Judas H. Priest on a palomino. Festival of worky-work, busy bee last week. Working for the man (since I’m self employed I’m the man) and updating the blog. Let’s discuss over some zero-room-for-cream dark roast, shall we?
Festival of Interview Stories — Since we last talked I’ve been on a bit of a posting tear, cranking off 1200 worders about author Tammy Kaehler and her books, how hard PR is, Ed Carpenter, and Simona de Silvestro. Three of them (Tammy, Ed and Simona) came from interviews with the subjects. ANYWHO, some brief points about the recent festival of words …
Most writers imagine once you get that first one published it’s a life of champagne, caviar and jetting about on the G6. It ain’t, as Tammy will tell you. It is for the Big Dog zillion-sellers like Janet Evanovich, Stephen King or James Patterson, but the other 99% of authors have to schlep your own stuff. The publishing house will publish it but they ain’t going to do any marketing to promote sales. That’s up to you. And the odds are you’re not going to quit your day job unless you hit the verbal lottery like the aforementioned authors. So I decided that I probably didn’t have the desire to be a “published author.”
Be that as it may, Tammy can write. I was pleasantly surprised. I bail out on a lot of books, or I catch myself saying “I could do better than this” (it’s possible I lie to myself, but still), but I did neither when I read Tammy’s books. Just last night I bailed on a library book from an author with a series of 10 or more books to his name because it took a lame plot turn. My point (and I do have one) is that I’m a tough audience and I genuinely liked Tammy’s books. Sure, there were some points I wasn’t that crazy about, but they were fleeting. If you dig racing and mysteries, I recommend giving Tammy’s books a try. Read about Tammy here and her books here.
PR is Hard — Holy crap. Lot of people interested in PR. My story/lecture (here) on how PR works yanked in 1300 page views, which is probably 2.5x an average day. I was glad so many people read it and I heard from a bunch of PR people who thought it was accurate. Not sure if that makes me nervous or happy. I saw one comment on a forum about the post being about me sucking up to IndyCar PR. Hahahahaha. Apparently the commenter wasn’t familiar with the times when I bag on IndyCar PR.
I think the league’s people do a good job with what they have to work with. They’re working straight uphill mainly due to the (relatively) tiny fan numbers IndyCar has. Which is why teams need to be as concerned about building fans as they are with winning races, because without fans there will be on races to win.
As for team PR, it’s all over the board. Again, so much depends upon how much value the owners of the organization put on the PR effort. If you are the greatest PR person in the world and your owner thinks it’s all bullshit and a waste of time, you’re not going to set the world on fire in your job. I respect good PR peeps, which is the main reason I did the post,. Their job is way way way harder than everyone imagines.
Ed Carpenter — I met with Ed and his posse (IndyCar PR rep Kate Guerra and Iowa Speedway PR kingpin Craig Armstrong) at South Union Bread Café in downtown Des Moines a couple of weeks ago and fired in a few questions. Read the resulting post here. Ed was one of his annual trips to Des Moines to promote the race here (June 23, tickets here). Of course I like Ed a lot. He’s an ovalist, the usually overlooked underdog, and a pretty regular guy. Seems very mellow outside the car. Inside the car he can get a little heated, but outside he’s regular non-glamour, which I dig. Our personalities are a lot alike in that regard.
Ed has won a race in the last two seasons. Sometimes a little voice in the back of my head says Ed doesn’t get the props he deserves because he’s not Mr. Twisty. Insert your cries of “you love ovals more!” here. Since he comes from the USAC oval background Ed is well down on the speed charts on the road and street races. Not embarrassing or even dead last these days, but the odds of him running up with racers who have done twisties for 15 years is remote. So, does that hurt his cred in the current IndyCar league? Are the remaining non-Indy-500-only IndyCar fans predominantly twisty aficionados so Ed’s oval wins are alike “amusing, but not a real race?” These are things I ponder. It’s possible that Ed has a big cadre of non-Indy-500-only fans out there who are still doing shots of Fuzzy’s Vodka over his wins.
