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BUMP STOPS: Media, Modifieds And Miles Per Hour

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's Thursday again.... Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

AND NOW FOR something completely different.

I've been fortuate enough to be on both sides of the fence in this industry. I spent nearly 15 years as a reporter, covering auto racing from the smallest grassroots level right on up through the NASCAR national series. More recently, I've worked for the past couple of years on the marketing and public relations side of things, representing individual race teams in northern New England and working with clients like NASCAR and (yes, since you're reading this...) New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

I've watched everything from street stock races at Unity Raceway to the Daytona 500, interacted with drivers of all ilks. A lot of times, the sport is unfairly criticized for not doing enough to attract media attention. Unfortunately, it starts with the teams.

Nobody, of course, really wants to hear this.

 

Drivers want to think that what they do on the track is enough to get them noticed. In a very few select instances, that's true. But largely, it's about a lot more than that.

It's about – stop me if you've heard this one before – "being yourself."

If a reporter asks you how you're weekend has gone, he typically doesn't know that you worked 17 hours the day before just to get the car to the track. He doesn't know that you had a flat tire on the interstate getting to the track to practice. He doesn't know that your wife is due to deliver your second child any minute now.

And while all of this might seem of little consequence to you, it's just the kind of thing that sparks conversation. It sparks a story. It might even make your team THE story coming out of a race weekend, even if the best you could muster was a distant fourth-place finish.

The question then becomes, how does one "be yourself?"

It's about being comfortable to have a conversation. It's about utilizing social media tools – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – even if fancy-dancy computers aren't your thing. It takes literally less than 30 seconds to post to your Facebook fan page something that says: "Taking the hot rod to Thunder Road for the 100-lapper on Sunday. Stop by and say hi."

It tells your fans where you're racing. It tells them that you want to meet them. It tells them that you're just a regular Joe.

And it also lets the media (which does scour Facebook and YouTube and the like incessantly...) where you'll be. It makes you a part of the story before you ever even pack up the practice tires in the hauler.

Nobody interviewed you after the race? Grab a cell phone, make a video talking about your day and post it to Facebook. Bang. In 10 minutes, you offered your side of the story.

Easy.

And accessible.

And it makes you something your competitors are not. It makes you a story.

IF YOU'VE NEVER seen Corey LaJoie do his impression of Joey Logano, ask him to lay it on you the next time you see him. It's that good.

WE'RE GOING TO find out about Rowan Pennink this weekend.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour points leader has finished second in each of the first two events to open the season, holding a 20-point lead over gazillion-time champion Mike Stefanik as the series heads back to Stafford Motor Speedway.

If Pennink is the championship contender some of us – myself included – have believed he's been on the cusp of being, he needs to establish himself at Stafford.

Bobby Santos is trying to re-establish his dominance after a mechanical failure in the season opener at Thompson, Ted Christopher is the all-time winningest driver in history at the track, and guys like Stefanik, Ron Silk, Doug Coby and Ryan Preece always strong at the half-mile home of Modified racing. In short – there's always competition at Stafford.

I'm not suggesting that Pennink needs to win this weekend, or even finish on the podium, before we write off any chance of a championship. But the fact is that Pennink needs to show that he can run competitively against all of the above – for several weeks in a row – to really show his challenge is serious.

I'm not usually in the prediction game, but I'll make one here: Pennink will be in the running right down to the season-ending event at Thompson International Speedway in October.

IF A DRIVER wrecks three other cars in a span of three races, doesn't have a Top-5 to show for his efforts and is called every name in the book by his fellow competitors, can we qualify his start to the season as a "success?"

Hmm...

I'LL TELL YOU what's worse than Kyle Busch driving 128 mph in a 45 mph zone.

The recreated video produced by a news station that traveled the same stretch of road, camera in hand, and then sped up the footage to recreate the feel of 128 mph. That's what.

Loved some of the outcry regarding Busch as news of his ticket broke. Loved watching people trying to defend him – "I'm waiting for all the facts!" – almost as much as I enjoyed the vitriol of those saying they should throw his you-know-what in jail, like they would do for any average citizen.

Except there is no need for "more facts" – it was life-endangering behavior. Unless he was being chasd by Colombian drug lords. Then, maybe, I'd look past it.

And there's nobody went to jail – as the head honcho in Iredell County said that it is not their policy to arrest people for excessive speeding.

Look, like I said, there's no defense of Busch on this one. There just isn't. But he also doesn't need to be suspended for three races or hauled off to the slammer.

A dumb, dangerous mistake. That much is certain. And now he'll be treated just like anybody else.

Or did we conveniently forget the part where they gave him a ticket and a court date?

THE ALL-STAR RACE is in dire need of a change. Just don't ask me what it is.

LOOKS LIKE DAY baseball agrees with the Red Sox. Maybe they can petition the league to move all their games up to afternoon start times.

NASCAR HOME TRACKS held what hosted what it called "The Next 9" in Charlotte for a couple of days this week. It brought nine drivers from the K&N Pro Series East and West series between the ages of 15 and 21 for some events, including fan interaction and social media work at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

There are some great young personalities in the series, to be sure.

Corey LaJoie will be a fan favorite – the polarizing kind – for his intelligent, if outspoken, opinions of everything from NASCAR to his fellow competitors. Alex Bowman is incredibly funny – and not in that cynical, hate-the-masses kind of way. Matt DiBenedetto's self-deprecating, dry humor is perfect.

Now, though, the onus is on the fans to get to know some of these guys.

GOT A BUSY week this week, as I'm sure most racers and fans in New England do. Wrapping up a three-day trip to Charlotte today. Stafford tomorrow. Beech Ridge on Saturday. Thunder Road on Sunday.

And on the seventh day, he rested.

He needed it.

YOU'VE BEEN A great audience. Try the buffalo chicken sandwich wrap. The Heavy is here, so stick around.

– TB