Monday, August 24, 2009


Chris Economaki, appearing on my The Race Reporters show, lamented the absence of "drum-beaters" in motorsports. So let me take his words to heart and say I'll have a BIG SHOW this Wednesday, 7 p.m. Eastern, when Ashley Force Hood (left) will be the Newsmaker interview subject for the second half-hour.

Depending on whose survey or metrics you use, Ashley is one of the five most popular drivers in the country. Better yet, she's a legitimate contender for NHRA's Full Throttle Funny Car championship. Ashley is third in points, with one win, six finals rounds, and five No. 1 qualifying runs, heading into the Labor Day weekend U.S. Nationals. Last weekend, at Maple Grove, Ashley went No. 1 but had a major engine explosion that meant she had to race a backup Ford Mustang. She won in the first round only to have the car DQ'd as underweight.

For my journalists' roundtable, and to join in interviewing Ashley, I have: Holly Cain, of AOL Online Sports and AOL Fanhouse; Jeff Wolf, of the Las Vegas Review-Journal; and Bobby Bennett, editor of

Click on the show logo in the right-hand column to listen.
FAST LINES: Need proof on the power of celebrity? Look no further than golf. The PGA Championship final round on CBS was up 150 percent in household ratings over the previous year, when Tiger Woods wasn't in the field. Meanwhile, the LPGA -- which recently bounced its Andrew Craigesque commissioner -- has fallen way off the media scope post-Annika Sorenstam, who was in the hunt to win in virtually every tournament she played . . . Can't let the Sprint Cup season go on without noting Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch's pro-active media relations efforts. Kurt comes to the media center for his NASCAR-required media avail, a move his team describes as "his effort in reaching out to the media rather than making them come to him at the team transporter" . . . Oh, my, how the bar has been lowered: Nicole Manske and Brad Daugherty chosen to interview the President of the United States. It wouldn't have been more gushy if the South Lawn sprinkler system pipes had burst. And, by the way, it would have been journalistically appropriate to have respectfully asked the president about appealing to the voting force known as "NASCAR Dads" . . . The death of political reporter-columnist Robert Novak deserves mention here, because Novak was one of -- if not the -- last of the true "shoe leather" journalists. In a half-century of covering the political scene, Novak was not one to sit at his desk, rewriting news handouts, or waiting for a newsmaker to come to him. He worked the telephone relentlessly, was up on Capitol Hill, traveled with the campaigns, and -- yes -- ate and drank with the decision-makers. As every writer wishes for, Novak was a "must read."

Even though her NASCAR assignments have shown she needs to sharpen her interviewing skills, one might have reasonably thought personable Krista Voda a good substitute host choice for vacationing Dave Despain last Sunday night on Wind Tunnel. One would have been wrong. What turned out to be the worst episode in WT history began with Voda introducing herself by saying -- and, NO, I am NOT making this up -- "I may not pee standing up" but had less hot air. What was she thinking? What did that crude remark accomplish? Not too classy! Which only served to undercut the credibility of her subsequent response to a caller's question, a by-rote defense of female pit reporters. (Yes, there are plenty of bad male announcers, too. Speed employs more than its share.) This was followed by a desperately-in-need-of-media-training Ken Anderson's (of the start-up U.S. F1 team) pitifully bad interview. Followed by the embarrassing Rob D'Amico, who Voda probably would trade a Despain bobblehead to for his earrings. Meanwhile, Robin Miller -- with legitimate news on Danica Patrick apparently staying in Indy Cars -- was relegated to the show's Internet afterthought. Voda then put one of her shoes on the desk as a prop. Voda closed by plugging Tommy Kendall and Danica for the next show and said she was sure they'd be talking about the upcoming motorcycle race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.(!) What?

THIS is destined for the political sound-bite Hall of Fame:
National Speed Sport News, marking its 75th anniversary, issued a report on the history of advertising in the weekly. It's interesting and here's a part of it:

"The first issue of National Speed Sport News contained 13 advertisements with a combined total of 41-column inches, or less than half of a page. The list of companies purchasing space included: Midget Parts Co., Green Engineering Co., Clymer Motors, Paterson Body Co. and Vorhees Photo. The only product advertised was Pyroil, a racing lubricant used extensively in midget racing.

"By 1936, classified advertising appeared on a weekly basis and ads for upcoming races across the country had become a major part of the paper. Champion began using National Speed Sport News to promote its spark plugs and Montgomery Ward ran several advertisements for its line of midget racing tires.

"As corporate involvement in racing grew, so did the number of companies purchasing advertising space. Race ads continued to be the cornerstone, but by the 1960s ads for companies such as Firestone, Autolite Spark Plugs, Humble Oil & Refining Co. and Oilzum Motor Oil appeared regularly. The Feb. 13, 1963, issue marked a significant milestone when Pepsi placed the first non-automotive consumer product advertisement.

"As corporate sponsorship became an integral part of racing during the 1970s and '80s, brands such as Winston, STP, Goodyear, Valvoline, BFGoodrich, CRC Chemicals, Wrangler and Gatorade supported their racing efforts with ads in the pages of National Speed Sport News. Isuzu Trucks was the first advertiser to include spot color when red appeared in the company's Dec. 5, 1984, advertisement, and Chevrolet published the first four-color ad in the Feb. 3, 1988, issue."

[ Ashley Force Hood news nugget Thursday . . . ]