July 22, 2009, 4:42 pm
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We will be back in May 2011 with more updates.


Questions! Questions! Questions!

From 2006-2007: This is a monthly feature where dirt Late Model drivers, promoters, sanction officials, manufacturers and various others are all poised the same question with their responses gathered here.

What is your favorite sport outside of racing?

Brian Birkhofer (Driver) – Football, no doubt! Chris Smyser (Driver) – My favorite sport outside of racing is hunting.  I love to be in the outdoors!

Brent Robinson (Driver) – Snowboarding

George Lee (Driver) – Football

Sean Cosgrove (Driver) – Golf

Kelly Hanvey (Driver) – UFC (Ultimate Fighting)

Marshall Green (Driver) – Bass fishing

Jeep Van Wormer (Driver) – Hockey

Jason Covert (Driver) – Hunting the elusive Pennsylvania Whitetail Buck.

April Farmer (Driver) – Motocross

Doug Drown (Driver) – College basketball and football

Tommy Elston (Driver) – Football

Jordan Bland (Driver) – Football

Ivedent Lloyd (Driver) – Hunting & golf – just don’t get to go much

Eric Zembower (Driver) – Golf

G.R. Smith (Driver) – College football (West Virginia!)

Jim Bernheisel (Driver) – Football

Chris Rhodes (Driver) – I really have no time for other sports.  I watch football with the wife now and then.

Jeff Provinzino (Driver) – Football

Josh McGuire (Driver) – Football and Mixed Marshall Arts

Clint Elkins (Driver) – Golf

Dan Stone (Driver) – Ice hockey

Josh McMorrow (Driver) – Hunting & fishing

Greg Eckl (Driver) – Fishing

DJ Miller (Driver) – Golf

Trevor Phillips (Driver) – Wrestling, I have wrestled since the 4th grade. I placed 3rd. at State in 6th grade and 8th at State in the 10th grade.

Bob Sargent (Promoter) – Football

Wayne Castleberry (Marketing guru) – NFL or College Football

Spencer Wilson (Lucas Series) – Now Doc c’mon…I live in Kentucky! Of course the answer is College Basketball (UK of course). I mean God did create College Basketball to get us race fans through the off-seasons didn’t he? Think about it…College Basketball season starts in late October/early November (when race season is ending) and concludes in March (when race season is getting cranked up).

Brad Byrd (TTDCS) – College football

Mike Farr (Genesis Shocks) – Football (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Mark Richards (Rocket) – Football

Dave Mateer (American Racer) – Baseball

Chris Stepan (Promoter) – NFL Football and NCAA Men’s Basketball are dead even.

Ron Slavic (Slavic Shirts) – Football

Tina Heil (Track Manager) – Wrestling

Brian Tidball (VMS) – Is there a sport outside of racing?

Rick Eshelman (Announcer) – Hockey – almost as much contact as racing!

Brian Scott (Scott Wire) – Rodeo

Chris Dolack (DIRT) – Baseball

Terry Young (Hoosier) – Baseball – Go Cardinals!

Kelly Carlton (Southern Allstars) – Pro Football – Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts

What is your all-time, most favorite television show?

Brian Birkhofer (Driver) – Married With Children

Jeep VanWormer (Driver) – Survivor

Chris Smyser (Driver) – My all-time favorite is the new Battlestar Galactica on Sci-Fi.  I love that type of stuff!

Brent Robinson (Driver) – 24

Sean Cosgrove (Driver) – Hogan’s Heroes & MASH (can’t have one and not the other!)

Kelly Hanvey (Driver) – Magnum PI

Doug Drown (Driver) – The Little Rascals

Ivedent Lloyd (Driver) – Married With Children (Al is King!)

Marshall Green (Driver) – Hee Haw

April Farmer (Driver) – Desperate Housewives

Tommy Elston (Driver) – Survivor

Jordan Bland (Driver) – Speed Report

Chris Rhodes (Driver) – Law And Order

Eric Zembower (Driver) – Andy Griffith Show

G.R. Smith (Driver) – Rescue Me

Jason Covert (Driver) – Seinfeld

Jeff Provinzino (Driver) – The Honeymooners

Josh McGuire (Driver) – Old show:  Night Rider. New show:  Boston Legal

Jim Bernheisel (Driver) – Hogan’s Heroes

Clint Elkins (Driver) – That 70’s Show

Josh McMorrow (Driver) – The Dukes of Hazzard

Dan Stone (Driver) – Dukes of Hazzard

DJ Miller (Driver) – Survivor

Trevor Phillips (Driver) The OC

Greg Eckl (Driver) – Gunsmoke

George Lee (Driver) – Law & Order

Spencer Wilson (Lucas Series) – My all-time favorite would have to be “Seinfeld”. After the show being out of production for several years now I still scan the TV Guide looking for re-runs.

Wayne Castleberry (Marketing guru) – Seinfeld

Chris Dolack (DIRT) – Seinfeld

Bob Sargent (Promoter) – Don’t watch much television, it would have to be Andy Griffith Show

Brian Tidball (VMS) – Toss up between MASH and WKRP

Mark Richards (Rocket) – Almost anything on the Discovery Channel.

Mike Farr (Genesis Shocks) – The West Wing

Brad Byrd (TTDCS) – Andy Griffith Show

Dave Mateer (American Racer) – The Addams Family

Chris Stepan (Promoter) – ESPN’s SportCenter – I could watch sports highlights over and over and over – they never get old!)

Ron Slavic (Slavic Shirts) – Seinfeld

Tina Heil (Track Manager) – Grey’s Anatomy

Rick Eshelman (Announcer) – M*A*S*H without a doubt!

Brian Scott (Scott Wire) – MASH

Terry Young (Hoosier) – Seinfeld

Kelly Carlton (Southern Allstars) – Emergency! Johnny and Roy sparked my interest in my real career.

In your opinion, who is the greatest comedian of all time?

Brian Birkhofer (Driver) – Andrew Dice Clay

Chris Smyser (Driver) – My all-time favorite comedian is Rodney Carrington. That guy is hilarious!

Brent Robinson (Driver) – Larry The Cable Guy

Jeep Van Wormer (Driver) – Chris Rock

Sean Cosgrove (Driver) – Leslie Nielson

Kelly Hanvey (Driver) – Ron White

Marshall Green (Driver) – Redd Foxx

April Farmer (Driver) – Larry The Cable Guy

Tommy Elston (Driver) – Chris Rock

Jeff Provinzino (Driver) – Andrew Dice Clay

Chris Rhodes (Driver) – Eddie Murphy

Jordon Bland (Driver) – Rodney Carrington

Brent Robinson (Driver) – Larry The Cable Guy

Eric Zembower (Driver) – Jonathan Winters

G.R. Smith (Driver) – Chris Rock

Doug Drown (Driver) – Chris Rock

Josh McGuire (Driver) – D.L. Hughley

Jason Covert (Driver) – Howard Stern

Jim Bernheisel (Driver) – Mel Brooks

Clint Elkins (Driver) – Chris Farley

Josh McMorrow (Driver) – Larry The Cable Guy

Ivedent Lloyd (Driver) – Eddie Murphy

Dan Stone (Driver) – Larry The Cable Guy

Greg Eckl (Driver) – George Carlin

George Lee (Driver) – Bill Cosby, Larry the Cable Man

Trevor Phillips (Driver) – Larry The Cable Guy (I don’t care who you are that’s funny!)

DJ Miller (Driver) – Eddie Murphy

Mark Richards (Rocket) – Johnny Carson

Mike Farr (Genesis Shocks) – Bill Cosby & Richard Pryor

Brad Byrd (TTDCS) – George Carlin

Bob Sargent (Promoter) – Red Skelton

Spencer Wilson (Lucas Series) – Oh that’s an easy one…Ron White, anyone that travels with me during the race season knows that normally I don’t leave home without my Ron White “You Can’t Fix Stupid” CD. He really has some great stuff.

Wayne Castleberry (Marketing guru) – Robin Williams

Chris Dolack (DIRT) – Stephen Wright

Brian Tidball (VMS) – George Carlin. 7 words you can’t say on TV, seems to me that list has be reduced since he did that bit.

