Sunday, October 10, 2010


Any port in a storm.

I was reminded of that ancient adage the other day upon receipt of a news release on Richard Petty Motorsports' newest sponsor.

It's none other than Perky Jerky, described as an "ultra-premium" brand that combines the power of an energy drink with beef jerky. PJ now also is the official jerky of the Daytona 500 and all ISC tracks.

No disrespect to PJ, but this does show us -- again -- how the racing sponsorship scene has changed so dramatically. The motorsports industry -- as with the country -- is in an economic storm so, these days, no one can afford to be picky and is happy to make port with whatever sponsorship can be located. Yes, NASCAR's history includes Goody's as well as Goodyear and Goodwrench, but it was only a couple of years ago a business the size of PJ probably would have had enough budget for Trucks, not Cup.

Think about it: Even mighty Budweiser only signed-on for a partial season deal with Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress. Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick still haven't announced the sponsorship lineup for Gordon's iconic No. 24 in 2011. The Roger Penske Cup and Nationwide teams have sponsorship issues and reductions are on the table. So many Nationwide and Truck teams are so thinly sponsored that any day now I expect vastly reduced fields.

So, welcome, Perky Jerky. Your entry into NASCAR, however, is a clear $ign of the economic time$.

Book It: With a 12-for-12 record in the final round, and a Top Fuel championship all-but in his pocket, Larry Dixon is the Driver of the Year. Or, at least, he should be, if NASCAR-centric media voters are paying attention.

Randy Bernard doesn't want "Indy Racing League" used any more, correctly noting its negative heritage in the bitter and destructive CART/Champ Car-IRL split. I agree with him.

Now, how to banish "IRL" to the ashbin of history? Here's a useful place to start: His series' hometown Indianapolis Star, which continues to use "IRL" as boilerplate several places on its website -- including the "expert" section. Randy, you might pick up the phone, and ask them to trouble themselves to make the change.

Or, am I the only one to notice? If so, glad to be of service in pointing this out.

FAST LINES: It was important and proper for Jim Utter to point out last week on that NASCAR's TV numbers are down about a quarter from last year after three Chase races. A fact that should be a flashing red light to whoever NASCAR hires as its Chief Communications Officer . . . Since ESPN is in a cost-cutting mode, here's a suggestion: Trade Woody Paige to MSNBC, where he'd be most comfortable with the other nut jobs. Maybe some day I'll relate here how Paige's negativity and egomania, uninfluenced by any bothersome reporting or fact gathering, nearly triggered a sponsor revolt during the first version of CART's Denver street race . . . I can't wait for the day when ESPN gets back the rights for baseball's divisional post-season games. TBS = Terrible Baseball Storytelling. It was most obvious David Aldridge (an NBA guy who probably was fantasizing about the Miami Heat) didn't know what questions to ask -- or how to ask them -- to Roy Halladay after the Phillies' ace pitched a no-hitter against the Reds. After that performance, Aldridge should have gotten the hook for the rest of the series. He'd fit right in with the Versus IndyCar pit-road bunch or could do the Indy 500 winner's interview for ABC . . . And, for those who have asked, no, Jon Beekhuis vs. Jack Arute isn't in the same galaxy as the Bobby Unser vs. Sam Posey glory days in ABC's CART booth . . . The all-new National Speed Sport News website is worth checking out: Much easier on the eyes design and the centerpiece of publisher Corinne Economaki's aggressive digital strategy to deliver news, features and opinion 24/7. NSSN Mobile coming soon . . . Yeah, right: Disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer -- desperate to draw any following for his train-wreck of a new CNN show -- claims to be a NASCAR fan. I bet his only interest would be in filing suit for environmental damage at race sites. Go ahead on put a countdown clock on Spitzer's show -- and so-called "conservative" Kathleen Parker (anti-Sarah Palin) should feel humiliated by her role in what might be TV's version of Ishtar. CNN letting Paula Zahn go in this same time slot now looks like the dumbest TV move this side of ABC hiring foreign sympathizer Christiane Amanpour to host This Week. No surprise, ratings have tanked since both changes . . . I suspect CNN is a good candidate as Katie Couric's next career stop, in part because of the Spitzer-Parker disaster, and because there is no way CBS is going to offer anything close to her current $15 mil a year deal when Couric's contract ends next year. The going-rate for last-place anchors of a failed newscast is a lot less.

[ more next Monday . . . ]