Sunday, July 24, 2011


UPDATE: I'll be on The Checkered Flag right after Sunday's Hungary Grand Prix on SiriusXM Channel 208. The race will air live on Sirius. Rick Benjamin is host and I should be on around 10 a.m. EDT.

Some Business of Racing items for your consideration, delayed by other recent pressing news:

* You won't read this in the Indianapolis media, but a real, true, key reason California Speedway sought to bring IndyCars back in 2012 was its naming rights deal with Auto Club. When that 2008 sponsorship, reported by the B of R experts at (so be cautious here) at the time to be for 10 years/$50 million, the track had two NASCAR Sprint Cup dates. Now down to one Cup weekend, the value of the AC sponsorship isn't what it was. So adding another racing weekend was essential to protect the revenue from AC, not so much a huge endorsement of IC. If the track still had two Cup dates, do you think IC would be back? Not likely . . .

* A track news release, however, does tell us "Tickets to highly anticipated event to go on sale to the public Sept. 12, 2011." (Bold emphasis mine.) Will more grandstand seats be occupied or empty? Gentlemen, start your hype engines.

* Proving my point above about the value of track naming deals, good for Forrest Lucas for telling it like it is and calling out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its meaningless by-rote PR statement after NASCAR transferred Lucas Raceway Park's Nationwide event to IMS for 2012. Here's what Lucas told Susan Wade for a story:

Lucas shrugged off comments by IMS president Jeff Belskus that referred to "our friends at Lucas Oil" and pledged support for the neighbor racetrack. Belskus said, "Our friends at Lucas Oil are important to us, and we've supported them for a long time. We're going to continue to support them and try to continue to find ways to work with them."

Responded Lucas, "He didn't say anything one way or another. He didn't admit to anything, any wrongdoing. He avoided everything -- just said some pretty words and that was it.

"There's nothing he can do to support us. He has his agenda, and we have our agenda. He doesn't have anything to do with NHRA one way or another. He doesn't have anything to do with the track one way or another. The only thing we had in common was these two races," Lucas said. "I see no common connection of any kind where he can support us at all in any way, not that he ever did."

No surprise to anyone who knows anything about the B of R, but Lucas said he plans to renegotiate his naming rights deal with Raceway Park's owner, NHRA. (That's what Cal Speedway likely faced with the Auto Club.) Here's the link to the full story:

* IMS' Nationwide/Grand-Am announcement came on the same day Raceway Park had previously scheduled a media event. That triggered this terse E to media from track senior communications manager Scott R. Smith:

"Due to a conflict outside of our control, the 11 a. m. Kroger SpeedFest event press conference scheduled at Lucas Oil Raceway for July 6th has been cancelled. Sorry for any confusion."

No matter the difficult circumstances, nothing like some good faith communications coordination among PR "pros" . . .

* Virginia International Raceway issued one of the most bizarre media alerts I've ever seen -- two sentences to cancel a major pro racing weekend. Here it is, in full:

"No AMA Pro Racing event will take place at VIR in 2011.

"If circumstances are conducive in 2012, VIR looks forward to renewing its relationship with AMA Pro Racing."

No details, no explanation. No surprise, this set off a media back-and-forth with AMA Pro, forcing VIR to follow-up with more substance. Not the way to handle a bad situation from a media, public, sponsor, manufacturer or competitor relations standpoint.

* Congratulations to my friend, Dennis Bickmeier, new president of Richmond International Raceway. Dennis did a great job as media director at Cal Speedway -- glad to see a PR guy make it big!

* At last, ESPN got something right about its under-considered/over-produced NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage, moving Allen Bestwick into the booth play-by-play role, replacing the miscast Marty Reid. Production management should have known (or bothered to learn) to do this right from the start of its new NASCAR contract. Bestwick in the booth was obvious to countless fans but beyond the immediate comprehension of Those Who Live on a Different Planet in Bristol, Conn. Bestwick's credibility with the audience will help compensate for other shortcomings, of which there are several, starting with the adds-nothing-to-the-viewers-knowledge Brad Daugherty.

* My B of R political antenna tells me it's just a matter of time before military sponsorships end. The Pentagon budget is going to take a hit in the next few years, no matter how federal budget negotiations are resolved, and political wrangling will make motorsports sponsorships a fairly easy target. This is a matter of when, not if.

* It's obvious Travis Pastrana has a lot to learn about NASCAR. For example, if he wants his car to get through inspection, he should stop talking about driving in the Las Vegas IndyCar finale.

* Finally, a lot has been written and said in the last week about Steve Williams, let go as Tiger Woods' caddie. Everyone is free to make his/her call on Stevie and how important he was in Woods' success. Let me recount my personal experience with Williams. In April 2008, I sent him an E-mail, requesting an interview about his interest in racing. He called me -- from Augusta National early Masters' week -- and could not have been more cooperative. If you'd like to go back and read what came from that bit of enterprise reporting, here are two links:

If you missed my conversation about the Business of Drag Racing with Joe Castello on last Tuesday's WFO Radio, use this link and click on the show archives. I talk about my two most recent "Drags, Dollars & Sense" columns on My part of the conversation begins about 41:30 and runs about 25 minutes):

[ more next Monday . . . ]