Terry Young (Hoosier) – Richard Pryor

Kelly Carlton (Southern Allstars) – Lewis Grizzard – What a humorist. With titles like When My Love Returns from the Ladies Room Will I Be Too Old to Care? and Elvis is Dead and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself – How could any southerner not enjoy his musing.

Rick Eshelman (Announcer) – Rodney Dangerfield

Brian Scott (Scott Wire) – Robin Williams

Dave Mateer (American Racer) – Bob Hope

Chris Stepan (Promoter) – Eddie Murphy

Ron Slavic (Slavic Shirts) – Eddie Murphy

Who do you feel has been the greatest President of the United States of all time?

Brian Birkhofer (Driver) – Bill ClintonJeep Van Wormer (Driver) – Thomas JeffersonChris Smyser (Driver) – FDR Because he brought us through some of the toughest times that this country has ever been through and made us a lot stronger in doing it.Kelly Hanvey (Driver) – We haven’t had the greatest yet! But we’ve had some very good ones. But myself like most Americans (I’m sure) are still waiting on the best (n our lifetime)

Brad Byrd (TTDCS) – Ronald Reagan

Dave Mateer (American Racer) – Franklin Roosevelt 

Chris Stepan (Promoter) – Abraham Lincoln

Ron Slavic (Slavic Shirts) – I didn’t know there was a great one.

Brent Robinson (Driver) – George Washington

Sean Cosgrove (Driver) – Ronald Reagan

Marshall Green (Driver) – FDR

April Farmer (Driver) – I really don’t favor a president.

Tommy Elston (Driver) – Bill Clinton

Jordan Bland (Driver) – Teddy Roosevelt

Mike Farr (Genesis Shocks) – John Kennedy

Tina Heil (Track Manager) – Ronald Reagan

Rick Eshelman (Announcer) – George Washington

Brian Scott  (Scott Wire) – George Washington

Terry Young (Hoosier) – John F. Kennedy

Kelly Carlton (Southern Allstars) – George Washington – he had a ton to do in his term and somehow got it all done.

Brent Robinson (Driver) – George Washington

Eric Zembower (Driver) – Bill Clinton.  No wars, great economy, low gas prices and no deficit (with surplus) during his 8 years.

Wayne Castleberry (Marketing guru) – Ronald Reagan

G.R. Smith (Driver) – Ronald Reagan

Brian Tidball (VMS) – Thomas Jefferson

Josh McGuire (Driver) – Bill Clinton

Jason Covert (Driver) – It has to be a 3 way tie in my opinion, Lincoln (Civil War), Washington (Birth of a Nation) & FDR(WWII)

Jim Bernheisel (Driver) – Teddy Roosevelt

Bob Sargent (Promoter) – JFK

Clint Elkins (Driver) – Ronald Reagan

Dan Stone (Driver) – FDR

Greg Eckl (Driver) – John F. Kennedy

Spencer Wilson (Lucas Series) – Now that is a tough one…I don’t know if I can make who the greatest President has been. Personally there are traits of a couple that I liked and they are on two totally different ends of the spectrum – Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Of course both of those have traits I did not care for as well.

Mark Richards (Rocket) – In my time-Reagan.  All Time-Lincoln.

George Lee (Driver) – John F. Kennedy

Chris Dolack (DIRT) – George Washington

Doug Drown (Driver) – I haven’t had one in my lifetime yet that sticks out as the greatest

Josh McMorrow (Driver) – George Washington

DJ Miller (Driver) – Abraham Lincoln

Ivedent Lloyd (Driver) – Bill Clinton (he knew how to pick interns)

Trevor Phillips (Driver) – President FDR because he was elected 4 times which makes him then and forever the only president to do so.  The luckiest president ever is President Ford. People spend their entire life trying to get to that office and he just happened to be in the right place at the right time in our history. There is a saying that goes. It’s better to be lucky than good any day of the week. I want to be that lucky.

Chris Rhodes (Driver) – Ronald Reagan

Jeff Provinzino (Driver) – Bill Clinton

Who is your hero in racing?

Randall Chupp – Larry Moore

Brian Birkhofer – John Force

Eric Zembower – Dave Marcus

Matt Lux – Bob Wearing, Senior, Keith Kauffman

Eddie Carrier, Jr – My Dad

Ritchie Lewis (Lucas Oil) – David Pearson & Jeff Purvis

Ryan Dauber – Ken Walton

Brent Robinson – Dale Earnhardt

Robbie Scott – Mark Richards

Bret Emrick (WoO) – A.J. Foyt – he raced anything and everything whether dirt or pavement, oval or road course, open wheel or full bodied. And he won.

Clint Coffman – Larry Moore

DJ Miller – Dale Earnhardt Sr. The legend will live on forever.

Josh McGuire – My uncle, Wayne McGuire

Al Varnadore (Crossville Raceway) – David Pearson as a racer, Earl Baltes as a promoter

Dave Mateer (American Racer) – Jack Hewitt

Kelly Carlton (SAS) – I have taken a lot of wisdom from B.J. Parker

Terry Young (Hoosier Mid West) – Bob Newton of Hoosier Racing Tire. To be able to take his passion for racing and put that into a company that has become the #1 racing tire supplier in the United States. What this man has put into place is unparalleled.

George Lee – My hero in racing would be David Pearson (hence #21!)

Chris Smyser – My hero in racing is my Dad.  He was a great racer and he brought me into the sport and taught me everything I know about racing.  He taught me how to race hard and clean and how to be a good sportsman and help out other racers when they need it.  I learned by his example and I’m trying my best to live up to it.

Jordan Bland – Chad Kanus

Rich Gardner – Don Garlits. I know it’s odd for a circle track racer to admire a drag racer but he is all the things I wish I could be. He’s a hard worker, winner, innovator, & good person.

Rick Eshelman (WoO) – Earl Baltes, the man has brought dirt racing to the highest

Jim Bernheisel – National Level – Richard Petty; Local Level – Skip Furlow

Mike Knight – Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Roger Slack (Lowe’s) – Humpy Wheeler/Earl Baltes/Tom Curley/Glenn Donnelly

Doug Drown – Chub Frank (worked for what he has)

Jack Cornett (Cornett Engines) – Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Brian Tidball (VMS) – Sonny Hutchins, grew up watching him on asphalt and dirt. Over 400 career wins and was and is my hero

Chris Kearns (Western Allstars) – A.J. Foyt

What comic book character would you most like to be?

Brian Birkhofer – Batman

Randall Chupp – Batman

Matt Lux – Green Lantern

Eddie Carrier, Jr – Superman

Ryan Dauber – Garfield

Robbie Scott – Mighty Mouse

Clint Coffman – Spiderman

Eric Zembower – Superman

DJ Miller – Spiderman.  That web stuff would come in handy when you’re trying to reel in the leader!

Dave Mateer (American Racer) – Jimmy Olsen

Josh McGuire – Ghost Rider

Al Varnadore (Crossville Raceway) – Spiderman

Chris Smyser – I would most like to be Lightning McQueen!  Superfast, a good friend and he’s got Sally!  He’s the man!

Jordan Bland – Incredible Hulk

Rich Gardner – Definitely Batman/ He has a cool, no, super cool car!

Rick Eshelman (WoO) – Incredible Hulk

Jim Bernheisel – The Roadrunner (he never got caught!)

Mike Knight – Superman

Roger Slack (Lowe’s) – Batman

Doug Drown – I only know race car drivers didn’t have time for comics

Jack Cornett (Cornett Engines) – Conan

Brian Tidball (VMS) – Harold Hedd! (heeheehee) 1970’s underground comics!

Chris Kearns (Western Allstars) – Invisible Man

Bret Emrick (WoO) – I really was never into comic books as a kid. I did watch the ‘Batman and Robin’ TV show only because my younger brother had to watch it.

Rithie Lewis (Lucas Oil) – Incredible Hulk

Terry Young (Hoosier Midwest) – Superman

Kelly Carlton (SAS) – Spiderman

Brent Robinson – Incredible Hulk

Who is your hero outside of racing?

