Sunday, April 18, 2010


Regular readers know I take most of my theories about PR and the media from the world of politics. So, it's likely not a surprise to you that the best political story of the weekend took me to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the NHRA Nationals (I write the monthly "Drags, Dollars & Sense" column) -- Bobby Bennett, Jon Asher and Stan Creekmore -- have led the pack in reporting on the politics and the controversy over four-wide racing as contested the other week in Concord, N.C. I won't repeat all the details here -- go to for that -- but the PRO organization (representing the racers) voted overwhelmingly after that event not to do any more Full Throttle points competitions using the four-wide format. Reasons listed included safety, confusion, diminishment of sponsor ID (wider ESPN2 camera shots made it more difficult to see corporate names) and -- I loved this one -- "a circus-like atmosphere."

As Jon Asher reported, PRO's line-in-the-sand started washing away last Friday, with backtracking like a nitro car stuck in reverse gear. After a meeting between PRO and NHRA officials Saturday morning, NHRA President Tom Compton came into the media center to announce the Four-Wide Nationals will return in 2011. As a points event, not an exhibition. Compton said improvements will be made to the format to make it more understandable for fans and media (I watched the whole thing on ESPN2 and, must admit, I was confused any number of times), better for sponsors, and more workable on the starting line for the drivers.

Bruton Smith, said to be watching it rain at Texas Motor Speedway, wasn't in attendance. Compton said he had reviewed the decision with Smith. But I also learned that local fan reaction in the Vegas vicinity was not in favor of four-wide at The Strip, so the talked-about job of adding two lanes in Las is much-less-likely to happen. Compton said Charlotte will be the only four-wide event in 2011.

Let's be honest -- NHRA ain't exactly NASCAR when it comes to political horsepower. But the Glendora Group sure came out looking like a PR winner in what was clearly a PR fiasco for PRO.

That's obvious. However, I want to give this entire saga a good, long, hard think, and will have a lot more in my May column.

P.S. -- John Force, Las Vegas winner, after going zip in 2009. According to PR ace Dave Densmore (Jim Chapman PR Award winner), it was only the third time Force has ever won after qualifying outside the top eight (11th). Also -- Force has made the finals in 37.7 percent of all career Funny Car races he's entered, and won 23.5 percent of all events entered (129 wins in 548 races.) (!!!)

John: Driver of the Year? Comeback Driver of the Year? Story of the Year? Or all of the above? Is fourth driver-returned-to-tuner Mike Neff Man of the Year?

Could someone please explain to me how it's possible to be a NASCAR team "PR" person but never come into the media center to talk to the media?

That was my experience -- AGAIN -- the other week at Phoenix International Raceway. Mark Armijo and I combined to produce more coverage in the Arizona Republic than anyone else in the state. Among those I never heard one word from during my three days at PIR (I was the only reporter in the media center covering the West series event) were reps for: Jimmie Johnson/Lowe's, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Penske Racing, Team Red Bull and not a single -- not one -- Nationwide series team person.

How is that possible?

There were others who knew how to E-mail but apparently believed we waited until Tuesday or Wednesday to start thinking about what stories to write. Hint: That's way too late! I also have no tolerance for those too "busy" to bother to find out who actually will be on-site, and lazily send E "pitches" to the sports director or editor. Hey, ladies and gentlemen, it would take you all of five minutes to get actual NAMES. How's this for an idea: Pick up the phone and call the track PR director. Or ask NASCAR who in Arizona has media hard cards.

I know, that would take a huge amount of thought and effort . . .

It's beyond ridiculous. Are you paying attention, team owners and sponsor managers?

Obviously, not!

Make of this what you will:

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

April 21 -- Newsmaker: Patrick Long (Long Beach winner!). Panelists: Larry Edsall, Jonathan Ingram. Plus, Matt Yocum.

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

May 5 -- Newsmakers: Kenny and Brandon Bernstein. Panelists: Dave Rieff, Susan Wade.

May 12 -- Newsmaker: Arie Luyendyk. Panelists: Mark Armijo, Dave (The King) Wilson.

[ Patrick Long news nugget Thursday . . . ]