Monday, February 23, 2009


Indulge me, please . . .

This is a special year for me -- it's the 40th anniversary of what I consider to be my first contribution to motorsports and participation beyond the role of spectator.

In April 1969, USAC ran Indy Cars at the old Hanford Motor Speedway oval, in Fresno, Calif. Sadly, during a pit-stop sequence, crew member Red Stainton jumped away from a refueling fire. He tripped and fell into the path of Mario Andretti's car. Stainton died. In the aftermath, I wrote a guest column for the old USAC News newspaper, suggesting the sanctioning body require pit crew members to wear fire-resistant uniforms. It was my first byline.

Eventually, that idea became reality. I'm not taking credit, but I do remember this: Years later, Dick King, who became USAC's president, recalled that column and thanked me for it.

A month earlier, I had my first taste of actual competition. I was the navigator in a 50-mile sports car rally in southern New Jersey. We won in our family's Ford Mustang. Yes, I still have the trophy.
An Act of Desperation. A Cry for Attention.

That's the only way I know to describe the "Tale of the Tape" posting on last week. Alex Rodriguez' news conference in Tampa, to answer questions about his admitted past use of performance enhancers, was twisted into a comparison to IRL racing in St. Petersburg. An example:

"Performance-enhancing fuel -- A-Rod -- Steroids; IndyCar Series -- 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol."

Bizarre. Outrageous. Offensive. Inappropriate. Bad judgment.

If I were Graham Rahal, or his representative, I would not appreciate being pictured side-by-side with A-Rod in this way. In fact, I would have been on the phone to Tony George, demanding the image be taken down.

One can only ask: What were they thinking? And: Where's the oversight?
I covered last weekend's drag racing at Firebird International Raceway. Links to my Arizona Republic stories are below. I noticed many things that reflect on the industry -- some positive, some alarming -- and I'll have a lot to say about that next week.

Saturday was a long racing day: When qualifying was over at Firebird, I headed to Manzanita Speedway for USAC's Silver Crown, sprint and midget tripleheader.

When Coca-Cola announced that Full Throttle would take over from Powerade as the NHRA series sponsor, a more aggressive marketing/advertising effort was promised. I didn't see any retail promotion or point-of-purchase displays in the local supermarkets, which was disappointing. Time will tell, but I like this fresh creative: . (Thanks to for the tip.)
FAST LINES: Congratulations to former Champ Car PR boss David Higdon (right), just named the LPGA's chief communications officer. According to the announcement, "In this newly created role, Higdon will be a member of the LPGA management committee and will develop strategic corporate communications initiatives for the organization" . . . Congratulations to Chris Economaki, this year's recipient of Pocono Raceway's Bill France Award of Excellence. The NSSN 75th anniversary issue is June 24 with ad close June 22 . . . E-mails to John Medlen, recovering from insertion of a stent into his heart, can be sent to the John Force Racing crew chief at . . . A referral from John Force Racing helped Gary Densham land Asom Tequila as his new Funny Car sponsor.
Here are links to my NHRA stories last week in the Arizona Republic:

Thursday -- Notebook, including Kenny Bernstein and Ashley Force Hood:

Friday -- Alan Johnson, "Drag racing's Most Wanted Man":

Saturday -- First day qualifying, Ron Capps:

Sunday -- Newsmaker Q&A (Jack Beckman, Brandon Bernstein, Jeg Coughlin Jr.):

Monday -- Race notebook:

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]