Brian Birkhofer – Larry Flynt

Randall Chupp – My Mom

Matt Lux – My family

Eddie Carrier, Jr. – James Bond

Ryan Dauber – Jordan

Brent Robinson – My parents

Robbie Scott – My Parents

Eric Zembower – My Dad

Clint Coffman – My father, Ernie Coffman

DJ Miller – My wife, Barb.  To be married to a guy like me for 25 years, she has got to be something special!

Dave Mateer (American Racers) – My father

Terry Young (Hoosier Midwest) – My children Hannah and Sarah

Ritchie Lewis (Lucas Oil) – The Good Lord and my family Ritchie Neil, Cole, Jesse, Jayme and my wife Sheila.

Kelly Carlton (SAS) – No question my dad Russell

Josh McGuire – Rocky Balboa

Al Varnadore (Crossville Raceway) – Both my parents for doing a great job in raising my Brothers and I.

Chris Smyser – My hero outside of racing is my wife.  She lets me devote a lot of my time, energy and money to my passion.  She and my daughter stand behind me and I wouldn’t trade them for all the racing equipment in the world!

Jordan Bland – My Mom

Rich Gardner – As a hard core conservative I love to read Ann Coulter as she skewers liberals.

Roger Slack (Lowe’s) – Minor-league baseball promoter Mike Veeck

Rick Eshelman (WoO) – My father

Jim Bernheisel – My Dad

Mike Knight – My Dad

Doug Drown – My Dad (hardest working man I know)

Jack Cornett (Cornett Engines) – My Dad

Brian Tidball (VMS) – Anyone who can balance their time between career, family and somehow have a minute or two for themselves

Chris Kearns (Western Allstars) – John Walsh (national center for missing and exploited children)

Bret Emrick (WoO) – It would have to be my mother. What she has gone through and continues to battle medically the past few years; most people would’ve surrendered.

What is your favorite candy bar?

Brian Birkhofer – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Matt Lux – Snickers with Almonds

Randall Chupp – $100,000 Bar

Eddie Carrier, Jr. – Snickers

Brent Robinson – Snickers

Ryan Dauber – Sour Patch Kids

Robbie Scott – Hershey With Almonds

Ritchie Lewis (Lucas Oil) – Snicker with Almonds

Clint Coffman – Snickers

Josh McGuire – Snickers

Eric Zembower – Snickers

Terry Young (Hoosier Midwest) – Milky Way

Kelly Carlton (SAS) – Twix

Rich Gardner – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Al Varnadore (Crossville Raceway) – Heath

DJ Miller – Snickers

Dave Mateer (American Racers) – Milky Way Midnight

Chris Smyser – Three Musketeers

Jordan Bland – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

Jim Bernheisel – Hershey’s Chocolate Bar

Rick Eshelman (WoO) – Zero

Mike Knight – Snickers

Roger Slack (Lowe’s) – Snickers (frozen)

Doug Drown – Snickers

Jack Cornett (Cornett Engines) – Kit Kat

Brian Tidball (VMS) – Snickers

Chris Kearns (Western Allstars) – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

Bret Emrick (WoO) – Snickers. But, I can’t have them anymore due to a medical condition. So, it’s original Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

What is your dream ‘passenger’ car?

Randall Chupp – Saleen S-7 Twin Turbo

Brian Birkhofer – ’68 Chevelle with a Big Block and 20″ wheels

Matt Lux – Shelby Mustang

Eddie Carrier, Jr – Shelby Mustang

Ryan Dauber – 68′ Cobra

Brent Robinson – Dodge Viper

Robbie Scott – Mustang Shelby

Ritchie Lewis – 1957 Thunderbird convertible

Clint Coffman – New corvette Z06

Jordan Bland – Lamborghini Gallardo

Eric Zembower – Big ole custom 1980 Cadillac for road trips

Terry Young (Hoosier Midwest) – ‘70 Chevelle SS

Kelly Carlton (SAS) – Lamborghini Gallardo

DJ Miller – Corvette convertible

Dave Mateer (American Racer) – 1959 Triumph TR-3A

Josh McGuire – McClaren F1

Al Varnadore (Crossville Raceway) – BMW M5

George Lee – I own one, 1969 BOSS 302

Chris Smyser – My dream car is the Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren – just a tad out of my price range though!

Rich Gardner – ’69 Camaro SS, I will have one soon

Rick Eshelman (WoO) – Monte Carlo SS autographed by the Intimidator

Jim Bernheisel – 1970 Plymouth Superbird

Mike Knight – 1969 Mach 1 Ford Mustang

Doug Drown – Corvette Stingray

Roger Slack (Lowe’s) – My 2007 velocity yellow Corvette Convertible

Jack Cornett (Cornett Engines) – Ferrari

Brian Tidball (VMS) – A nice street rod, a coach

Chris Kearns (Western Allstars) – 427 Cobra

Bret Emrick – Lamborghini

What is your favorite soft drink?

Brian Birkhofer – Diet PepsiRandall Chupp – Mountain DewMatt Lux – Mountain DewEddie Carrier, Jr – Mountain Dew

Ryan Dauber – Old Mil

Ritchie Lewis (Lucas Oil) – Sprite or a Butterfinger Blizzard is always really nice

Terry Young (Hoosier Midwest) – Mountain Dew – at least a 6 pack per day. A guy has to get caffeine from somewhere

Kelly Carlton (SAS) – Dr. Pepper

Brent Robinson – Mountain Dew

Robbie Scott – Coca Cola

Eric Zembower – Pepsi

Clint Coffman – IBC Root Beer

DJ Miller – Coca Cola

Dave Mateer (American Racer) – Coca Cola

Josh McGuire – Mountain Dew

Al Varnadore (Crossville Raceway) – Coca Cola

George Lee – Mountain Dew

Chris Smyser – No question, gotta do the Dew!

Jordan Bland – Coca Cola

Rich Gardner – PA Dutch Birch Beer. Most of your readers probably never heard of it but it’s great!

Rick Eshelman (WoO) – Diet Coke (goes great with a Zero Bar)

Jim Bernheisel – Pepsi

Roger Slack (Lowe’s) – Diet Coke

Mike Knight – Pepsi

Doug Drown – Coca Cola on the rocks

Jack Cornett (Cornett Engines) – Mountain Dew

Brian Tidball (VMS) – Northern Neck Ginger Ale, “A Virginia Tradition for over 70 years”

Chris Kearns (Western Allstars) – Diet Squirt (maybe with a little Vodka)

Bret Emrick (WoO) – Pepsi

What person, famous or not, would you most like to meet from history that is no longer with us?
Marshall Green (driver) – Elvis Presley
Brian Birkhofer (driver) – Tim Richmond.  He was a rockstar style race car driver and lived the life.
Kelly Hanvey (driver) – Dang I live so much for the now this is a hard question. I guess my grandfather Hanvey. I never meet him, he died soon after returning from WWII.
Chris Smyser (driver) – I would most like to meet Albert Einstein.  Just to talk with him and see what it is like to know someone with such an amazing intellect.
Ryan Markham (driver) – Albert Einstein
Bret Emrick (WoO LMS) – My paternal grandfather. He passed away shortly after I was born.
Bill Nelson (promoter) – John WayneApril Farmer (driver) – I would love to speed the day with Dale Earnhardt.
Steve Barnett (driver) – Elvis
Rich Gardner (driver) – Jesus Christ

Eric Zembower (driver) – Sam Nunis.  He was the eastern Big Car, Sprint car, Midget & Stock Car racing promoter of the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.  He worked for the famed Ralph Hankinson and took over the circuit after Hankinson’s death.  This (in my opinion) was the most romantic period in racing.

Kyle Berck (driver)  – Ronald Reagan

Terry Young (Hoosier) – That is no longer with us, does Doug Bland count? I assume you mean that is no longer alive… in that case it would probably be my great grandparents. To be able to set down for a day with them to get educated on how life was in their era.

Bill Holder (NDLMHOF) – Being a vintage military aviation fan, I’d have to say Jimmy Doolittle.

Rick Eshelman (announcer) – Noah from the ark—  How did he put up with the smell of two of each creatures sh– smell???????

