Sunday, February 15, 2015


In an annoying and business illogical decision, NHRA has again scheduled its Phoenix-area national event for this weekend, directly opposite the Daytona 500. As usual, I'll be covering the straight-liners for the Arizona Republic ( and I'll post story links on Twitter: @SpinDoctor500 ). So I'll let those on-site in Daytona Beach generate all the sound-and-fury in advance of the Great American Race. However, since NASCAR likes to call this stock car racing's Super Bowl, I just hope one of his executive suits doesn't convince Brian France to display the red flag after 250 miles and bring out Katy Perry and the sharks. Considering France OK'd the TV showbiz-over-common sense Daytona qualifying rules, though, I wouldn't rule out anything.

POWER PLAYERS for the week of February 15: This week's 10 most influential people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight.

  1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon -- NASCAR's annual most popular driver and defending Daytona 500 winner usually has the bright spotlight alone. Not this week, though, with arguably fan-favorite No. 2 Gordon beginning from the pole what he says will be his last Great American Race and full-time season.

  3. Brian France -- The chairman and CEO is tops on the NASCAR list just about any week, but the focus now is on Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon. France must hope for a legitimate Great Race -- after the controversial Daytona 500 qualifying rules -- to propel his much discussed "momentum" from last season, especially with a lame-duck title sponsor.

  4. Darrell Waltrip -- Like "Mr. Boogity" or not, what he says on Fox -- and he says a lot -- helps shape living room and office debate about what's right and wrong in NASCAR racing.

  5. Jenna Fryer -- As chief motorsports writer for the Associated Press, the world's largest newsgathering organizaton, her words inform fans globally. And are very important to everyone within the racing industry. 

  6. Gene Stefanyshyn -- NASCAR's VP of innovation and racing development faces his biggest test with Big Stage debut of his gizmo electronic pit road officiating system. It sure better not create any controversy. 

  7. Rick Hendrick -- Have no doubt, he is far-and-away the most influential Sprint Cup team owner. His unprecedented on-track success -- now including Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson on Daytona's front row -- is just part of that story.  

  8. Joe Gibbs -- Ups his ante with Carl Edwards creating a four-driver Cup stable. Pairing of Edwards with Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin will put more scrutiny on Gibbs' reputation as a people motivator and team builder.

  9. Chad Knaus -- The Cup garage's smartest and most cunning crew chief -- he forces everyone else to wonder if they are working and thinking hard enough -- starts his calculations with new rules to get Jimmie Johnson that record-tying seventh championship. 

 10. Danica Patrick -- She begins third full Cup season at one of the events where she can have the best result. To maintain her celebrity status, and with GoDaddy sponsorship not confirmed beyond this year, she needs just that. 

new list and more next week . . . ]