RACING'S FAX WARS
by Larry Roberts
May 30, 1997
Obviously the best way for a motorsports journalist to cover a racing event is to be there. But face it, you can't be everywhere at once. It would be impossible to cover the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race in Odessa, Missouri, the Indy 500, the CART race at St. Louis and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, North Carolina since they all happen on the same weekend.
But this is the age of instant information and that fact has not been lost to the members of the motorsports public information corps. They have discovered the magic of simultaneous fax transmission and those of us who supply them with a dedicated fax number can get press releases from trackside. Between TV coverage and the fax transmissions that come in, motorsports writers needn't leave the comfort of their offices.
But the proliferation of fax transmissions has lead to a minor war. Each of the sanctioning bodies, track operators, team owners and sponsoring auto makers wants to be first into your fax machine. And there's so many of them on-line, it's hard to keep enough paper in the machine to take care of all the traffic.
The ongoing political battle between the IRL and CART is responsible for at least half of the information that comes in. Each seems to sense when the other is getting ready to send and is determined to get here first. The month-long festivities and activities at The Speedway has accounted for at least a third of the rolls of paper that I use up in a week although CART is a very close second. CART is more "star" oriented and sends in a plethora of driver interviews and profiles plus a unique system that gives announcements of last-minute conference calls for writers with specific high-profile drivers.
The SCCA Pro Racing folks get in a sporadic fax on occasion regarding their Trans Am races, but since the schedule is somewhat on the erratic side, they can't be counted on. The ones I've gotten lately seems more like an announcement that the Trans Am is still in business.
Of the minor leaguers, The U.S. Formula Ford 2000 series promoters and the operators of the North American Touring Car Championship are the only ones that make an effort to get their "messages" out to auto writers. Both are run by youthful entrepreneurs who seem willing to capitalize on avant garde methods of promoting their products.
Of the auto makers, Ford is the one that best takes advantage of the fax system to promote its motorsports activities. Last Monday, I received "This Week In Ford Motorsports" which included information on Ford Thunderbird achievements in NASCAR Winston Cup competition, the second place garnered by the Ford-powered Stewart Formula One car at the Grand Prix of Monaco, Tammy Jo Kirk's activities in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck races (she's the only woman driving one), an interview with Dorsey Schroeder on his SCCA Trans Am Mustang, Ford off-road racing participation in a SODA event in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and a quasi-technical report of Ford's 30-year relationship with Cosworth racing engines. The fax was ten pages long. A couple of pages more and it would have qualified as a magazine.
Chevrolet is less bitten by the fax virus, sending along short (by comparison) blurbs on its activities in NASCAR Truck racing and, to a lesser extent, its wins in the Winston cup.
Chrysler has been a "neutral" in the fax wars until recently when one of its Dodge NASCAR trucks won a short track race in Odessa, Missouri and the company was instantly able to crow about the fact that it was the first major win for a Dodge in NASCAR racing in 20 years.
If you write about auto racing and are on the "preferred" list of those who are professionally involved in it, you'll always have a full Monday morning perusing the information that you'll find in your fax basket. The only problem may be one of traffic control. I just hope that the telephone companies are up to the load.