Warren Bishop (Aussie driver) – Winston Churchill & Adolf Hitler

Clint Smith (driver) – Dale Earnhardt

Shane Clanton (driver) – My Grandfather on my Dad’s side.

Doug Drown (driver) – Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Corey Conley (driver) – My grandfather.  Killed at Muskingum County Speedway
before I was born.

Chris Rhodes (driver/engine builder) – Kenny Weld. He was an innovator in the racing industry.

Doug Horton (driver) – Smokey Yunick
Jimmy Bernheisel (driver/car builder) – Ronald Reagan. Strong willed, kind hearted & funny. One of our nation’s greatest presidents!

Bill Sawyer (promoter) – John Wayne

Brian Shirley (driver) – I guess Dale Earnhardt, Sr. He was quite a hellraiser, no nonsense kind of guy while racing but quiet and simple off the track.  One of the greatest racers of our time.  It would be awesome if he could just watch one race and give it to me straight.  Coming from him, even an insult would be a big compliment.
Sara Brookover (driver) – JFK or John Lennon
Russ Bradford (Sunoco) – There are a bunch of people I would have liked to meet including Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, Napoleon, and even Albert Einstein.  But I would say if I had the ability to travel back in time and meet just one person, I would have to say that person would be Jesus Christ.
Denny Eckrich (driver) – My grandfather, Frank Eckrich. He taught us so much.
Ben Geisler (DIRT) – My Grandfather, passed away the year I was born
Craig Cassell (crew chief) – Larry Detjens… He was from Wisconsin and ran asphalt late models & ASA in the 70’s and early 80’s. He was a good family friend and a hell of a driver (so I’m told). He lost his life in a wreck at Kaukauna, Wisconsin in 1981. He’d come west and run my Grandfather’s track and a number of other races, and he’d usually win. I’d just like to pick his brain about his approach to racing.
Craig Vosbergen (Aussie driver) – JFK

Tina Heil (general manager)- My Grandpa Jacobs. I was very young when he passed away.  If you want me to choose someone I’ve never met then I would say Ronald Reagan

Dustin Jarrett (announcer) – Without a doubt, Jesus is at the top of the list.  After that (and like many others), I would love to have the chance to meet the late, great Dale Earnhardt.

(c)2006-2008 Doc Lehman

TNN’s Eli Gold Goes Sprint Car Racing

From 2001: “He brings a credibility to the sport of Sprint Car racing,” stated Brad Doty authoritatively when asked about the addition of long time veteran broadcaster Eli Gold to the TNN productions of Pennzoil World of Outlaws television broadcasts. Gold is in his first season as the play by play man of TNN?s WoO events, a move necessitated by NASCAR’s move to FOX and NBC/TNN.

          And from all signs the move by Eli Gold into somewhat unfamiliar territory of Sprint Car racing has been an unqualified success, especially when one measures it by the resounding positive response by race fans and viewers.

          Indeed, Eli Gold helps make the sport of Sprint Car racing in particular, and dirt track racing in general, look good. Darn good.

          For if nothing else, Eli Gold is the consummate professional. The epitome of professional broadcasting with taste, flair and knowledge. He brings a hefty amount of class and authority to his broadcasts.

          Gold has been in the broadcasting game since 1972 when he started as a weekend reporter for the Mutual Broadcasting System. For nearly 28 years now Gold has handled a sundry of play-by-play duties including nine years as a professional hockey announcer in four professional leagues as well as the World Hockey Association.

          Then there is Gold?s work in football. In 1988 he became the play-by-play ‘voice’ of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football and basketball teams, a job he continues to this day in addition to hosting the weekly football and basketball coach?s radio programs.

          Then there is the matter of Eli Gold’s love affair with auto racing.

          For almost 25 years Gold had been an announcer and a reporter for MRN Radio. MRN Radio broadcasts NASCAR events on a 400- station radio network. Last year Gold celebrated his 18th year as the host of the popular NASCAR LIVE weekly radio show on MRN.

          Gold’s tenure at TNN began in 1996. His first TNN Sports gig was the February 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup race held in Rockingham, NC.  A year later Gold signed with CBS for selected NASCAR and basketball broadcasts. In 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing was added to his ever-growing list of broadcast duties and was the one to broadcast the history making first time 330 MPH pass in NHRA competition.

          If anyone has any doubts as to whether or not Eli Gold has the chops one might consider that Gold is a three-time Alabama Sportscaster of the Year recipient as voted by his peers in the National Sportscasters Association. In addition, he has twice been named Alabama Sportscaster of the Year by the Associated Press, an honor he has also earned from United Press International.

          Pretty impressive credentials one must admit.

          But the best part of it is, Eli Gold has a true, passionate love for auto racing. Having spent nearly three decades around NASCAR Winston Cup racing, that is where Gold’s roots lie, but his interest in motorsports extends far beyond the gates of NASCAR. Gold just loves racing and his passion and interest comes through loud and clear.

          On screen Eli Gold comes across as a personable, warm, enthusiastic and well informed gentleman, with an emphasis on gentleman. In ‘real life’, he is all that and more. In speaking with Gold recently it was clearly obvious he was a man who, despite being an earnest professional, displayed a variety of positive characteristics that ranged from an honest humility to a sincere interest and passion for the sport of auto racing. Another trait that came through was his unwavering honesty.

          What you see on the screen is what you get in ‘real life’.

          With several Pennzoil World of Outlaw events under his belt now, I was curious as to what his perceptions of the sport were, especially due to the fact that, while Gold was familiar with the sport, he was the first to acknowledge that he needed to ‘study up’ on the history and become familiar with the current, inner workings of Sprint Car racing.

          If nothing else, Eli Gold is a quick study.

          “I am not a total neophyte to what the World of Outlaws was all about,” stated Gold. “So I did have some semblance of a working knowledge. And it’s like everybody has told me, no matter who I talk to, and I keep in close touch with my Winston Cup buddies who I work with. I’ll tell them I’ll be in Charlotte or wherever for a World of Outlaws show and they’ll say, ‘That’s great racing!’ Everybody says the same thing, that it is great racing. And it is.”

          “It’s been very good racing and it?s been exciting. And the thing I find very different about it is the length of the races, obviously. That was the biggest adjustment for me. After two hours of the telecast we?re going off the air and I’m just warming up (laughs)! Especially when you compare it to being on the air for five hours at Dover or the (Coca Cola) 600 race at Charlotte or whatever.”

          “An eight lap, or 12 lap event or even a 30 lap event, you turn around and your night is done. So all this great action is being crammed into two and two and a half hours. But it?s been good. I enjoy it. And I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I have to learn.”

          Gold was quick to distinguish between the various forms of motorsports he has been involved in.

          “Other than the fact they have four wheels and a steering wheel there is no similarity to what I have lived for the last 26 or 27 years. So I have been working hard and doing my studying and dealing with Brad and dealing with our historian in the booth, Kevin Eckert. He is invaluable in his help.”

          “It’s coming along. I’ve got a long way to go yet. I’ve only done a couple, three races and my ‘comfort’ factor is still not where it needs to be. But it’s coming along and the racing is fine. It’s great! It’s just my comfort level with all that has gone on and the history of the sport, that’s where I am automatically kind of on edge when I walk into the booth. My history bank in NASCAR is fairly extensive where my history bank with dirt track racing of any sort is really very limited.”

          “So, it’s a lot of work. A lot of work!”

          But Gold isn’t complaining. He genuinely sounds like he is having fun and appreciates where the sport has been and where it is going. He is also genuinely grateful for the help and support he has gotten from his fellow TNN staffers.

          “Oh, yeah!” confirmed Gold. “Brad has been a wonderful help. I bet he wishes he had a dollar for every question I’ve asked him! And even when he is not formally giving me answers to questions he is still such a big help. Just by listening to him talk about something. We can be sitting around and such and such might have happened, whatever it might be, and he’ll say, ‘you know, we had the same thing at Sharon Speedway back in 1978 and yadda-yadda-yadda.’ Whereas I could have said, well, we had a deal like that back at North Wilkesboro back in 1976.”

