Sunday, January 25, 2009


NHRA Full Throttle Top Fuel and Funny Car teams -- those whose budget allowed -- tested last weekend at Firebird Raceway outside Phoenix. The National Time Trials was a good place for me to interview drag racing personalities.

And, that's exactly the right word -- personalities. In less than four hours on-site, I did one-on-one sit-down interviews (lasting around 15 minutes, at least) with Ashley Force Hood (she's married), Kenny Bernstein, Brandon Bernstein, Larry Dixon, Alan Johnson, Del Worsham and Jack Beckman. Plus, shorter sessions with Tony Schumacher (who I interviewed two weeks ago at AARWBA), Mike Green (his new crew chief), Don Prudhomme and Melanie Troxel. Actually, I went back to Hood, Dixon, Worsham and Beckman for follow-ups. Of course, I had time with John Force and Robert Hight at AARWBA. This was not just quantity in short order. It was quality time.

To repeat what I've often said, I consider NHRA to be an under-covered sport, media-wise. One reason is the colorful, interesting and fascinating (and cooperative!) people in the pit area. It's too bad too many journalists don't wake-up to that fact, although I hope the recent field trip to John Force Racing and media competition at Pomona before the AARWBA ceremony might have awakened some people. NHRA and JFR did the right thing that day -- they went out and made something positive happen.

Before the AARWBA awards, I sat down for an interview with legendary NHRA broadcaster/announcer Dave McClelland (right). Dave still possesses a great announcer's voice. His own contributions to the popularity of drag racing earned him the Pioneer In Racing award -- as MC, he was surprised to learn that -- the first non-competitor to receive the honor. When I asked Dave about drag racing's personalities vs. under-represented press coverage, Dave had a most interesting observation. Some people might find it stunning. I don't want to let another week go by without sharing this:

"I have the feeling that a great number of journalists don't like people. It shows when they are dealing one-on-one with an interview subject. I'm sorry. I'm not trying to diss the journalistic business; I've been in it way-too-long. But I don't think some of them really like people.

"Motorsports hasn't necessarily been the pinnacle of success in the sports world, as far as journalism goes. A lot of people would much rather be covering Major League Baseball, or pro football, golf, or things like that. That's what always amazed me about the late Shav Glick (Los Angeles Times.) He was an avid golfer, loved it, but he also loved motorsports and the people in it. I'm not holding Shav up to ideals that no one else can achieve. I'm just saying, you've got to like people. If you don't, you're going to have a tough time in a lot of fields, not just journalism.

"It's a shame a lot of people (journs) don't do their homework anymore, because it's so easy. You can type a name into a search engine box and come up with 2,312,000 hits in about eight-tenths of a second. But if you're too lazy to do it, or just don't care, then it's a disservice not only to who you're working for, but to the industry, and certainly your interview subject."
FAST LINES: Good PR and marketing sense came into play as George Gillett agreed to put Richard Petty's legendary name front-and-center for their newly joined-together team. Here's the logo . . . Classy gesture by Hurley Haywood and David Donohue to remember Bob Carlson, the late Porsche PR expert and Jim Chapman Award winner, after their victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona . . . By all accounts -- and not surprisingly -- the level of activity during last week's NASCAR Media Tour was down. Several participating reporters told me so. There was a lot of extra "writing time" built into the official schedule, they said . . . Shakiest Start I've seen this side of a traction-challenged Funny Car: White House press secretary Robert Gibbs . . . Bad Timing Award goes to Phoenix International Raceway, which solicited media to interview a visiting Marcos Ambrose Friday at a wing joint while John and Ashley Force, Tony Schumacher and other NHRA Headliners were testing at Firebird. Plus, Arizona Cardinals' Super Bowl fever . . . The American Drag Racing League has a new logo, too, to reflect its National Guard sponsorship. Bob Margolis now heads-up ADRL's communications effort . . . Distribution is one of the key problems affecting the newspaper industry. So, let me share this head-scratching first-hand experience: On my way to the gym one recent morning, I waited for a man to load that day's editions of USA Today and the Arizona Republic into honor boxes. It took him 10 minutes to service just two machines. When he was finished, I put four quarters into the USAT box -- and discovered he had placed only TWO copies of the paper into the box. Why bother?
Here are links to my two NHRA testing stories in last week's Arizona Republic:

Season preview --

Test report --
Please don't anyone ever insult my intelligence again by telling me journalistic standards haven't declined or there isn't media bias. I consider myself qualified to make these observations, and criticisms, even though I've never worked for the New York Times or Washington Post.

Any reasonable review of last week's Presidential Inauguration TV coverage proves my point. I'm not even referring to the gushy, platitudinous so-called "reporting."

Not too many things surprise me anymore, but for news anchors, as well as pundits, to talk over the top of the formal ceremonies and podium speakers just proves how out-of-control these people are . . . or, I should say, their egos.

And, as far as I can determine, Fox News was the only network to carry live the remarks of former President Bush (43) upon his return to Texas. Talking heads on the other nets blathered on while this was happening. They, and their producers, think their words are more important than those of the actual NEWSMAKERS! I dare anyone to compare the extensive time devoted to President Clinton's public activities, upon his departure from the Capitol eight years ago, to what Bush 43 got. Go ahead. Make my day.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]