I definitely think there are Indy 500 fans and IndyCar Series fans. Two separate sets of fans with some cross over. Most IndyCar Series fans are Indy 500 fans as well, of course, but a lot of Indy 500 fans don’t seem to care about IndyCar outside of May. That seems pretty clear to me based on TV ratings and other non-scientific-vibes. That’s a big issue for IndyCar. You’d think the Indy 500 fans would be easy to convert to IndyCar series fans, but it doesn’t seem to happen. If Ed wins the Indy 500, of course he’ll be recognized with a Jack Arutian “welcome to immortality.” But winning Kentucky and Fontana? It is entirely possible that my situation as a fan of Ed is making me think the reaction to his wins was more muted than it actually was.
Simona de Silvestro and the Skin Question— Ah, Simona. I talked to her Thursday. Story here. We talked racing and about her almost universally positive attitude. She’s fantastic, of course. I get a strong Sarah Fisher vibe off Simona, although Simona may be a bit more "bubbly" than Sarah.
Brant James, who covers the women-in-racing beat (apparently) for ESPNW, did a great story on Simona’s marketing approach that contrasts to the high-skin approach taken by some other female racers. Read it here. Simona is a Woman of pressdog® and I’ve interviewed her in 2010, 2012 and this year.
First of all, EVERY female racer faces the “how much skin do I show?” question. You can see based on their websites and marketing stuff how they each come down. I support every woman’s absolute right to decide for herself how much skin is too much. Simona is decidedly on the non-bikini end of that spectrum.
I see some male fans reacting to the story with opinions on how much skin is too much. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and hurray for people supporting Sim’s approach. But maybe dial down the judgment if you’ve never faced the Temptation of the Thong yourself.
Pretend we live on Planet Abdominals where women run things and you’re a male racer in a female-dominated sport and you got a SMOKIN’ set of abs. But boys next door never pose in Speedos. Now Ms. Big Dollars comes around and says “I’ll give you $7 million dollars in sponsorship if you do a Speedo photo shoot for our site and never wear a shirt in our TV ads.”
You’re going to self-righteously walk away from that? Most of us don’t have to worry about anyone waving cash in our faces to pose for any photo, let alone the partially clothed variety. If I had the bod for it (think Tony Kanaan or Carl Edwards) I’d probably 1) rarely wear a shirt at all and 2) take the deal, say “the body is a beautiful work of God,” cash the check and go racing. I submit this skin decision for women isn’t nearly as easy of a call as us men-folk think.
Final thought on the Brant article: I noticed this, which I bet was read right over by many: “She (Simona) has inadvertently become the anti-Danica Patrick for fans and some drivers, although it has in the past made her uncomfortable, especially since she credits her IndyCar predecessor for inspiring her career path.” I italicized that last bit because THAT was news to me. I wish I had known that before I interviewed Simona on Thursday or I would have asked her about it. That’s also going to be kind of inconvenient for people who seek to use Simona as a blunt instrument with which to beat on Danica (you know who you are).
IndyCar in Barber — IndyCar is at the GORGEOUS FACILITY, Barber Motor Sports Park, outside Birmingham this weekend (Sunday at 3 p.m. Eastern on NBC Sports Network). Barber was once a total snoozer with maybe one non-start/restart pass in the whole race. Festival of Lock Step that was a chore for me to watch.
BUT, the new car has helped that a lot. Last year there was quite a bit (a relative term, I realize) of overtaking, especially for Barber. Turn 5 is where you want to sit to see passing.
Barber will tell us a few things.
1) TV ratings. Ratings for the second race are almost more important than the first race, in my view. It helps indicate how many people came back after trying the product (St. Pete). Ratings for St. Pete were 0.25, which is tiny, but up significantly from a comparable opening race on NBCSN. Still, when you’re talking about 388,000 households viewing, adding 25,000 households can jack your rating number a lot.
2) Simona. Can she continue her upper-half-of-the-field performance? So far practice times look encouraging for that. Simona likes Barber because the elevation changes remind her of some European courses. Worth watching to see how Sim does.