          “He has that kind of encyclopedic memory and knowledge about Sprint Car racing. Even when we’re just talking in general I’m jotting down notes because you never know when something might come up. And he’s just been a wonderful, wonderful friend to work with. He really has. There is nothing that you can ask, regardless of how elementary, that he won’t give a complete answer to. He’s really trying to help me learn and that’s great.”

          The conversation soon turned to the fans and viewers. Gold is well aware of how Sprint Car fans take their sport seriously. They love it, are extremely protective of it, and most feel a stewardship to it. Sprint Car fans are among some of the most knowledgeable and critical of any fans or any form of motorsports. So I was curious to what Gold’s reaction was to the mostly overwhelming favorable response to his addition to the TNN/WoO broadcast booth.

          “The response has been nice and it feels good, it really does,” offered Gold. “I’m not much of one to go on these internet bulletin boards and chat rooms but I have. I don’t do it in NASCAR. I just don’t do it. But I have after our first three World of Outlaws telecasts just to get the temperature of the viewers. And you’re right, the response has been good.”

          “And of course there will always be some people who don’t like your work and that’s true in anything. But I think the fans and viewers respect the fact that I am not coming in trying to play the part of the expert. Fans see through that. I could not bluster my way through. And I think they respect the fact that I am doing a ton of homework.”

          “I don’t this, that or the other, but I?ll be a son of a gun if by the time the red light goes on the camera that I don’t have it written down in front of me. And if I don?t have a complete answer I can lean on Kevin Eckert, our historian in the booth who has gobs and gobs of information.”

          “I am not one of these guys who is afraid to take input from other people and give them credit on the air, which I have done with Kevin. I did the same thing in NASCAR and again, I have done 26 years of NASCAR between radio and television and had a gentleman named Bill Svoboda who traveled with us in NASCAR. Again, not everybody knows everything. And so if I used a guy in NASCAR after being there for 26years, I sure as heck am going to try and find the best available person for the World of Outlaws after only being there for three races. So we?’e working at it.”

          “We’re not just showing up, sitting down, and fluffing our way through a fairly easy two hour telecast. Brad is doing his work, I am doing my work and we’re trying to give the viewer as complete and as extensive coverage that they can get. We respect the World of Outlaws. No, I haven’t been a Sprint Car man my whole life, but that doesn’t mean I can’t respect Drag racing, or IMSA, or CART, or IRL or the World of Outlaws. I respect them all. And if I am on the air they will get my very best effort possible.”

          And the respect Gold has shown has been mutual.

          “Like I said before, Doc, it’s been great and I think it will just get better,” declared Brad Doty when asked about his working relationship with Gold. “He obviously didn’t know a lot about Sprint Car racing at first but he is definitely a quick learner and I?m surprised at how fast he has caught on. But I guess racing is racing. He brings a real credibility to the sport of Sprint Car racing. He is very well known in racing and NASCAR and has done nothing but help Sprint Car racing as far as I?m concerned.”

          Doty also senses the abundance of positive response since Gold?s inclusion into the TNN broadcast booth of WoO events.

          “I get that sense, too,” stated Doty. “Sprint Car fans are pretty critical and they love this sport and they’re the most knowledgeable fans of any sport, I think. And I think they might have been somewhat concerned with how he would portray the sport, and that’s OK. I think he has proven he is a true professional and has brought that credibility and deserves to be there. I think he does an outstanding job and I?m not just saying that. It’s been great. It really has.”

          Gold, who among all his many duties has a family with wife, Claudette, and daughter, Elise, and who calls Birmingham, AL home (he was born in Brooklyn, NY!!!), seems to feel at ease with the sport of Sprint Car racing and his enthusiasm is genuine. He just loves racing, although, like all of us, different forms of motorsports excite him more than others.

          “I am a fan of Sprint Car racing,” proclaimed Gold. “But I won’t lie. If there are two races going on the same night, one was NASCAR Winston Cup and one was Sprint Cars, I would probably still go to the Winston Cup race because that is what I grew up on. The same way Dave Argabright would go to an open wheel race, because that is what he grew up on.”

          “But, was I disappointed that I was not in town when the World of Outlaws ran at the Talledega Short Track? Yes! As a matter of fact I tried to rearrange my travel schedule around. I was going out of town to do an arena football game and I tried to change my travel schedule around so I could see the World of Outlaws at the Talledega Short Track and, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to.”

          “So yes, I am a fan. I’ve known (Steve) Kinser for years. I got to know him when he ran with us a number of seasons ago. I know Sammy Swindell from his NASCAR days. I know a number of drivers I have met over the years. Just like I know a bunch of Drag racing guys. But, yes, I am a fan of the sport, there is no doubt.”

          And no doubt about the contribution Gold is making to the sport of Sprint Car racing.

(c)2001-2008 DOC LEHMAN/Dirt America

Mike Swims In NDLMHOF: ‘Bout Time

From 2007: At the recent 25th Annual North South 100 at Florence Speedway in Kentucky the Class of 2007 of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame was inducted that included drivers Verlin Eakers, Gene Petro, David Spear, H.E. Vineyard, Herb Scott, and Ralph Earnhardt. The annual Sportsman Award went to driver Mike Jewell while in the Major Contribution to the Sport award went to the father-son duo of Mike and Mickey Swims of Dixie and Rome speedways and Hav-A-Tampa fame.As for the Swims all I can say is it was a long time in coming.

Mickey Swims owned a drag strip in Cumming and bought Rome Speedway in the late ‘60s. When he built the concrete stands at Rome, he and young son Mike put their handprints in the concrete in the first row and they’re still visible today. The Swims weren’t done though. Mickey partnered with driver Bud Lunsford to buy Dixie in the summer of 1976 and made it a dirt track in 1977. In 1978, Swims bought West Atlanta Speedway.

Mike Swims has been a promoter since age 16, starting with a $5000 to win demo derby. One motorcycle show is remembered for promoting Dalton racer Tammy Kirk as the “Skirt in the Dirt.”

The United Dirt Track Racing Association (UDTRA) Pro DirtCar series, known by the sponsor’s name, Hav-A-Tampa came next and was the most successful dirt Late Model touring series in the nation in the ‘90s. It was started at Dixie with Mike Swims and announcer Jimmy Mosteller as leaders. It led the dirt racing world into common rules for bodies and competition, and let the local drivers test their skills and cars against the touring teams.

After Hav-A-Tampa Cigars bowed out of racing the series became known as UDTRA (United Dirt Track Racing Association). Mike ran until selling the series. The touring dirt Late Model series then became the Xtreme DirtCar Series, which held its final race in 2004 before being sold off to DIRT Motorsports.

I have only met Mickey, the patriarch of the Swims family, a couple of times over the decades but Mike Swims is someone I have also known for a number of years and got to know fairly well since the formation of the Hav-A-Tampa series. I have watched Mike over the years as a track promoter and series owner and have seen first hand his contributions to the sport.

Back in the 80’s I was for a time the Executive Director and Vice President of the old STARS sanction and during that time myself, and others, hoped for major mainstream sponsorship (we succeeded with Hardees) and, of course, national television coverage and a tour that criss-crossed a vast majority of the country. While the STARS team did an admirable job it took Mike Swims’ vision, tenacity and resolve, along with a huge chunk of money to make all of that happen.

Last weekend my son Jarrod and watched the World of Outlaw Late Model Series on a major television network. That would not have happened if not for Mike Swims. While there were very, very infrequent blips on the radar of national television prior to Swims it was few and far in between. But once Swims got his Hav-A-Tampa
juggernaut steamrolling he made and took a financial gamble to put his series on national television in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Swims laid the groundwork and made it feasible and legitimate for dirt Late Models to appear on national television. We have it now thanks to Mike Swims. He was the one who first really knocked down the obstacles, worked out the logistics and broke out the checkbook.

Swims also set the standard for a big-time ‘national’ dirt Late Model touring series, a formula that is still being used today. He brought on professionals to staff his series and turned them loose while providing a vision. It worked. That Mike Swims is no longer leading a sanctioning body at the top of the helm is a negative for the sport although he is active busy and an integral part of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series serving as a consultant.

But for the fans and teams at Dixie and Rome speedways it is a positive for them to have Swims’ undivided attention, proven by the fact that Dixie Speedway was voted as the “Atlanta Journal Constitution Small Business of the Year” for 2004 by the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce. The man just oozes ‘promoter’s DNA’.

