Sunday, January 12, 2014

14 FOR '14

It's Barrett-Jackson week here in Scottsdale and I'll make a visit to the world's greatest collector car auction. I usually see a bunch of racers at this quite amazing annual get-together. Worth noting that B-J will be on the Fox network for the first time this Saturday.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year. Thanks for returning to this cyber outpost. Here are 14 things I recommend you do and watch for in '14:

* Go see Steve Kinser race in what he says will be his final full World of Outlaws' season. No real race fan can go without seeing sprint car's King do his thing one more time.

* If you see Dario Franchitti at an IndyCar race, say "thank you" and "congratulations" on a great career.

* Keep a close eye on any entertainment improvements from the new Gen-6 car rules package. It should be obvious from recent internal NASCAR executive changes that putting on a better show is Brian France's top priority. If the show doesn't improve, I would be looking for more internal shuffling.

* Listen to Paul Page call an IndyCar race on radio. Welcome back, Paul.

* Support a local short track or club event at least once. We all need to make sure not to overlook racing's grassroots.

* Go to an NHRA national event. Don't look down on the drag racers even if you think you're not interested. They -- especially Funny Car -- more often than not put on an eye-popping 16,000 horsepower show.

* See if the Return of the Apron at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway makes for more passing at the Brickyard 400.

*  Read Gordon Kirby's book on legendary IndyCar series team manager/chief mechanic Jim McGee. It's scheduled to launch in May.

*  The long-awaited unified sports car series deserves to be checked-out at least once, although I'm expecting a somewhat messy season due to IMSA's attempt to match performance of the prototypes and too many, too confusing, classes.

* Will the Tony Stewart-Kevin Harvick-Kurt Busch-Danica Patrick combination be a Dream Team or a nightmare?

* Formula One's new cars and turbo engines: Game-changer or more Red Bull-Sebastian Vettel domination?

* Juan Pablo Montoya's return to IndyCars: Just what Team Penske needs? Or proof that you really can't go home again?

* In its last NASCAR season, will ESPN go all-out or mail it in? Best guess: somewhere in between.

* How will NASCAR fans react to the return of the 3? A number many -- including me -- think should have been retired.

SINCE LAST POSTING: Is anything more impersonal that an E-mailed holiday greeting "card"? I typically delete every one of them, unopened. A perfect symbol for how technology (and "green" political correctness) have helped to dumb-down those vital 1-on-1 relationships that are make-or-break in business and life . . . Two companies that didn't have a merry PR holiday were Target and UPS. Given the serious nature of their issues, I'm very surprised neither CEO promptly publicly stepped forward as other CEO's have done in crisis situations. That would have been my recommendation. Target admits its sales have taken a noteable downturn and I wonder it its racing sponsorships might be used to communicate a message related to this crisis  . . .  Mark Armijo and I were honored to be included on Phoenix International Raceway's list of 50 top influencers. PIR is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season. 

For all the good work it does, ESPN also enables what is wrong in today's sports "journalism." Around the Horn -- the worst and most embarrassing, mindless show on TV -- is a primary example. Providing a TV and radio platform for egohead Dan Le Batard is the current prime case. This self-absorbed over-rated mouth gave his Baseball Hall of Fame vote to website Deadspin as a  "protest." Let me explain what Le Batard did: He committed voter fraud. As a former Baseball Writers Association member, I applaud the organization's decision to take away his voting privilege. ESPN should sanction Le Batard for an ethics violation. Saying his vote came from the Miami Herald is just a spineless excuse.

I'm sure I'll use Twitter while at Barrett-Jackson so here's a reminder of how I use T: 1. As a breaking news/headline service (like when I broke the story that Marty Reid was out at ESPN); 2. As a vehicle to share thoughts on important news between blog posts; 3. To let you know of my media appearances or other activities; 4. To share links to my Arizona Republic and stories. @SpinDoctor500

[ more next Monday . . . ]