Tuesday, May 31, 2016


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  May 29: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. Art St. Cyr -- Honda Performance Development boss gets great comeback from recent struggles, winning both the Indy 500 pole and race.

  2. Alexander Rossi -- Who did what???? Now the real pressure is on, as the shocking Indy 500 winner does his national media tour and tries to boost IndyCar's appeal.

  3. Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta -- Combined forces to field Rossi's car, and got a last-minute (at a bargain rate for NAPA) sponsorship, and Herta called the fuel strategy perfectly to win the 100th Indy 500.

  5. Barney Visser -- Furniture Row team owner shows Toyota made the right move to bring him into their fold with Martin Truex Jr.'s great Charlotte 600 victory. 

  6Mark Miles -- The 100th Indy 500 was a massive commercial success -- all tickets sold and hugely long lines at the souvenir stores -- but TV numbers disappoint. Now what?

  7. Lewis Hamilton  -- F1's biggest star wins glamorous Monaco Grand Prix. His public appeal matters as F1 comes to Canada.  

  8. Roger Penske -- He didn't win the 100th Indy 500 but hosts the IndyCar series with a weekend doubleheader on Detroit's Belle Isle. 

  9. T.E. McHale and Dan Layton -- Honda's PR duo wins 2016 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations. Well deserved. Congratulations. 

[ more next week  . . . ]


Friday, May 27, 2016


INDIANAPOLIS -- T.E. McHale and Dan Layton, who represent Honda in its diverse auto racing programs including teams using Honda engines in Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, Friday were announced as winners of the 2016 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations.
In addition, to mark what would have been Chapman’s 100th birthday, a new permanent award was unveiled. It will be displayed in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s media center.

The Chapman Award is considered by many in the industry as the highest honor in racing public relations. It is named in memory of Chapman, the legendary PR executive and innovator, who worked with Babe Ruth and was named Indy Car racing’s “most influential man” of the 1980s. Chapman died in 1996 at age 80.

The announcement and presentation were made at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by Michael Knight, chairman of the selection committee, and one of Chapman’s closest friends. The award is determined by a vote of national media members, most of who knew Chapman, and is authorized by the Chapman family. PR representatives from all forms of motorsports are eligible for consideration.

“I truly believe the stars have aligned perfectly,” said Knight, the longtime journalist/publicist and award rights-holder. “T.E. and Dan are being honored for their efforts that so closely match Jim’s example. This includes having great credibility with the news media, understanding the essential need to develop good one-on-one relationships with journalists, and using hospitality as a way to build these relationships. This is in the best tradition as set by Mr. Chapman and so this award is very appropriate.

“This announcement comes two days before the 100th running of the Indy 500, an event where Jim was an important figure, and at IMS, where he was influential, in the centennial year of Jim’s birth. It simply feels right.

 “Jim set the ultimate standard of professionalism, class and dignity. He knew that solid professional relationships with journalists was important in good times and absolutely essential in bad times. That’s too often missing today in a communications age where an E-mail or text message or over-reliance on social media is incorrectly considered ‘relationship-building.’ Jim was a true ‘people person’ and knew nothing could replace a handshake, a face-to-face conversation, or the sound of another person’s voice.”

McHale, a University of Notre Dame graduate, has been American Honda’s motorsports communications manager since 2003. He reported on motorsports for the Mansfield (Ohio) News Journal from 1978 to 1995, and covered nearly every significant event which took place at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course during that time. He then worked in PR for CART through 2001, followed by a year with the Trans-Am series. He was recognized earlier this year with an honorary membership in the prestigious Road Racing Drivers Club.

Layton, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, has spent his entire adult life in motorsports and now is in his 22d year representing Honda in the IndyCar series. He began as a crew member for an SCCA amateur team while still in college. After graduation he combined a career as a driver with freelance writing assignments for racing publications, including Autosport, On Track and National Speed Sport News.  He founded SugarCreek Productions in 1987, serving as communications director for Vicki O’Connor’s Pro-motion organization, promoter of the Formula Atlantic and Pro Sports 2000 championships. Other clients included IMSA, Shelton Racing and Pagan Racing at the 1994 Indy 500.  His current duties encompass Honda Racing and Acura Motorsports activities in IndyCar, IMSA and the Pirelli World Challenge.