And what else makes Mike Swims so special in this sport?

He is a man of character and class. He is also, as stated previously, a man of vision. There is no way on God’s green earth that anyone could accuse Mike Swims of not seeing the forest for the trees. He has an accurate reading on the pulse of the sport, always did, and can predict what is coming next with almost flawless accuracy.

Mike Swims’ word is gold and that quality alone puts him at the forefront of this industry. And through his dedication to the sport of dirt Late Model racing that segment of dirt racing is now nearly at, or right at, the forefront of all of dirt racing and growing daily.

You can give Mike Swims a big ‘ol chunk of credit for that.

But don’t take my word for it.

“Mike and Mickey’s dedication to the sport of dirt track racing paid payoff with their induction into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame,” said Ritchie Lewis, the series director for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, a position he previously held with Hav-A-Tampa/UDTRA. “Everyone with the series truly sends out our heartfelt congratulations to both Mike and Mickey.”

“Having known the Swims family for a number of years, I know they are respectfully thankful to good Lord above and to all the fans, promoters and drivers who make this the most exciting form of racing out there and I know they will not rest on their laurels as they want to continue to put on some of the best shows in all of dirt track racing at Rome and Dixie Speedways.”

“I want to congratulate Mike and his father for their induction into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame,” stated Bob Patison, Vice President of Lucas Oil. “Mike has been a valuable asset to the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and I have a great deal of respect for him and his passion for dirt Late Model racing.”

The sport of dirt racing in general is lucky, damn lucky, to have the Swims.

(c)2007-2008 Doc Lehman

Perspective On Motorsports Marketing
March 2, 2008, 6:41 pm
Filed under: Perspective On Motorsports Marketing | Tags: ,

From 2005: With the off-season here in our midst in most cases, it’s time for race teams (and tracks and series) to begin the active and avid search for sponsorship for the 2008 season.Track and series public relations people need to do more to market and publicize their drivers, their personalities! They need to create images and identities for their drivers, and the drivers need to cooperate, need to get educated about publicity and marketing and take the next step themselves. And that doesn’t mean prettier or cooler T-shirts or a new can cooler.

Drivers need to start creating identities for themselves. They don’t have to go as far as the WWE, but they need to start grooming themselves and marketing themselves. The promoters can’t do it. The sanctions can’t do it. They sure can help quite a bit and they should be doing more to get the drivers better established with the new, or general, or casual fan.

It’s hard to believe how few teams use press releases, media kits, newsletters and any other readily available tool to get more publicity and exposure. You wouldn’t believe the amount of drivers, teams, owners that won’t even take the time to supply announcers at racetracks with information about their drivers, teams and SPONSORS! 

Let alone have a webpage, or a fan club, or a mail order/merchandising list or catalog. How many drivers’ teams actually pursue media coverage? Do you, or a team rep, contact the many papers, magazines and radio programs offering information? What about the local and regional media in your area? Are they kept informed of your team’s progress and achievements? How about personal appearances?

Dirt racing, particularly dirt Late Model racing, is about ready to burst at the seams. It’s at the point where it can take off and expand and grow, and it can do it! But everyone has to look ahead, and not look back. It just can’t be the same old same old. Everyone better start working together and soon (just to be able to help pay for all the new technology). There needs to be new and creative avenues opened and explored to help the drivers and tracks increase awareness among the public as well as corporate America.

And there is much that drivers and teams can do to advance their own, personal cause. 

“You need to approach this as part of your ‘business’ and not as a hobby,” stated Dave Seay when asked his opinion of what he thinks is the most important aspect drivers and teams need to keep in mind when going after sponsors. Seay is the Director of Marketing and Public Relations Director at Virginia Motor Speedway who worked for over 15 years in asphalt and NASCAR related fields. “What I mean by that is, first impressions are everything, spend a little time and money on a professional looking proposal. Be creative, the more it catches the attention and eye of a potential sponsor the better the chances of someone meeting with you on the possibilities of sponsoring your race team.”

”Never promise wins, promise performance and the ability to market their company and product on and off the track in a professional manner. If you promise wins and don’t deliver you will lose the sponsorship in the long run. Being able to represent a company and it’s products professionally will get you more results and keep sponsors coming back year after year.”

Seay has some basic advice for drivers and/or team representatives.

”When meeting with a potential sponsor, dress professionally and present a professional atmosphere,” commented Seay. “This doesn’t mean you have to dress in suit and tie, although that may be the appropriate dress when meeting with certain potential sponsors, but jeans and a t-shirt are a definite no-no.”

”Make sure you do a little research on the company you plan on approaching. There are several ways to find out what type of products and services the potential sponsor provides and it will also tell you how your race team can help market that product or service.”

”Don’t forget to market not only your car but your trailer/car hauler. It is a rolling billboard and gets as much if not more attention on the way to the track each week.”

Seay also has advice for teams seeking sponsor dollars for those teams who compete on a weekly or regional basis and who are ready to begin their sponsorship search.

”Start early in your sponsorship search and be persistent and remember to have plenty of options for a potential sponsor to choose from in your proposal,” explained Seay. “Sometimes it is easier to get ten smaller sponsors than one big sponsor. If you need $250 a week to race ten sponsors at $25 a week is easier to get than one sponsor at $250 per week.”

”A small business owner can reach in his pocket for $25 and not have to explain it to the wife. So remember sometimes smaller is better. And don’t expect someone to spend $10,000 a year with you on a lower division car. And most important visit and talk with your sponsors on a regular basis. Make them feel like part of the team!”

Seay’s statement is echoed.

“A simple phone call each week or a newsletter every month makes that sponsor feel that they are important to the race team,” stated Bret Emrick, currently Race Director for the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and a long time public relations and marketing maven. “Too many race teams get a good sponsor, put the sponsors name on the car and tow rig, take the sponsors check and never talk with them again. That’s the last time they’ll have that company as a sponsor!”

”The drivers and race teams have to realize that in today’s world, you have to market, market, market and market some more. I know it’s an added cost to the team but they have to either have someone on their team that knows marketing and public relations or hire someone to do it. It is so vitally important in today’s business world.”

“Again, it comes down to sacrificing the resources and time to do the marketing and PR the right way. Get involved with every appearance the team can possibly make. Whether it is for their sponsor functions or just displaying the car in a parade, taking it to a school, scout meetings, actually anything where there is exposure.”

(c)2005-2008 Doc Lehman

Race Team Media Exposure Part Two

From 2006: Any team that is actively seeking sponsorship needs to have some type of public relations program in place. And here’s the rub: Far too many equated ‘public relations’ with simply sending out a press release to the regional racing paper in their area and maybe to a couple news oriented websites or even a message board or two. Mission accomplished, right?Wrong!

Public relations is far more complicated than that and has far too many variables to be covered by a team press release that only appears in a handful of places. Public relations work is time consuming and many faceted. It’s all about building a public image, building bridges between team and sponsor and the public through the media. (There are other important and necessary components to ‘public relations’ that we will get into in another installment). For this installment we’ll take a look at how drivers/teams can attain media coverage for their team and sponsors and what steps are necessary to be able to successful generate media coverage.

The first, and likely most important for a variety of reasons despite modern technology (i.e.; internet), media outlet that packs a punch in terms of satisfying sponsors (and potential sponsors) and their promotional and marketing departments is the old tried-and-true print format. It is still important, necessary, beneficial and packs one hell of a punch in front of a person in big business who controls the purse strings of the advertising and marketing budget.

So how does a driver or team ‘get them some ink’? There are a variety of ways but first and foremost remember that for the most part the media, whether it is racing or mainstream (your local and regional newspapers and publications) generally won’t come knocking on your door. For the racing media there are a variety of reasons, first and foremost that there are too damn many teams out there! And that is good! God love them all. However, there is not that many racing media people out there. In an average weekly racing publication the majority of the material you usually read comes from track p.r. directors sending out result stories and press releases, not staff members of the paper.

