Things I'm thinking when not thinking about stories for next month's NASCAR weekend at Phoenix International Raceway . . .
* Congratulations to Dario Franchitti on winning the IndyCar title. But that new Izod trophy ranks as the most unappealing piece of championship hardware in American sports. It's so scary ugly it should have been unveiled at a Halloween party. The thing comes close to making my stomach turn. Wood? That's something you won't find on the Stanley Cup or Vince Lombardi Trophy. Didn't the ICS retain approval rights on the design? How could it possibly have OK'd it? This monstrosity should be withdrawn like the NASCAR wing.
* Proving again that Izod needs a Jim Chapman.
* Say what you will about NASCAR's TV partners, but it's impossible -- impossible -- to imagine any of them waiting 24 minutes to interview the championship-contending drivers at the start of the final race of the season. But that's what Versus did Saturday night. In as unprofessional a production decision as I can ever remember, the deadly-dull pre-race show went from Helio Castroneves to Scott Dixon to Indy Lights to support series to a series sponsor exec to a tech feature to rookies before we first heard from Dario Franchitti at about the 24-minute mark. Will Power wasn't interviewed until about 31 minutes in. The reason anyone might have had to watch was to see who would win the title and yet the misguided producers didn't put the championship rivals up-front? Grade it an F minus. I urge Randy Bernard to do a focus group of non-fans and have them watch the Versus pre-shows and see how many people are more interested in watching the race as a result. Here's what he'd find: The Versus pre-race shows are more effective than Ambien. If this is allowed to continue in 2011, well, just forget the whole thing . . .
* And, for a series that likes to promote its use of 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol, I can't help but notice how many people on TV say "gas."
* ESPN is reorganizing its communications structure in a cost-cutting move. Mark Mandel and George McNeilly are leaving instead of moving to Bristol, Conn., while Andy Hall will work from a home office. I could easily suggest egoist talking heads and arrogant production people who could go, wouldn't be missed, save budget, and would make the network a more legitimate news organization.
* Sprint needs a Jim Chapman.
* Honestly, now, is there anyone out there who really thought Richard Childress Racing's appeal had a chance?
* Nationwide needs a Jim Chapman.
* The Ryder Cup is the most overblown event in sports. Let's see -- The teams require clothing for evening social gatherings. They need different (and ugly) uniforms for the opening ceremony, day one, day two, day three, rain gear, the closing ceremonies. Please . . . And I think there was more talk about "rookies" than in the entire history of the Indianapolis 500.
* Camping World needs a Jim Chapman.
* Michael Waltrip's been praising Trevor Bayne all season as a phenom, but now, has let him go? There's got to be a most interesting back story here beyond what we've been told. No doubt Brad Daugherty will let us know.
* Full Throttle needs a Jim Chapman.
* Why is it I think there's more than meets-the-eye to the Al-Anabi shift out of Funny Car and to two Top Fuelers? The way it was the team had a chance to win twice at each event.
* Rolex needs a Jim Chapman.
* Raise your hand if you know what type of eco-fuel was used by each of the Petit Le Mans class winners. Bonus points if you know the names of the winning drivers. No, I didn't think so . . .
* Remember this the next time some local media outlet presents its "Best Of" list. In naming Danica Patrick the "Best Sports Babe," the Phoenix New Times described her as "the only woman seriously competing in professional motor sports these days . . ." Nice research. Ever heard of Ashley Force Hood, Melanie Troxel, or another Scottsdaler, Simona De Silvestro?
* Why are lawyers viewed as residing on the underbelly of American society? Two words say it all: Gloria Allred.
* I've said here several times that Rick Sanchez is a journalistic sleezebag and he proved it to the world last week and was fired by CNN.
[ more next Monday . . . ]