 The permanent Jim Chapman Award, unveiled by three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford, who was captain of Chapman’s PPG Pace Car Driving Team, features a classic photo of Jim wearing his favorite navy blue double-breasted blazer and the names of all the award recipients. The text under Jim’s photo reads:

“James P. Chapman (1916-1996). A great man who deeply cared about country and church; family and friends. A legend in the public relations industry who set the ultimate standard of professionalism and excellence. A superstar who superstars like Babe Ruth wanted at their side. A pioneer in motorsports PR who practically invented most of what is now considered routine. A true 'People Person' who knew a mutually-respectful relationship with journalists was important in good times and essential in bad times. A mentor kind enough to help others achieve success. A gentleman who understood nothing could replace the sound of the human voice, a handshake, a face-to-face meeting, a shared meal, a hand-written note of thanks. 

“All who ever have, do, or will work in public relations stand on Mr. Chapman's shoulders.

“The true honor of the Jim Chapman Award is not a plaque. The true honor is having one's name forever associated with that of the great James P. Chapman. A committee of journalists adjudged those named here worthy of this high honor.”

Established in 1991 by media and publicists within the CART series, the Chapman Award originally focused on achievement in CART. After a hiatus of several years, the award was resumed in 2004, with eligibility expanded to anyone working in racing PR.

Chapman, who was born in Macon, Georgia, started as sports editor or managing editor of several Southern newspapers before joining the New York Times. He entered the PR business in 1946, as regional PR director for Ford Motor Co. in Detroit.

Soon thereafter, Chapman hired Ruth as consultant to the automaker’s sponsorship of American Legion Junior Baseball. They traveled together for more than two years for personal appearances and became close friends. Chapman was one of only three friends at Ruth’s bedside when he died in August 1948 and then officially announced Ruth’s death to the press corps that had maintained an around-the-clock vigil at New York’s Memorial Hospital.

Chapman kept with him a money clip with a pockmarked silver dollar that Ruth used to carry during games for good luck. Chapman said Ruth had used the coin for target practice. He proudly showcased several photos of Ruth in his office.  One was inscribed: "To a pal that is a pal." Chapman also displayed a framed letter, written on Ruth's personal stationery from Memorial Hospital, dated July 13, 1948, inviting him to the July 26 premier of the film, The Babe Ruth Story. That letter read, in part, "That evening would not be complete without your being my guest.  To you, Jimmy, I say you must be with me that evening."

In 1950, Chapman left Ford to start his own PR firm. One of his first clients was Avis founder Warren Avis. Chapman devoted much of his time to financial PR, which he once called his “favorite form of PR,” and helped companies get recognition among analysts and even gain admission to the New York and American stock exchanges.

Chapman’s first venture into motorsports was in 1951, when he joined with NASCAR founder Bill France to promote the Motor City 250. The race was part of Detroit’s 250th birthday celebration, a Chapman client. In 1967, Chapman entered Indy Car racing with client Ozzie Olson’s Olsonite sponsorship of Dan Gurney’s team, which later featured Bobby Unser as driver.

“Jim was one of the most innovative and imaginative PR men ever to grace a pit lane,” said Gurney. “Jim practically invented most of what is now considered routine sponsor PR work. He was the first, as far as I know, who thought of putting up a sponsor hospitality tent alongside a racetrack (at the old Riverside International Raceway), filling it with extravagant race car ice-sculptures, beautiful food and beautiful people from the business, sports and movie industries. He started an ‘open house’ tradition in Ozzie’s hotel suite in Indianapolis, where journalists could rub shoulders with John Wayne or (astronaut) Scott Carpenter.”

Chapman also directed Olsonite’s sponsorship of the Driver of the Year award. He orchestrated all the details, including the media panel voting, and an annual luncheon at New York City’s famed ‘21’ Club. That gathering was considered so prestigious it was routinely attended by leaders of all the major U.S. sanctioning organizations regardless of what series the Driver of the Year competed in.

Chapman’s greatest professional acclaim came from 1981-1992, as director of CART series sponsor PPG Industries’ program. Chapman was instrumental in raising PPG’s prize fund from $250,000 to more than $3.75 million at the time of his retirement in February 1993. The all-female PPG Pace Car Driving Team was another Chapman innovation, as were the PPG Editors’ Days, when he brought business and feature writers to the tracks for lunch, pace car rides, and driver interviews.