Another reason they won’t come knocking on your door is that, the columnists, to cite one example, are few in numbers. And then one must consider that there is a percentage of ‘columnists’ who are basically lazy and you couldn’t pry them out of the media box with a crow bar let alone have them actually speak (or even, heavens forbid, interview) to a driver, a crew member, car owner, promoter or sponsor in the pits on a hot, humid, sweaty, dusty day. Or any day. 

So what a driver and team have to do is set themselves apart, take an active approach and actually seek out media coverage. It is not that difficult believe me, especially if you have a story that is unique, or a ‘hook’. And I’m a firm believer in that everyone has a story. So how does one go about getting coverage that is important exposure for the driver, team and sponsors? There a number of ways to do this and sometimes the simplest most basic approach will work.

Let me cite on recent example that happened recently. One day I retrieved my mail at the post office and among it was a letter from one Bud Kile, a father of two sons who are dirt Late Model racers and a daughter who is the announcer at their local track in Iowa. In this letter Mr. Kile explained some background about his children, their accomplishments and his obvious pride in them. A friendly suggestion to consider a story on his daughter was included. So here we have a former racer, car owner, racing business owner with two sons who race dirt Late Models and an energetic, talented daughter who announces at West Liberty Speedway. 

That’s a ‘hook’.

Within a week there was an interview with Katie Kile on Dirt America Online and in the next Area Auto Racing News as well. Additionally, Bud, Katie and dirt Late Model drivers (and sons/brothers) Kurt and Kevin Kile all appeared for a near 50 minute segment on the national Dirt Nation radio show that had a show devoted to Thanksgiving and racing families.

Timing is everything.

So what do drivers/teams need to do to generate media coverage, especially with the print media (both racing and mainstream)? (First: Know how to write who, what, when, where, how in one paragraph.)  We went to some experts who know because they call the shots. We sought out the advice from several editors, the ones with the final command of what does or does not get put in print and what driver or team (or track or series) a reporter/columnist/feature writer gets assigned to.

So, in basic terms, what can drivers and race teams do to solicit and attain more press coverage?

”Getting coverage in mainstream papers isn’t easy because many papers don’t have anyone on staff who understands racing,” commented Todd Turner. Turner is an editor with National Dirt Digest, one of dirt Late Model racing’s leading newspapers. National Dirt Digest is published bi-weekly. “They don’t have a good barometer to determine what’s newsworthy, so sometimes they don’t cover anything at all.”

”One way to get around this, especially for weekly newspapers or small dailies, is to get someone one your team to volunteer to send in results. That’s obviously a lot of work, but it might smooth the way for the newspaper to begin providing more coverage.”

”Another thing is to make sure and let the media know if something newsworthy is going on. Perhaps your team won four races in a row or your driver went straight from his daughter’s high school graduation to the racetrack and won, anything out of the ordinary might catch an editor’s eye, particularly if it has a good people angle.”

”Be sure and don’t badger editors too often, or they’ll dismiss your requests. But if you call a couple of times of a year with story ideas, you’ll probably get some attention. And don’t just look out for your own team – let them know if there’s another interesting story at the track. The more familiar they get with racing the more coverage you’ll get.”

The editor of a weekly racing newspaper also has some tips in that regard.

”Be professional and persistent,” advised Clint Elkins, the editor of Racing News. “We don’t use 80% of the weekly press releases we receive because of space, but there are times when we have extra space that we will put press releases in. So, in having someone that does a weekly press release or a monthly newsletter, the most important thing is persistence. Also, if a driver or a team runs in a particular series this is a very good way to receive coverage. Most series advertise with newspapers and magazines and when they submit an article there is a better chance it will make that weeks paper.”

Even though there are many similarities, the weekly and bi-weekly newspapers are a different animal from that of a monthly magazine’s needs and requirements. A monthly magazine shies away from hardcore results for the most part and concentrates on ‘feature’ articles and stories. 

”For our magazine, all we’re looking for is a good story,” stated Tim Lee. Lee is the editor of DIRT LATE MODEL magazine. “That can mean big wins, a breakout season, or just some unique aspect of a race team. Dry statistics rarely make good reading, but a new team or major change in program often does.”

“A driver such as Earl Pearson Jr., who’s been on the verge of a breakout for so long, having a career season was another good example of what we’re looking for. But it doesn’t have to be on the national level. We recently ran a feature on Ray Guss Jr., a successful veteran, who has cut back on his program and gone back to racing locally. That kind of thing is interesting to most readers.”

”The human element is also important. There are few things more interesting to readers than a racer who has to overcome adversity in order to compete. The bottom line is: people are always more interesting than numbers.”

”If you’re trying to draw attention to yourself, you should let people know when something interesting is going on. With a couple thousand or so Late Model teams out there, those of us in the press never know everything that’s going on. Sometimes you just have to tell us. You’d be surprised how many stories are generated in our pages by a team member, friend or family member contacting me to tell me something interesting about some driver or team. It’s generally that simple.”

So what would make an editor decide to give a driver and/or a team coverage or assign a reporter or columnist to cover the driver/team?

”Working for a racing publication, we’re looking for interesting stories and angles that we haven’t seen before,” bottom-lined Turner. “Obviously, we’re going to cover the sport’s top racers and the guys who are winning, but interesting stories, particularly an angle that involves non-racing people stories is what everyone wants to read.”

“Most nights at the track, we circulate and chat with whoever kinda fishing for such information. Even the littlest notion about something we get from talking to drivers or crewmembers or family members might turn into a neat story. That’s the best stuff because few newspapers have the manpower and desire to chase the difficult stories.”

“So here’s a tip: if something of interest is going on, make sure someone who’s writing knows about it. Be familiar with local and racing media so you can chat and share information with them because drivers are sometimes oblivious to what a writer thinks is interesting.”

”It’s not coincidence that the chattiest and most personable drivers – Bill Frye, Bob Pierce and others – often get good publicity. It’s because they recognize an interesting story and know how to tell a good one, too.”

One important and useful tool many drivers and teams use are press releases and newsletters. The one thing that aggravates though is too many distribute them to too few media outlets. As stated before, a handful of message boards, a couple news websites and maybe a racing paper or two will not serve its purpose. It has to be mass distributed to all racing media (newspaper, magazines, radio shows, television) as well as mainstream (local/regional newspapers, magazines, radio stations sports departments, television station sport departments).

But as far as the how the press releases and newsletters are written and produced and distributed there are do’s and don’t’s involved that if adhered to, could result in more exposure, especially with the racing media. The editors were asked if they thought drivers and teams using press releases and newsletters were viable and important to their respective publications.

”I find them useful to supplement a race report, but I must admit I don’t read through all of them every time,” said Turner. “One complaint I have is that some of the reports are three paragraphs regardless of what happened. In other words, just by glancing, you can’t tell the difference between the week the driver dropped out with a 22nd-place finish or the week he won a $10,000 race.”

“My suggestion is to skip the weeks when there’s nothing newsworthy. And when your driver does something noteworthy, file a lengthy report with quotes, details and notes that reporters won’t get from the typical track report. That could spark an interview request or at least someone adding to a race story and bringing more publicity for the driver.”

“I would always encourage a race team to send out press releases,” added Elkins. “The more the media knows about someone and/or knows someone personally the better the chance is that there press release will be printed. Newsletters need to be sent to fans and sponsors more than the media. When someone walks up to your trailer to take a picture of your racecar or buy a t-shirt, ask them if they would like to receive a monthly newsletter. Keep a box in the trailer write down their name and addresses.”

Again, from the perspective of a monthly, features oriented publication, the material needs to be timely and newsworthy to be considered.

”To me, they are largely just another thing I have to delete from my email on a daily basis,” commented Lee. “It doesn’t do me any good to know where Joe Schmoe is going to race this coming weekend. I understand that sponsors need to be kept in the loop, and that’s where those things are probably most needed. I occasionally use bits from driver press releases for short news items, like usually the launching of a new website or something newsworthy like that. That being said I wouldn’t discourage teams from using them, but I’d be careful about what I considered newsworthy perhaps.”

