Monday, November 10, 2008


I doubt Rick Hendrick is caught off-guard very often, but it happened after Jimmie Johnson all-but clinched his third consecutive Sprint Cup championship with his third consecutive Phoenix International Raceway victory Sunday.

Team owner Hendrick was asked to react to the network decision to pull the yellow-and-red flag-delayed race coverage from ABC to ESPN2, for the closing laps, in the Eastern and Central time zones. Hendrick admitted he did not know that had happened. What did that say about NASCAR and the importance of the Chase? Hendrick said it was "disappointing" and Johnson agreed.

Call this the Desperate Housewives call. Although America's Funniest Home Videos was up next on ABC, the move was all about getting DH on as close as possible to the scheduled time -- to preserve ratings and value of pre-sold commercial spots.

The truth is, from a showbiz standpoint, PIR's Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500k was dreadful. What is NASCAR to do? Brian France made an unannounced visit to the media center Sunday morning to project the impression of leadership. But, as Jeff Burton admitted to me in a Q&A published in Sunday's Arizona Republic (see link below), it's a crucial time for NASCAR's management. The show needs to get better and logic would say that means more testing and rule changes. Those things, however, are costly, and in this environment, that's not doable.

I can report here, as I did in Monday's paper, that NASCAR and Goodyear are discussing a wider tire/wheel for 2010. One would hope getting more contact surface on the track would increase grip and make for better racing.

Meanwhile, on the gloomy PR front, this was quite amazing to me: Even with stacks of free newspapers in the media center, way-too-many so-called publicists couldn't even be bothered to take a minute and inform themselves about that was -- or wasn't -- being covered. I remember a time when we'd be buying up all the local papers in hotel gift shops when they'd open at 6 a.m. Were we being covered? Were the stories fair and accurate? Was there an error that needed to be corrected? Was there a good story you'd want to show off to your team and sponsors? Maybe a reporter who should receive a "thank you"? These people who don't even know to take a look, well, how sad.

And then, there was the Fiesta Bowl news release announcing that Tony Stewart will be grand marshal of the Bowl's Parade. One problem: The actual DATE of the parade wasn't listed until the first sentence of the 16th -- last -- paragraph.
Porsche back in IndyCar? YES, according to what one source has told me. And another indirectly confirmed. Both point to engines being in the Penske Racing entries, among others.
Thanks to Claire B. Lang of XM Satellite Radio and Jamie Reynolds of Racing Roundup Arizona for the guest opportunities last week. And thanks to PR reps Andy Hall, Jon Edwards, Amy Walsh, Christine Brownlow, Judy Kouba Dominick, Paul Corliss, Griff Hickman, Denise Maloof and Marc Spiegel for their extra help with my PIR coverage.
Here are some of my Arizona Republic stories from NASCAR-in-Phoenix last week:

* JJ Yeley, Michael McDowell and the No. 96 team --

* A Tale of Two Seasons (Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson) --

* Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Saturday notebook) --

* Jeff Gordon (Sunday notebook) --

* Jeff Burton Q&A --

* Race items (Monday notebook) --
I'll be in Pomona this weekend for the NHRA Powerade season finale and to participate in an AARWBA award presentation to John Force Saturday in the Shav Glick Media Center. As a reminder, the 39th AARWBA All-America Team ceremony, presented by A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, will be Saturday, January 10 at the Ontario (Calif.) Hilton.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]