couple of stories starting Tuesday in the Arizona Republic and AzCentral.com . More immediate newsworthy updates from me on Twitter: @SpinDoctor500 . Thank you.

[ more as I am able . . . ]