Sunday, March 14, 2010


REMINDER: She's back! Ashley Force Hood returns to The Race Reporters Wednesday, 7 p.m. EDT, on Ashley will stay with us for the entire second half-hour. Holly Cain, of AOL Sports, and Corinne Economaki, president and publisher of National Speed Sport News, will be on the roundtable.

Coincidence . . . or trend?

A pothole stopped the Daytona 500 -- twice. As yet not fully explained track problems forced NHRA to run the last three Arizona Nationals Pro Stock rounds in Gainesville, Fla. Twice, the yellow warnings lights mysteriously turned themselves on at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Here's a theory: Tracks have reduced their maintenance budgets, due to the economy. We just might be seeing the result.

Other than the principals, the most embarrassed party in the stalled-before-it-ever-started so-called "U.S." Formula One team should be SPEED. The F1 host channel cheerleaded, not covered, this enterprise. I wrote the following March 2, 2009, after SPEED put on the team's introduction announcement live:

Here are BASIC things we still don't know about USF1 even after last week's live "news conference" (and cheerleading) on SPEED:

1. It was said team founders Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor sold an ownership stake. Who was the buyer? What percentage? How much? Is the money in the team's bank account, or just promised?

2. It was said a visual presentation existed for display to investors. How many more investors are needed? What additional percentage of the team ownership will be sold? How much more funding is needed?

3. Is Bernie Ecclestone, either directly or through a company he owns/controls, financially involved in USF1?

4. The budget has been reported as $62 million. Is that accurate? If so, how much is actually in the bank, vs. pledged funds?

5. Sponsors?

6. Marco Andretti was promoted as a potential driver. The Andretti family position, from Mario to Michael to Marco, has been it would take a ride with one of the "top" teams to make the switch from Indy Cars. Are they saying USF1 will be considered a "top" team right from the start?

7. What is the actual deadline, go/no-go, date to ensure the team is on the grid for the 2010 season opener?

8. Oh, and why weren't the above seven questions asked?

There was valid reason to doubt the reality of this operation from Day One. Real American F1 fans would have best been served with some actual JOURNALISM from SPEED. Credibility counts . . . and it also wasn't helped by a recent and massively misjudged column on who does good PR.

As I've written before, SPEED should have an Ombudsman. ESPN does.

FAST LINES: IndyCar -- which has been heavily hyping its business relationships in Brazil -- saw its Sao Paulo race week begin with Brazil setting the stage for a potential trade war with the U.S. Brazil moved to raise tariffs, starting next month, on a wide range of American goods . . . In a series where many teams are gasping for sufficient sponsorship, IndyCar management thumbed its nose at those who are involved by introducing its version of the victory lane Terrible Towel. Honda and Firestone -- the series would be up-the-creek without them -- were among the sponsors who had their driver uniform ID stolen Sunday. Sponsors rejected such uniform ID cover-ups by unanimous vote at a meeting before the 1985 CART season. I was there. Of course, no one at the ICS -- a series built on the history of the Indy 500 -- bothers to learn such Business of Racing history . . . Meanwhile, instead of asking Ryan Hunter-Reay about the last-minute pass that cost him victory, Jack Arute's journalistically-challenged question was about the series sponsorship . . . GREAT competition -- and PR -- move by Sarah Fisher to put Graham Rahal in her Dollar General car for St. Pete and Alabama . . . I could not help but laugh over the media angst over what NASCAR would do following the Carl Edwards-Brad Keselowski incident at Atlanta. Typical was the self-headlined writer "expert" who typed NASCAR didn't have "any choice but to suspend Edwards."(!) . . . A SPEED writer recalled: "Those who saw the blood on the ground in the grandstands after the Keselowski-Edwards crash at Talladega last year won’t soon forget it." That didn't stop producers from using the video as "eye candy" entertainment . . . Congratulations to Angelle Sampey, racing's winningest female driver, who announced her retirement last week . . . Proving, once again, there's one born every minute: Reports of talks for an ALMS race in downtown Oklahoma City. A race "has the potential to deliver an economic impact comparable to hosting a Final Four,” event partners were quoted as saying. You betcha! The only question is if city officials will do more than the sort of rubber-stamp due diligence Phoenix City Council performed for the aborted 2007 Champ Car fiasco . . . ESPN's choice of Hall of Fame TV production and management executive Don Ohlmeyer as its new Ombudsman was brilliant, as proven again by his most recent monthly column.

This is from a news release issued March 9 by the owner/producer of The Race Reporters. My great thanks to all of you:

Michael Knight is host of the top-rated radio program on the Power Up Motorsports Channel. His program commands an audience share of over 25% of the channel’s total audience and is consistently growing in exposure since its debut in June of 2009.

“We are honored to have a host like Michael Knight on our team.” said Jeff Spenard, President of World Talk Radio, LLC, which manages operation of the Power Up Motorsports Channel. “With Michael’s experience as a journalist, combined with his connections in the Motor Sports industry, there is absolutely no question as to why he is one of the fastest growing programs on our network. By facilitating an exclusive interview with Jeff Gordon, Michael is proving that his program has the big names in the industry taking notice.”

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

March 17 -- Newsmaker: Ashley Force Hood. Panelists: Holly Cain, Corinne Economaki.

March 24 -- Newsmaker: Bryan Sperber (president, Phoenix International Raceway). Panelists: Mark Armijo, Bob Pockrass.

March 31 -- Newsmaker: David Reutimann. Panelists: Dustin Long, Ron Lemasters Jr.

April 7 -- Newsmaker: Max Papis. Panelists: Kenny Bruce, Dave Kallmann.

April 14 -- Newsmaker: Melanie Troxel. Panelists: Bobby Bennett, TBA.

April 21 -- Newsmaker: Patrick Long. Panelists: Larry Edsall, Jonathan Ingram. Plus, Matt Yocum.

April 28 -- Newsmaker: Simona De Silvestro. Panelists: John Oreovicz, Jim Pedley.

[ Ashley Force Hood news note Thursday . . . ]