Sunday, February 10, 2013


It sure can be frustrating to be a racing fan -- or journalist.

I believe I was the first one to point out in a national forum -- on Rick Benjamin's old SiriusXM Formula One show in late summer of 2011 -- that F1's return to the U.S. at Circuit of the Americas the following November was scheduled in direct conflict with NASCAR's Sprint Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. I said that, in terms of domestic media attention, it would be a "local" as opposed to the "national" event it rightly should have been. It was an easy prediction and, sure enough, that's exactly what happened -- no matter what you might have read elsewhere recently about CoTA's "massive" coverage. Big crowds, happily, yes. Big American news stories, sadly, no.


The scale is different, but Arizona race goers are about to face a similar stupefying predictament.

NHRA's Arizona Nationals at Firebird Raceway go Feb. 24. That happens to be the same day NASCAR will put on a little event known as the Daytona 500. It's also one week before Cup and Nationwide drivers will be at Phoenix International Raceway.

Having worked for two series (CART and IROC), I don't need any lectures about the challenges of piecing together a schedule. I understand. But . . . 

The loser, at least in terms of media coverage for series and team sponsors, will be NHRA. That reality was as obvious as the Arizona sun from the moment NHRA released the Mello Yello calendar. Considering the importance many companies place on this market -- large and demographically diverse -- that Glendora would be willing to subtract from the publicity, promotional and marketing value of a Phoenix-area event is impossible to justify. 

Now, last year's on-site attendance at Firebird was impressive and an increase from 2011, so local interest has been demonstrated. Of course, those people didn't have to miss watching the Daytona 500 or face the financial challenge of buying tickets to races two consecutive weeks. Sure, some will DVR Daytona, but honestly, such a huge race -- featuring the official debut of Cup's new car -- is best and most enjoyably viewed live, not delayed.

As I've said many times, drag racing is an undercovered sport, and its participants deserve better. Better, certainly, than what they surely will get with the Arizona Nationals -- an event NHRA continues to treat like a second-hand step-child -- on the same day as the Daytona 500. With NHRA negotiating to obtain the Firebird lease, one can only hope that will soon change.

Two Arizona Republic stories coming from me this week. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be in the Valley to promote the March 3 Subway Fresh Fit 500k at Phoenix International Raceway. I'll do a Q&A with him scheduled to run Friday (Feb. 15). On Sunday (Feb. 17) will be my NASCAR preview, focusing on the new Sprint Cup car. (This would normally run the Sunday before PIR but NHRA is here.) I'll no doubt have a Twitter or two from my talk with Junior: @SpinDoctor500 . Those two stories will also be available at .

Super Bowl Blackout P.S. -- CBS should have had a news division correspondent and producer on standby and ready to react when the lights went out. Ex-jock sideline announcers obviously didn't have the journalistic chops to report the breaking news -- and it showed. No excuse for the network, at a sporting event that is major national news, not to be ready for any such hard-news situation. And, on the PR front, while the NFL likes to control every aspect of the Super Bowl "message," a Superdome spokesman (who, one would assume, had the best knowledge of the facility and its operations) should have been quickly available to talk to the TV audience.

A good suggestion worth trying: A reader asked if I'd use my new Twitter capability to write blog-worthy items that happen between blogs. OK, that makes sense to me. I'll give it a go (on a limited basis, as the news demands) and thanks for the idea. @SpinDoctor500

[ more next Monday . . . ]