Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Life goes on, as it must, and it's an exciting week for me with the debut of Race News magazine and my monthly "The Bottom Line" Business of Racing column. I explain why it's a mistake for Ashley Force to be promoted as NHRA's Danica Patrick. Also, the first of my new monthly video commentaries on the racing biz is now posted at 1320tv.com. That also deals with why Ashley isn't Danica. (Both the column and the commentary were done before Eric Medlen's accident.) You can find a link for Race News and 1320tv.com in the right-hand column. The magazine link ( RaceNewsMagazine.com ) will take you to a site for more information on the new publication, while the 1320tv.com link will send you right to that site, which features video coverage of drag racing. (To see contrasting emotions, watch the J.R. Todd and Angelle Sampey winners' news conferences from Houston under the "Race Videos" section.) Either click on "Programming" on the toolbar and select "Featured Videos" from the drop-down menu, or just scroll down the home page until you see "Featured Videos." My segment is titled, "Let Ashley Be Ashley." Please check out both the column and the commentary and let me know what you think. The video actually went up last week and my thanks to Arie Luyendyk, Paul Page, Jack Arute, Larry Henry, Robin Miller, Jamie Reynolds, Mark Armijo, Mike Mooney, Mike Hollander (recovering from a recent medical issue) and others who already have watched and shared their (too nice) comments -- and for the "tips" from the professionals!
On Monday, April 9, I'll guest on Racing Roundup Arizona on KXAM (1310) radio in Phoenix to discuss Business of Racing issues. RRA is marking its 10th anniversary as the state's longest-running weekly source for motorsports information and talk. My thanks to host Jamie Reynolds for the invitation. The show airs from 7-9 p.m. (PDT). It can be heard over the Internet at the RRA site, link in the right-hand column here, or on KXAM.com .
Congratulations to Jay Adamczyk -- a.k.a. "Jayski" -- as ESPN has acquired Jayski.com, the Drudge Report of NASCAR information sites. Jay will continue to operate the site and the announcement release said it "will remain an independent voice on ESPN.com." Jay (along with partner Mark Garrow) will be contributors for NASCAR coverage across all ESPN media platforms, including on-air, online, radio and podcasting.
No one else will say this, so I will. I have a problem with a few people in the aftermath of Eric Medlen's death.

By all accounts, the show of respect for the Medlen family and John Force Racing within the NHRA community was impressive. However, in my view, all pro-active publicity/PR activities should have been suspended from Medlen's death on Friday, March 23, through his funeral on Wednesday, March 28. I received a release about a new sponsorship and another about a crew chief change during this period, and I'm pretty sure there were others. At a time when all drag racing competitors, participants and fans were thinking about Eric, his family and team, why was it necessary to assume anyone really cared about anything else? Why couldn't these announcements have waited until Thursday, March 29, the start of the O'Reilly Spring Nationals event weekend?

When Dale Earnhardt was killed during the 2001 Daytona 500, the first recommendation I made to client Valvoline was to suspend all pro-active PR activities until after Earnhardt's memorial service. Valvoline management agreed. Now, I admit, I'm especially sensitive to this. When my friend and client on the Porsche Indy Car project, Porsche Cars North America director and three-time Le Mans winner Al Holbert, was killed in an airplane crash in September 1988, I was deeply involved -- on many levels -- in planning what happened next. I remember being offended, and seeing the reaction of family, friends and team members, when two CART teams made personnel announcements in the days between Al's death and funeral. I expressed that opinion to both teams. One called it a "necessary business decision" while the other admitted, "Yes, we could have waited."

Yes, they could have waited. Others should have done so last week.

For the record, I have no problem with -- and respect -- John Force's decision to keep his team out of last weekend's event at Houston Raceway Park. Force hopes to return for the April 13-15 SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I plan to be there.
Here's a follow-up to what I wrote last time about Danica Patrick, specifically, the fact that she declined to be interviewed by ESPN2 and the IndyCar Radio Network after crashing out at Homestead.

Dave Argabright, one of the country's most respected (and common sense) open-wheel journalists (he teamed with Chris Economaki for their Let 'Em All Go! book last year), had this to say in his National Speed Sport News column: "But more important than her performance was her demeanor. Over the past two years she has earned a reputation among those who cover the sport as a spoiled princess, and at times she plays the role perfectly. She can also be open and friendly, depending on her mood.

"The sport is usually willing to forgive boorish behavior, but only if on-track performance balances it out. A.J. Foyt, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt, Pancho Carter -- to name just a few -- have all shown moments of being difficult to deal with, but their great skill behind the wheel earned them a great deal of latitude.

"But Danica, frankly, hasn't shown much yet, and I'm not talking photo spreads. Yes, she's had a couple of good runs at Indy. But she has not yet been a good enough racer to blow off interviews after she steps on her pride in front of God and everybody. And the foot-stomping hissy fits will get old very quickly without the wins to back them up. She's got to get good or grow up, sooner rather than later."

Danica sponsors, please take note. Again, check out my Race News magazine column and 1320tv.com video commentary for more on this subject.
Last week I noted the problems facing Andretti Green sponsor Vonage. Last Wednesday, USA Today published an amazing story on Page 1 of its "Money" section. I'll quote the first two paragraphs:

"In a move once unheard of on Wall Street, Citigroup is saying to sell Vonage stock just nine months after it helped bring the Internet telephone service public.

"It's the latest humiliation for Vonage, which let customers invest in its initial public offering only for the shares to crash and create a public relations nightmare. Even worse, last week Vonage lost a patent lawsuit to Verizon that some analysts say could doom the company."

One more biz note: First Data, announced with much fanfare as sponsor of the Las Vegas and Phoenix Champ Car races only for those deals to suddenly disappear, Monday said it will be bought by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts Co. for $25.6 billion. First Data is the large credit-card payments processor and KKR is perhaps best remembered as the leveraged buyout firm that took over RJR Nabisco. That transaction was chronicled in the book, Barbarians at the Gate, later made into a great TV movie.
Here's a no-brainer for the benefit of SPEED Channel. Since much is being made of A.J. Foyt's 50th anniversary in Indy-type racing, a flat-out programming winner would be to pair A.J. and Robin Miller for a one-hour special to share their stories about Foyt's half-century in the sport (and about each other!) If a stand-alone show is not doable, then devote a full Wind Tunnel to this. It should be in May, of course.
I could not help but be amused by the media hubbub last week over Circuit City's decision to drop almost 3,500 higher-wage employees, with the intent of replacing them with inexperienced, lower-cost new hires. This is exactly what has been taking place in racing in recent years, with owners spending more and more on drivers, crew chiefs and engineers and less and less on the PR and marketing professionals who are their front-line representatives to the public and media and keep their sponsors happy. Same applies to some broadcast and PA positions, too. Memo to Circuit City and Racing Execs: You get what you pay for. (!)
We all could use a laugh. So, whether you are involved in reporting the news, or influencing the news, or just watch the news, go to JibJab.com and click on "What We Call the News." This was shown as last week's Radio and Television Correspondent's Association dinner in Washington, D.C. It's a good use of two minutes.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]