Sunday, September 18, 2011


UPDATE: I'll guest on Sirius XM's post-Singapore Grand Prix show Sunday, at about 10 p.m. EDT. Channels are 94/208. This is The Checkered Flag show, hosted by Rick Benjamin.

The Media Chase was on last week. NASCAR, as I suggested a year ago, didn't take all 12 drivers to New York City (Jeff Gordon got that assignment -- smart move) but scattered them around the country for the benefit of all Chase tracks. Brad Keselowski was in Phoenix pre-Chicagoland. Here's a link to my Brad story in the Arizona Republic:

I think this was a more effective utilization of the Chase drivers. NASCAR has had a useful uptick in its TV numbers this season and it's a MUST that continue through the quasi-playoffs -- despite the rain delay at Chicagoland. Some very smart money people fear the country is close to a double-dip recession and, true or not, the warning signals in the NASCAR economy are obvious. The Truck series, which has become a Toyota-Chevrolet circuit, is not healthy and the deeply troubling decision by Kevin and DeLana Harvick to discontinue their championship team is a blow to the series and Chevy. Of course, champion Todd Bodine's Tundra got parked earlier this year due to lack of sponsorship.

Take a look at the number of unsponsored cars in Nationwide. All Business of Racing eyes are on Roush Fenway and the future of Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in Nationwide -- both have driven blank cars for much of this year -- while in Cup, Carl Edwards' program isn't fully funded and no corporate deal has been confirmed for David Ragan or Matt Kenseth.

Meanwhile, important sponsors Bank of America and Pepsico had management shakeups and/or big layoffs last week.

Very worrisome . . .

So the bottom is: In dispatching 12 drivers around the country, NASCAR was doing more than Chasing the Media. It was Chasing Money.

For decades, Bob Markus was a sportswriter and columnist for the Chicago Tribune, covering major events around the world. Luckily for many of us, Bob liked auto racing. If you weren't a regular reader in Bob's time, I have good news. He has just published a book, I'll Play These, which not only reprints many of his great writings but also provides additional behind-the-scenes details and context.

From the PR side, I always enjoyed working with Bob -- a true pro, nice guy and class act. In 1988, when I did PR for the Porsche factory CART team, I invited Bob to join our crew at the Indy 500. For three weeks, Bob was in the pits and the garage, taking on various tasks, and writing almost daily accounts for the Tribune. Thanks to the cooperation of Al Holbert, Bob had total access. It was a journalistic and PR triumph. Bob has included most of those stories in his book. It was very, very rewarding to read that Bob considers this
"the most fun assignment I ever had."

If you like sports -- and love great writing -- get I'll Play These. It's available at or call 888-795-4274.

Here's a link to my September "Drags, Dollars & Sense" column on Some Business of Drag Racing things for you to think about during the Countdown:

FAST LINES: There's a new addition to Mario Andretti's massive trophy case -- a chunk of the old Phoenix International Raceway start/finish line. I UPSed it to him last week. Mario said he'll display it right next to his 1993 PIR winner's trophy -- his last career victory . . . Read what I wrote last week about the Associated Press and then consider this: The wire service ran ANOTHER nothing-new Danica story last week. Ridiculous . . . Incredible -- Simona De Silvestro's team actually used the Nuclear Clean Air Energy car name in Japan . . . If you saw all the photo coverage Donald Trump received the other day for accepting gold bars instead of cash from a business tenant, then go look at the very last item in my September column, link above.

[ more Blogging the Chase next week . . . ]