Chris Economaki's death marked the official end of the era of tough questioning on racing TV. Chris was never afraid to put the microphone in front of his interview subject and ask a direct, sometimes blunt, but almost always fair question. He knew that's what his viewers wanted.
These days, the broadcast types make speeches -- which aren't questions -- or generally talk to the interviewee in a soft, overly friendly, non-specific way. Which is largely what happened when IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard talked-up his 2013 schedule on Wind Tunnel and a media teleconference.
Bob Varsha said it was an honor to have Bernard make the announcement on WT. Hey, it's not as if SportsCenter was jumping up-and-down to do it! Sadly, the interview ended with a lame Helio Castroneves-Dancing With the Stars question. I know time is a limiting factor on live TV, but here's my list of very legitimate questions that could have, SHOULD HAVE, been asked on WT and the next day's teleconference:
* Do you have specific knowledge of a proposal to buy the series?
* Why was a contract signed with Pocono without a feasibility test, such as the one insisted on by Phoenix International Raceway if a race were to happen there?
* Phoenix was willing to commit to an almost $1 million advertising/marketing budget. How much has Pocono committed to this? And how much is the sanction fee?
* Are you concerned about Pocono trying to sell tickets to three major events within an eight-week period?
* What is the sanction fee for doubleheader events? Double the single-race fee?
* Why the gaping hole between Baltimore on Sept. 1 and Houston on Oct. 5 and are you concerned that could be a PR momentum roadblock as football begins?
* When will Lotus' status for 2013 be made official?
* After not doing much in 2012, what are series sponsor Izod's specific activation plans for 2013?
* Has the Grand-Am/ALMS merger created interest from tire suppliers involved in those series?
* According to Sports Business Journal, TV ratings on ABC were down 17 percent from the previous year and down 27 percent on NBC Sports Network. Since you've talked a lot about your expectations for those numbers to head north, why the decline in a season which usually featured good racing in new cars with engine manufacturer competition? What, specifically, is this being done to fix this huge problem?
* Does it concern you that even Roger Penske is having trouble finding sponsors? What, specifically, is the series doing to help teams sign new sponsors? Do you expect more, less, or the same amount of cars on the grid next season?
* During the teleconference, you said, "As everyone knows, tradition is so important to the sport." If so, how is tradition honored by having a "Triple Crown" that isn't all 500-mile races? (FYI -- the $1 mil bonus for a driver who could sweep all three isn't anything new. Domino's Pizza offered such a prize in the early 1980s.) And isn't standing starts a slap-in-the-face of IndyCar tradition?
* As for Pocono, you said of the three turns: "The fact that each one of these three corners provides for a different IndyCar track . . . Trenton in the first corner and turn and the second turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the third turn at Milwaukee." Respectfully, what do you know about Trenton?
Just asking . . . as others should have done. I bet at least some of the above questions would have been on Chris' list.
NASCAR's Mexico Toyota series will compete outside of that country for the first time next March, at Phoenix International Raceway. Here's my story on that from last Wednesday's Arizona Republic. It was played on sports Page 1.
[ more next Monday . . . ]