To create newsletters and press releases (as well as media kits, which will be discussed in another installment at length) one does not need a journalism major. Anyone who can type, has basic English skills can do it. If the driver isn’t inclined or doesn’t have the budget to hire a professional, find an enthusiastic college or high school kid who is interested in journalism, or just creative. Maybe a wife, girlfriend, son or daughter. Contact the journalism professor at your local college and see if there is any student interest in doing work of this nature. 

And when you send them out, whether via snail mail and/or email, make sure as many receive them as possible. Saturate the racing media and your local media, but make sure all your sponsors get them with extra hard copies if requested. As for newsletters, print off a stack at your local Kinko’s or Staples and take a stack to each of your sponsors’ businesses for them to set out on the counter for their customers. You never know, one of their customers might be a businessperson with an interest in using motorsports to advertise and market through.

But it’s all about preparing them in a professional and concise a manner as possible and distribution! Do not forget mainstream media! Send your promotional material out to every daily and weekly newspaper (and the free ‘ad papers’) within a 50-75 mile radius. If you have a hook or a story, a professional press release or newsletter, or maybe you caught a sports editor on the right day, you may get a call. But they don’t know anything about you, and likely nothing about the sport of dirt racing, so educate them. Make them aware! Try to spark some interest.

It won’t get done unless you make some effort.

As for knowing how to get them to the media you will need to compile a media mailing list. The majority of your press releases, newsletters and other promotional material can be sent via email that in turn helps with your budget. As for the columnists you will need to go through the racing publications and compile their email addresses from the bottom of their columns.

To compile a list of racing media internet website email addresses visit: http://www.speedwaysonline.com/HTML/internetmedia.html

To compile a list if racing print media email addresses visit: http://www.speedwaysonline.com/HTML/printmedia.html

Mainstream publications are another matter. The easiest way to gather local and regional mainstream newspaper and magazine email and snail mail addresses beyond purchasing all of them is to visit:

The Internet Public Library – http://www.ipl.org/div/news

Walter Clinton Jackson Library News & Newspapers Online – http://www.library.uncg.edu/news

Newspaper Links – http://www.newspaperlinks.com/

NewsDirectory.com – http://www.newsdirectory.com/

(c)2006-2008 Doc Lehman

Race Team Media Exposure Part One

From 2006: In very recent years dirt Late Model racing has proven to be one of the fastest growing and more stable segments of Motorsports. After all, it was only a few short years ago that dirt Late Model racer Donnie Moran won an astounding $1,000,000.00 race at Eldora Speedway in Ohio.The professional teams that compete on the two major circuits, mainly the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, all have luxurious two-tier, Winston Cup quality haulers, full-time crew-members and all the bells and whistles one could possibly utilize.

But the car owners can only absorb so much. And while purses are at an all-time high, and $10,000 to win events are now commonplace, the escalating costs of maintaining a professional dirt Late Model team is reaching fever pitch.

The race teams are finally seeing the ‘big picture’ for what it really is in terms of publicity, promotions, public relations and marketing. But it has only begun and there is expansive room for growth and improvement. Reporters, writers and editors are often asked by teams or team associates what it takes to get more media coverage which helps promote the driver, team and their sponsors. Media coverage is important and not only getting exposure in racing publications and websites, but also in mainstream publications, like your local newspapers.

Unfortunately, whether it’s your regular racing publication, the local newspaper or Rolling Stone, in most cases they won’t come looking for you. You need to actively search it out and one of the best ways to do this, as well as attain more exposure in more outlets for your team and sponsors, is to do it yourself. Press releases and newsletters distributed to not only the media but also to your sponsors and potential sponsors are very, very important.

You don’t need a journalism degree, you just need someone with the basic concepts of who, what, when, where, how. You need to get your news and information to as many sources as possible. Columnists who you will find in most racing papers will use some or all of your information. If they get enough of it, it might spark interest in them to seek you out to do an interview or story.

And it takes more than a simple press release.

Ozzie Altman, who owns Victory Lane Communications, a marketing and public relations firm, keeps a close eye on the sport of dirt Late Model racing. Altman has been working in dirt racing marketing, publicity and broadcasting for several decades. Some of his ideas can be implemented for any type of race team whether Late Model, Modified, Sprint Cars or any other division.

”The simple and basic media relations tools are there,” stated Ozzie Altman of Victory Lane Communications. “It’s not rocket science, it’s just plain old common sense and one of the most important aspects of getting the word out about Dirt Late Model racing is for individual teams to start taking a more active role in Media Relations.”

”If each and every team would commit to take an active, progressive approach to spreading the news, then everyone involved in Dirt Late Model racing would benefit.  It only takes a commitment to spend a couple of hours each week contacting their local/regional media to keep them abreast of their own activities.  Either by phone, personal visits or press releases.”

”Then the efforts of publicists for individual tracks, sanctions and sports writers already in tune with Dirt Late Model racing would be multiplied.  But every team has to take action.  Whether they hire a publicity service to achieve these goals or have a team or family member do it, things will remain the same until more teams take an active role.”

There are obvious reasons to work at this. And it has to be done right, which Altman, a seasoned professional in the Motorsports industry, preaches with an intense furor.

”I cannot for the life of me understand why it has taken so long for teams to figure this out, especially when teams that are doing it are garnering tremendous media coverage outside of the world of Dirt Late Model racing.”

”The series and sanctions are doing their jobs, for the most part, it’s time now for the race teams and tracks to add fuel to the fire and actively work the media while also making concerted efforts to make impressions that can drive more media and civic focus to this exciting segment of the sport.  They aren’t going come to YOU.  You have to actively pursue these channels and get busy, or have someone do it for you.”

”Throw the egos in the trashcan and understand that at the end of the day, Dirt Late Model racing is still a hidden American treasure.  If you want it to grow, then get after it.  If you don’t want to take an active role, then quit crying about why television and the mainstream media don’t cover your events.”

”What reasons are you giving them to cover you?  Who’s out there pitching storylines?  Who’s out there showing solid demographic numbers and getting in the face of corporate decision makers?  Like I said, it ain’t rocket science, but it takes action.  Not words, but action from six in the morning until midnight and then some.”

Altman does see some hope and even some progress. He remains hopeful for more. 

”Hopefully the major teams will all make a commitment to get on track with these efforts,” commented Altman. “No doubt I would like to add a dozen or so additional clients to our daily grind, but a team or family member can get the job done, if they are willing to.  It just takes planning, commitment and follow-through.  If there are teams out there who don’t want to invest in a publicity service, that’s fine, but they need to do it in-house and do it on a consistent and continuing basis.”

”Maybe these folks don’t know quite how to go about it, then there are people like us who are glad to lend them a hand, help show them the ropes, but the bottom line is that it is something that has not received the proper attention that is needed from the teams.  It is their responsibility to their own efforts and to the sport.”

Altman also sees a ‘trickle-down’ or ‘trickle-up’ benefit in these promotional efforts by teams.

”Can you imagine what type of positive impact it would have for promoters?” offered Altman. “Dirt Late Model racing has not even hit on 3 cylinders when it comes to working the media, creating marketing partnerships and forging ahead with promotional concepts that drive people to the racetrack and drive customers to retail locations to buy products and services provided by sponsoring companies.  It’s the choice of the team’s involved.”

But regardless, the sport of dirt Late Model racing, at this point in time, is healthy, strong and apparently stable. But one must always be ready for contingencies. And one must continue to search for expansion of opportunities.

”It is going to grow even more during the coming season, it’s inevitable, as long as teams make the most out of their visits to markets and make a positive impact with the media and local commerce in the area of tracks at which they compete,” explained Altman. “The economic conditions should continue to drive more fans back to the grass-roots of stock car racing which should continue to broaden the fan base.”

”With the competition level at an all-time high and the personalities of the drivers making it appealing to the general race/entertainment fan, the allure of Dirt Late Model racing is pure excitement.  The drivers realize the loyalty of the core fans and continue to concentrate on making impressions on the media and motorsports industry that are positive for the sport.  Dirt Late Model fans continuing to share their love of this type of racing with fans of other sports and other types of racing will also impact the growth.”

Which makes the sport appear to be on even more solid ground.

Now, race teams, promoters and sanction officials only need take advantage of it with maximum effort.

(c)2006-2008 Doc Lehman