Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Daytona observations:

Uhhh, where was the Nationwide Series logo on Camping World 300 winner Tony Stewart's uniform? I, at least, couldn't see it in the designated location. Isn't that MANDATORY? And a little EMBARRASSING for the new series sponsor?

Jacques Villeneuve and Patrick Carpentier not making the Daytona 500 was an obvious setback for NASCAR's north-of-the-border push. Here's what got my attention even more than that: Villeneuve is now parked due to lack of sponsorship. For all we've been told over the years about what a great racing country it is, the evidence mounts that Corporate Canada isn't on-board with that hype. For years, Paul Tracy has been unable to get native nation backing to replace legislated-out Player's, and now, Indy/F1 champion Villeneuve has the same problem.

Once again, journalists who know less about NASCAR than they do curling decended upon Daytona, with predictable results. On Sunday morning's ESPN The Sports Reporters, Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe, on the subject of open-wheel drivers in Sprint Cup: "Mr. 'Dancing With the Stars' didn't make it. Mr. Ashley Judd didn't make it." Then, Selena Roberts added to the growing perception of Sports Illustrated's diminished motorsports knowledge, by throwing out the easy and completely superficial "insight" that Danica Patrick might and should give stock cars a try. Even in a Hendrick Chevrolet, with Chad Knaus as crew chief, Patrick would be as competitive in NASCAR as I would be in Olympic figure skating.

Meanwhile, the reporter of a Fox News Radio report on the Daytona spectator scene, which I heard Saturday night, went out of his way to reinforce every stereotype about Southern NASCAR fans.

SPEED's Tradin' Paint needed to start the season with a credibility boost -- and has gotten it -- with David Poole of the Charlotte Observer and Liz Clarke of the Washington Post exchanging opinions with Kyle Petty.

Request: When, for the first time, Brad Daugherty actually says something meaningful, or increases our knowledge about what's happening in NASCAR, please let me know.

Journalism 101: Wind Tunnel had Daytona 500 winning car owner Roger Penske on "live" Sunday night -- and somehow managed NOT to ask the 14-time Indianapolis 500 winner if he had any insight into the status of the IndyCar-Champ Car negotiations.
I was at Manzanita Speedway Saturday night for USAC's Copper on Dirt Silver Crown, sprint and midget opener. The field of 57 midgets, 45 sprinters and 18 Crown cars was down from last year (continuing the trend seen at Daytona and Pomona) but still a pit packer.

The previous week I did a phone interview with Kevin Miller, the new USAC president, and picked-up the conversation in the pits. (See link to my Arizona Republic story on Miller below.) I won't repeat everything in my article, but Miller has an ambitious plan for change for the 53-year-old organization. I've known just about every USAC prez since Charlie Brockman in the 1960s and, when I've questioned them about ways to strengthen the group, the answer always has been the same: We don't have the money to do those things.

So, of course, I asked Miller. He admitted some of his projects will require sponsorship support, but also said some of his initiatives are in the works, such as Internet solutions. I agree with Miller's assessment that USAC's time-buy TV history needs review, given the "new" media, and that USAC must "live" on the Internet. Including web programming from races with pit reporters.

Here's something else I agree with: Miller said USAC needs to take more "ownership" of its events, including marketing, promotion, a better-organized program of races and between-events entertainment. I know this -- already -- is meeting with resistence from "this is the way we've always done it" promoters. Overcoming this will be one of Kevin's biggest challenges.

One decisive move Miller made last week was to park the controversial and unloved new generation Silver Crown cars in favor of the traditional model. Those superspeedway worthy SC cars were, at least partially, born of a plan to provide tracks -- ISC tracks like Darlington, Kansas and Homestead -- with new "programming" if you will. I note ISC executive John Saunders is no longer on USAC's Board.

I, for one, will be watching with interest at this summer's roll-out of Miller's promised "new USAC." It could be one of the year's most significant stories.

(Meanwhile, congratulations to USAC's loyal communications man, Dick Jordan, who will be inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in late May. Well deserved.)

I recommend Jon Asher's latest column on Competition Plus:


I'll be at Firebird Raceway all weekend covering the NHRA action for the Republic and taping a batch of new Business of Racing video commentaries for 1320tv.com.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]