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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Back to the Future
8/15/07

Cairo, NY—My colleague, Lisa Davidson, makes some astute observations in her recent Road America Diary piece I've Seen the Future and It Is Us regarding Champ Car's worsening media relations.

Specifically, Lisa accurately describes and accounts for the dwindling number of press corps members that CCWS credentials. More importantly, she notes the declining number of media members who seek to be credentialed by the Champ Car Company.

The high cost of travel and lodging is obvious. Big-city street festival area hotels and restaurants are particularly pricey. Additionally, many media outlets simply cannot afford the expense of sending representatives to international venues, perhaps making it psychologically easier for them to skip some of the other events, if not the entire schedule.

It was just ten years ago that, driving from here in upstate New York, I was able to attend Champ Car events at Nazareth, Cleveland, Toronto, Mid-Ohio, and Michigan plus the Atlantic race at Trois Rivieres, all during a single racing season. Eighty-sixed from the regional drive-to menu the previous year, the fan-friendly Loudon, New Hampshire bullring would have been the destination for at least one additional road trip.

Believe it or not, after clocking all of those miles on my DeLorean, I still had a vacation day left over with which to extend the long New Year’s weekend.

Currently, with gaps in the schedule, trebled fuel prices, and the elimination of most of the clustered drive-to venues in the Northeast, Mid-West, and Pacific regions, it has become impossible for journalists, commentators, and photographers — especially those covering races on their own dime or with a limited expense account — to jump in a car for even a two-race road trip.

Back to 1997. Let the record show that while a few Internet fan websites were already online it was the print media guys with their CART hard cards that ruled the roost. Do the names Gordon Kirby and Robin Miller sound familiar?

Not to single out any particular credential holder, but the kid who filled the water cooler bottle in the media center had a better chance of getting a "howdy" from one of the hard-carders than a green pea freelancer like me, let alone some upstart website reporter. Talk about ripples on the lake making their way to the opposite shore.

To their credit, Jeremy Shaw, editor of the defunct Racer spin-off ChampCar magazine and Chris Economaki, who founded National Speed Sport News, would occasionally take the time to read pieces penned by wannabe race writers. But even second-tier print media like Ned Wicker's Indy Car Racing and the Toronto Sun, which needed plenty of filler for its large annual Molson Indy tabloid, would never even respond to an unsolicited submission.

After about a year of sending commentaries via snail mail to the old-timer who sent postcard responses that he personally typed on an ancient manual machine, Mr. Economaki finally published one. It was a pro-Hawaiian Super Prix piece that ran, completely unedited, in one of his overstuffed year-end “Thanks for your support this year!” ad-filled editions.

Later that year Jeremy Shaw let me have a column in which to be un-journalistically creative/comically outrageous. It was limited to 275 words and subject to additional editing to shoehorn it onto the page — a very difficult assignment for a renegade scribe whose rants run at least double that length.

Fast forward ten years.

The sparse media attendance Lisa Davidson describes certainly helps make one of her points — that dot-commers like our Deep Throttle contingent have become the backbone of the Champ Car World Series press corps. Furthermore, with all but a few of the old-timers gone, we now also have the seniority to back up such a claim.

Nonetheless, I do not envision the creation of a new world order.

Those of us who have covered the series for so many years will probably not be given our due, let alone the opportunity to make an occasional paycheck by writing for the Champ Car Company's website. However, I'll be happy to admit I'm wrong as soon as a racing history piece by Russell Jaslow, a tech article by Mark Cippoloni, or a race weekend account by Lisa Davidson appears at champcar.ws.

Meanwhile, as always, when my phone doesn't ring I'll know that it’s Kevin Kalkhoven.

Copyright © 2007 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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