In 1982, Chapman negotiated a landmark sponsorship for PPG with then- Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Joe Cloutier, which formally made the Indy 500 a points-paying event in the PPG Indy Car World Series, an arrangement that continued through the 1995 season. “That was one of the most satisfying moments of my career,” Chapman recalled. “Roger Penske, among others, told me it was the best thing that had ever happened to CART.” In addition to a major contribution to the prize fund, PPG later became sponsor of the $100,000 Indy 500 pole award, and paid a special winner’s bonus in the early years of NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.

“With Jim, when he says ‘jump,’ we just ask ‘how high?,” Indy 500 winner and PPG Cup champion Al Unser Jr. said on behalf of his fellow drivers. “And we do it right then.”

Indy Car Racing magazine named Chapman the sport’s “most influential” man of the 1980s, saying he turned “a public relations assignment into an art form.” After his retirement, Chapman continued to consult PPG, and agreed to Mario Andretti’s personal request that he serve as honorary chairman of Andretti’s “Arrivederci, Mario” farewell tour in 1994.

Chapman's professional achievements earned him vast recognition.  The mayors of Detroit and Long Beach, Calif., presented him proclamations and the key to each city.  In 1993, Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh named him Sagamore of the Wabash, the state's highest honor. He served as president and/or director of more than 30 Michigan and Detroit-area civic and charitable organizations.  Chapman became active in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and represented the Detroit Urban League and United Negro College Fund in several controversial situations.  He admitted to shedding "buckets of tears of joy" when Willy T. Ribbs became the first African-American driver to qualify for the Indy 500 in 1991.




1991 – Michael Knight

1992 – Tom Blattler

1993-94 – Deke Houlgate and Hank Ives

1995 – Kathi Lauterbach

1996 – Marc Spiegel

1997 – Mike Zizzo

1998 – Tamy Valkosky

1999 -- Carol Wilkins

2000-2003 – (Award not presented)

2004 – Doug Stokes

2005 – Susan Arnold

2006 – Kevin Kennedy

2007 – Dave Densmore and Bob Carlson

2008 – Judy Stropus

2009 –  (Award not presented)

2010 -- Jim Hunter

2011 -- Bill York

2012 -- Judy Kouba Dominick and Nancy Wager

2013 -- Anne Fornoro

2014 -- Jon Edwards and Elon Werner

2015 -- Linda Vaughn (honorary)

2015 -- David Ferroni

2016 -- T.E. McHale and Dan Layton



Sunday, May 22, 2016


I wrote last week to beware of what you read during May, America's Race Month, because Indy and Charlotte and Monaco and all the other prestige races brings out a cluster of non-journalists. I assume you are aware of what was going on in the NASCAR media world last week so I won't repeat all of that. But the lesson should be learned.

Meanwhile, I'm in Indianapolis for my 38th 500. Here's a little truth-telling from middle America: At least for now, and likely through the coming weekend, Indy is definitely feeling like Indy again. It's more than how many are in the grandstands. I sensed it in the airport. You see it on the streets (TRAFFIC!) I was close to stunned at how crowded the souvenir merchandise stores were Sunday. (I'll add this: Prices are up and I think quality has been down the last couple of years.) I'm no fan of the chosen 100th race logo (not friendly to the eye and the yellow doesn't POP out at you the way I would prefer) but you can't deny people want the stuff. Yes, I'm one of those aware of many suite-holders saying they won't be back because of the significant price increases, but that is a story to be explored another day.

But let's put the line in the sand right now: If this 100th doesn't lead to strong carryover progress next year -- not just for IMS but the whole series -- TV ratings, ticket sales, you name it, this will have been Opportunity Lost. I think there should have been much more of a connection to the 100th at the season's earlier races.

Let's also make something else clear: Despite what you may read or hear elsewhere, the fact that it's the 100th running of the "Greatest Spectacle" will not change a thing any driver, race strategist, engineer or team owner will do on Sunday. They are racing to win the Indy 500, be it the 99th or the 101st.

I'll close with a self-serving plug: Please check out Friday's Arizona Republic (AzCentral.com) for my story on the Arizona connections to the 100th race. Then, Sunday, Race Day, capital R and D as they use it in Indy, I will have what is planned to be the longest racing story in the Republic in at least a decade, approximately 2,000 words. After two decades since open-wheel racing's terrible civil war and all that flowed from that, where does Indy rank TODAY among America's great sporting traditions? And, are great drivers still made at Indy? Read what A.J. Foyt, Roger Penske, Rick Mears, Mark Miles, Donald Davidson and others have to say. Thank you.

