Sunday, March 11, 2012


It's standard practice at every NASCAR race: Drivers high in the point standings, or otherwise newsworthy, are made available to the media for group sessions either in the press room or at their haulers. It's known in the biz as a "media avail."

It was no different at Phoenix International Raceway the other week, where I was part of the Arizona Republic's coverage team. Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, etc. fielded questions. I was there for some of these sessions and not for some others, but had a chance to review transcripts.

To me, the most noticeable thing was not any answer. It was the questions. At virtually every avail, somebody asked a Danica question.

It was absolutely ridiculous. And embarrassing.

If many of those involved would actually bother to step back and take a look at the situation with a wider perspective, they might realize the truth of what I just wrote. But too many -- and too many of the organizations they represent -- are so caught-up in the Danica "story" (by the way, just what is that "story" right now?) they have lost almost all perspective and judgement of what is legitimate news.

In fairness, there also were a lot of questions about Brad Keselowski's Tweeting during the Daytona 500 red flag. More of what I'll hearby anoint as "cotton candy journalism."

Mark Martin made fun of the nonsense when, at the end of his pole winner's news conference, he referred to himself as a "Tweeting fool."

No wonder every public opinion poll shows such low standing for the media. And, despite what way too many of them think, this applies to sportswriters -- not just news reporters.

Let's get serious, folks.


Speaking of ridiculous, add to the list all this chatter that Rubens Barrichello will do for the IndyCar series what Nigel Mansell did for CART.

Let me tell you, as someone who was deeply involved as the Newman/Haas team publicist when Nigel was here, there is NO -- ZERO -- COMPARISON.

Mansell came to America as the reigning Formula One world champion -- an unprecedented switch of series. He also could be controversial, charming, and had a flair that led to more than one headline calling him "The People's Champion."

Now, I like Rubens. I think he's a good guy, a good driver, and a welcome addition to the U.S. sporting scene. But he's not what Mansell was and to suggest otherwise is as dumb as all the Danica questions at NASCAR news conferences.

The "deep thinkers" like to point at all the Twitter followers Barrichello has. My questions: Just how MANY of those followers are in America? In IndyCar race market areas? Where they might actually buy tickets or move the TV ratings needle?

Mansell moved both meters. That's the point -- from a Business of Racing standpoint -- the only one that counts.

FAST LINES: Sports Business News picked-up my Republic notebook item on Matt Kenseth being the "Best Buy" in NASCAR . . . Pathetic, but true -- There are still media people and chatroomers talking about Jimmie Johnson and/or Tony Stewart driving in the Indy 500. They've said "no" how many ??? times now? And, in Johnson's case, if his wife didn't want him to do it before, why would she be in favor now, after the events of Las Vegas 2011? Enough already . . . Since I've been writing about, or otherwise around, Roger Penske since the 1970s this caught my attention -- Saturday, May 26 (day before the I500) will be "Legends Day Honoring Roger Penske" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's the 40th anniversary of Penske's first I500 win, with Mark Donohue. There will be a Q&A and autograph session . . . The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the No. 1 sporting event to attend in the world, according to a new National Geographic book. (The Olympics are No. 2.) No other auto racing event made the list . . . Four new members (including Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Jeff Belskus) have been added to the Hulman & Co. board of directors, bringing the total to 11. The only question is: Does this strengthen or weaken Tony George's hand?

[ more next Monday . . . ]