3) New winner? James Hinchcliffe surprised me last week by winning in St. Pete, his first win in IndyCar. Another new winner? Team Penske has won EVERY IndyCar race at Barber. Will Power has won three and Helio Castroneves won one. Penske adds a third car this weekend driven by former ChampCar and current part-time NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger. And look out for rookie Tristian Vautier who was fast at St. Pete before his car broke. Hmmmm. Many different winners is a tonic that IndyCar needs to keep swilling.
4) Will Power and Dario Franchitti. Both are kind of snake bit lately. Dario had a forgettable year last year and a forgettable race last race. Can he rebound? Will Power manages to dominate and then lose, at least recently. He got run over by another car UNDER YELLOW last week. It's getting to be bizarre
NASCAR at the Paperclip — NASCAR races at Martinsville this weekend, and it’s kind of similar to IndyCar at Barber in that one guy, Jimmie Johnson, has dominated. Jimmie set a NASCAR track record in winning the pole for Sunday’s race (1 p.m. Eastern on Fox) and has won the race seven times.
Joey Logano was so distraught over his run in with Denny Hamlin at Fontana that he could only manage to go P4 in qualifying* (*denotes sarcasm). Mark Martin, filling in for Denny, qualified 35th. Danica in her first-ever Martinsville race qualified 32. Full qualifying results here.
The media continued to cover the whole Hamlin/Logano thing. There were several LOGANO/HAMLIN SPEAKS stories during the week. Hamlin is recovering from a back injury that, in my opinion, was more to do with the lack of SAFER barriers on the inside walls at Fontana than Logano’s driving. Even the grand arbiter of mayhem, Tony Stewart, absolved Logano from wrongdoing in the closing lap with Hamlin. Stewart called it one of them racing deals. For once I agree with Stewart.
In this story from USA Today, Stewart also tried to explain why his blocking at Talladega (and causing a wreck) was OK while Logano’s block at Fontana (which didn’t cause a wreck) was bullshit. I read it twice and still am not entirely clear. I think Stewart is saying moving in front of a coming freight train at restrictor-plate Talladega is less “blocking” and more “trying to get a push.” So I guess in that case “blocking” at Talladega isn’t really defensive, but more of an offensive move (to get a push). Whereas since Fontana is not a restrictor plate track so running in a line isn’t key to advancing, blocking is all about keeping people behind you.
Stewart also went on to issue a “passionate anti-blocking argument” according to the article headline. Having read all that, I still think Stewart overreacted after the race at Fontana, getting into Logano’s grill after the race and saying he was going to “bust his ass” in interviews. Easy for me to say, I know, since I wasn’t the blockee, but I’ve seen tons worse on the track that didn’t get that level of reaction from Tony. Perhaps drivers of the cars trashed by Stewart’s move at Talladega should have conducted themselves similarly?
The thing I do like about Stewart is he would probably wouldn’t have blamed the Talladega crashed drivers for getting into his grill. I also like that he’s kind of a case-by-case guy. He thinks Logano was wrong in blocking him, but not-guilty in the Hamlin crash. Others would just use the crash to crank on Logano out of rage over the block, if that makes any sense. So there’s some Stewartian fairness at work here, at least.
The media diligently reported on any molecule of possible animosity between the Hamlin and Logano teams all week … THEIR GARAGE STALLS ARE BESIDE EACH OTHER! DISPATCH BODY ARMORED SECURITY FORCES NOW!! But it seems to be fizzling.
Fox and NASCAR, while I’m sure they didn’t want to see Denny get hurt, are probably the most elated about the scuffle. Aside from sparing Denny the pain, it would have been better for TV if Hamlin didn’t get hurt because then we could have had a scuffle and Clint Bowyer going Usain Bolt through the garages again, plus the two would be facing each other on the track this week. Oh, the DRAMA.
Here’s hoping Five Time doesn’t just hammer everyone from the pole. Over/under on number of green-flag laps before the chorus for “we need a caution!” rises? I’d say 50.
That’s what I got. Thousands of words. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the races. See ya Tuesday-ish.