POWER PLAYERS for the week of  May 22: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. Roger Penske -- Why? It's Indy 500 week and the race's most successful team owner has four chances to get his 17th win.

  2. Dan Davis, Arie Luyendyk and Max Papis -- The IndyCar stewards have the power to make decisions which could cost someone an Indy victory. 

  5. James Hinchliffe -- The potential sports story of the year if the polesitter can win a year after near-fatal injuries at Indy. 

  6Helio Castroneves -- Tries (again) to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as a four-time Indy 500 winner. Would Helio, now 41, announce retirement in victory lane like Sam Hanks did in 1957?

  7. Tony Stewart  -- No surprise, Smoke tells it like it is at confusing and meaningless NASCAR All-Star race.  

  8. Joey Logano -- Of all the Team Penske drivers at Indy and Charlotte, the All-Star race winner  just might have the best chance to win.

  9. Lewis Hamilton -- In the glamour that is Monaco, it's time for the world champion to shine. 

10. Doug Kalitta -- Three straight NHRA Top Fuel wins.

[ this Friday here: Announcement of 2016 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports PR . . . ]


Sunday, May 15, 2016


May is America's Race Month. I've been saying and writing that for years and it's never been more true than in 2016 with the 100th Indianapolis 500.

An important part of the way we experience May is via the written word. At least four books have been published to coincide with the Indy Centennial. There's a nice not-for-sale piece from Borg-Warner celebrating one of sport's most famous trophies. Lionheart commemorates the life of double Indy winner Dan Wheldon. Indy 500 Memories from Art Garner and Marc Spiegel is self-explanatory. (My memory is on Page 59.) Gordon Kirby's much anticipated Penske's Maestro, Karl Kainhofer & the History of Penske Racing launches May 27 and comes as Penske's team marks 50 years of winning competition.

Of course daily news has given way to hourly news to social media's second-by-second news and most fans will be consuming much of this from Indy and Charlotte and Monaco as well as other news hubs. And it says here that I suggest you all be careful of what and who you read. There is a crucial difference between "cynical" reporting and "skeptical" reporting. Skeptical is actually a healthy thing while cynical can go all the way to evil. We have needed more skeptical in recent years: Some media outlets went way overboard hyping the Whatever Happened To? second U.S. Grand Prix in New Jersey. Most of the same gave an accepting pass to that first attempt at an American F1 team based in the Charlotte area. That deal never came close to turning a wheel. An all-female team was announced at the Brickyard last May and the most recent headline to come out of that was the laughable and credibility busting "all we need is a car." Isn't that one of the first things to be done? No matter what happens this week, way too much of the coverage on this lacked critical assessment and went heavy on the hype. And, in truth, we've seen several driver-team announcements in the last several years where, if you paid attention to the fine print, you'd see were based on securing sponsorship.

So I hope the regular "establishment" and "legitimate" journalists will bring a more critical eye, as needed, over the next few weeks. And, as for the "inside" info offered by anonymous posters in social media and on the Internet, well, buyer beware -- even if you didn't have to pay for it. Especially when personal attacks are involved. I have found the "delete" button to be especially useful in those circumstances.

For what anybody thinks it's worth, I plan to be on-site for my 38th Indy 500 as of Sunday, May 22. I'll be on Twitter ( @SpinDoctor500 ) with worthwhile words as needed and will be working on a couple of big stories for the Arizona Republic, especially a blowout on the status of the "Greatest Spectacle" scheduled for race day, Sunday, May 29. And, I was informed last Saturday, while there I'll receive three awards from the 2015 AARWBA journalism competition, including first-place efforts for my Republic Page A-1 feature on Jeff Gordon's career and my CompetitionPlus.com column on the introduction of Peter Clifford as NHRA's new president. This brings my collection of awards for journalism, public relations and contributions to motorsports to 75. Very humbling. Thanks to every editor and reader who helped make it happen.

POWER PLAYERS for the week of  May 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. Toto Wolff -- Mercedes-Benz Formula One team boss must decide what to do after the embarrassing Lewis Hamilton-Nico Rosberg collision on lap one of the Spanish Grand Prix. How will he prevent a repeat of something that never should have happened in the first place?

  2. Max Verstappen -- In his first race for Red Bull, the 18-year-old Dutchman becomes F1's youngest winner -- ever.

  3Simon Pagenaud -- He's gone 2-2-1-1-1 to open his second season with Team Penske. But how will the Indy road course winner do trying four flat-out laps in Indy 500 qualifying? 

  4. Roger Penske -- Why? It's Indianapolis 500 practice, qualifying and 100th race time for the Brickyard's winningest team owner.

 5. Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott -- Their dramatic 1-2-3 finish at Dover gives the media something legitimate to talk/write about going into the most meaningless race of the year, the so-called "All-Star" non-points exhibition.

 8. Jim Campbell -- The VP overseeing all things Chevy motorsports unveils new Camaro Funny Car body at John Force Racing. 

 9. Jason Line -- Win number four for Line, who has made the finals in all seven national events this season, as the Summit Racing Chevy Camaro team continues to dominate the electronic fuel injection version of NHRA Pro Stock.

10. Brad Sweet -- It's May and Donny Schatz isn't leading the Craftsman World of Outlaws sprint car point standings. Sweet, with six feature wins, is. 

more next week . . . ]


Sunday, May 08, 2016


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  May 8: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. Kyle Busch -- Gets his first Sprint Cup win at Kansas Speedway, one night after his Craftsman Truck series team wins with rookie William Byron.

  2. Joe Gibbs -- The Coach's NASCAR teams just keep rolling along. They are the ones to beat every weekend in Cup and Xfinity series right now. 

  3Mark Miles -- Still awaiting word from the IndyCar CEO about a possible replacement for the Boston street race. 

  4. Doug Boles -- The gates open at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Angie's List road course race and then 100th Indy 500 practice, qualifying and race. IMS president oversees it all.

  5. Kerry Madsen -- The former World of Outlaws' regular sweeps both nights of sprint car racing at Eldora Speedway. 

  6Will Power -- Will IndyCar's fastest road racer dominate Indy's road course event?

  7. Brittany and Courtney Force -- Drag racing's winning sister act go to Atlanta with another chance to bring mainstream media coverage to NHRA. That's the straight-line sport's best shot at headlines against the 100th Indy 500 and NASCAR's Charlotte events.  

  9. Nico Rosberg -- Will Spain be eight straight Grands Prix wins for the Mercedes Man?

10. Robin Miller -- It's May. That means controversial Miller's writings and video reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Racer.com are mandatory viewing and reading. 

more next week . . . ]


Sunday, May 01, 2016


POWER PLAYERS for the week of  May 1: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. Darrell Waltrip -- His Talladega calls -- ''You're second guessing a guy who's second guessing a guy"; "I've never seen anything like this"; "I don't know how to explain this" -- perfectly reflected the Sprint Cup race's mayhem.

  2. Brian France -- NASCAR chairman attends a drivers' council meeting for the first time and now faces a week of criticism over yet another dangerous Talladega wreckfest. 

 3Mark Miles -- How will IndyCar's CEO deal with the embarrassment of the canceled Boston street race? 

 4. Nico Rosberg -- Russia was his fourth consecutive Formula One victory this season for Mercedes and historic seventh straight going back to last season. Lewis who?

 5. Courtney Force -- After a winless 2015 NHRA's most marketable athlete gets a much-needed Funny Car win and leads the class standings -- as sister Brittany does in Top Fuel.

 6Ed Bennett and Scott Atherton -- Chairman and president, respectively, of U.S. sports car racing close to issuing a "Future Strategies" memo. That should rearrange a series that has too many classes, the cost of participation is too high given the available return, and has no drivers known to the general public. So far, the much desired unification of ALMS and Grand-Am has been a significant disappointment.

  8. Greg Anderson and Jason Line -- Team Summit's Chevy Camaros continue complete domination of NHRA's electronic fuel injection Pro Stock class. Anderson beat his teammate last weekend in yet another Summit final round.

10. Matt Kenseth -- Heads-up NASCAR, Joe Gibbs and Roger Penske: Kenseth is once again angry at Joey Logano going to Kansas Speedway, the scene of the duo's first "big one" last year. 

more next week . . . ]