Check out the lean angle of Jeff Ward as he stuffs Frenchman Alex Thiebault in a turn at the downtown Columbus (Ohio) Supermoto in October of 2003. To me Wardy is the greatest Supermoto rier of all time. Not bad for a guy in his 40s.
I was looking through some old back-up CDs and came across this scan someone sent me of one of my photos that was in the San Francisco Chronicle. This photo of Ricky Carmichael at Hangtown was taken with a $300, Olympus E-100RS that had something like 1.2-Meg resolution. The photo not only ran in the Chronicle, but was also Yahoo Sports Photo of the Day!
I always liked the shot because you can see that every eye at Hangtown was on RC.
Just goes to show you don’t aways need the top-dollar gear to capture the moment.
By Larry Lawrence
When I went to work for AMA Pro Racing as communications manager in 1995 I was relatively new at media relations work. My experience was limited to a couple of years doing media work for the WERA Formula USA Series and in pro tennis for the RCA Championships, an ATP Tour event, and the Jell-O Championships, a lower-level WTA Tour event.
When I came on board at the AMA, Pro Racing was paying big bucks to a PR agency. This was the start of Paradama and the AMA was actually getting into promoting, or co-promoting races. The agency’s job was to pitch racing to media for these events. After just a few weeks on the job I realized that I did a better job pitching racing to the media than this big agency. I recommended to then AMA Pro Racing head Tom Mueller that we drop the agency and let me tackle the task myself.
I came in with ambitious plans for the communications side of Pro Racing and I think Mueller thought I should move into the job slowly and get my feet wet before taking on too many tasks. He was right under most circumstances, but I’d moved to Westerville, leaving my family temporarily back in Indy, and I had nothing to do but work. Either Bill Amick or I were the last out of the building every night and it was usually around eight or nine at night, sometimes later.
Mueller kept the big-buck agency for the rest of the year, but I went ahead and took the bull by the horns and told the agency I would be “working with them” and basically took over the show and pitched the media myself. The bottom line was I loved the sport, I knew the personalities well and I could pitch story ideas with more enthusiasm than some slick L.A. agency. After all, to them AMA Pro Racing was just another one of their hundreds of clients, and probably a lower-priority one at that, staffed by the least senior members of the agency.
I don’t mind saying that our little PR crew (Connie Fleming and myself) kicked butt and took names. Every year I worked as a staffer, and later a contractor, for the AMA, we got progressively more media for motorcycle racing in America. We tracked our progress with clippings, TV and radio time. After a few years I was on a first-name basis with sports editors, TV producers and radio directors in every market we had races.
There are no tricks in getting placements of motorcycle racing stories in radio, TV and newspapers (and now internet media). It simply takes hard work, friendly persistence and solid follow up. You’ve got to work the phones, email, go meet and greet folks in person, take them lunches and dinners, go to the nation’s media centers and meet with news agencies and other major media outlets. You’ve got to send t-shirts, coffee mugs, nice pens and other swag so they remember you. All this stuff works over time.
Outside of the excellent outreach done in Supercross, I don’t currently see that kind of effort being put into most forms of pro racing, with the possible exception of motocross. Some of the roads racing promoters do a good job with their local media without help from the AMA, but I’ve been told by a few of them that they’re not getting the level of support from AMA Pro Racing (DMG) that they’d received in the past.
By far the biggest gap in media work is in the AMA Grand National Championship. This lack of communications work for the Grand Nationals has been the case since R.J. Reynolds left the sport in the early 1990s.
There is no more exciting form of motorcycle racing than pro flat track. The racing is close and many events are decided with exciting last lap passes. Bikes are going two and three abreast into turns at triple-digit speed. The series’ riders are accessible, friendly and more than eager to do media work, yet very little is being done to promote the sport, even by some of the promoters, who depend on ticket sales!
As always the excuses are the same when it comes to strong media support of the Grand Nationals, the economics of the sport can’t support it. I understand that argument, but I also understand to sell sponsorships (especially outside the industry) there must be media coverage in place. Does the chicken or egg come first?
After covering the series for a year and a half now for Cycle News, I truly believe the AMA Grand National Championship is not only the most traditional form of motorcycle racing, it’s more than that. It’s a valuable property that should be treated as such. The DMG should put the resources into the sport to let more people know about it.
We’ve already built it. They will come. We just have to ask.
Photos from the 25th anniversary Lima AMA Grand National this last weekend.
Big crowd as usual… Great final with Bryan Smith and Jared Mees banging bars all the way to the flag… Nichole Cheza was the crowd favorite and she had the speed to make the main until a flat tire put her out…. Stephen Vanderkuur was blazingly fast in the Pro Singles class… The brunette trophy girl was a beauty… Hall of Famers Dick Klamfoth, Scotty Parker and Ronnie Rall were on hand… Lima is so poorly lit it’s difficult to get a camera’s auto-focus to kick in at night… Kenny Coolbeth looked like a fish out of water on the Lima pea gravel… Chris Carr made a spectacular save in the final after hitting a rut in turn 3… Another classic Lima.
It was a crazy, work-packed weekend for me. Saturday I drove to Ohio for the 25th anniversary edition of the Lima Classic AMA Grand National. Personally, this is my second favorite Grand National behind Peoria. I know all the Springfield faithful out their will think I’m crazy, but I just love the skills required to ride well on a cushion track like Lima. There’s nothing like seeing riders in full-lock broadslides through Lima’s pea-gravel turns.
Anyway, I drove to Lima Saturday morning, covered the race then did my Cycle News posting and was back on the road to Indy by midnight. I arrived home at 3AM and set my alarm for 6AM to watch the World Superbike live scoring from Donington Park. I got the time difference wrong, I went back to bed for an extra hour when I found the first race wouldn’t start until 7AM.
Now here’s the craziest thing – I can’t watch WSBK, so I sit there staring at a scoring monitor to try to figure out what’s going on and text Mary Spies (Ben’s mom) to get details. Well this morning my brother called from Camp Salerno Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan. He’s a contractor there and they get WSBK on satellite from India!
So here’s my brother in Afghanistan calling me on his magicJack giving me play by play of the races. Turns out a bunch of the troops there are Spies fans and they all piled into my brother’s room to watch the races on his satellite TV and cheer on Ben.
During WSBK race two my brother yells “Haga crashed!” At first I was thinking about the championship implications and the opportunity for Spies to catch Haga in the championship. Then my brother described the replay. “Man that was bad. The bike chased him and pounded him. He’s got to be hurt pretty bad.”
So an hour later or so I’m talking to Ben on the phone (I do news releases for him). He’s just swept the weekend and basically is right back in the championship hunt, yet he’s not at all jovial on the phone, the exact opposite in fact. I thought about asking him why he sounded so down, but he had tons of press to talk to so I kept the conversation short.
A few minutes later I text Mary and told her Ben sounded unusually subdued. Mary called me right back and told me the reason – Ben was told of Haga’s crash and potentially serious injuries right before he talked to me. From what Mary told me the initial reports had Haga much worse off than what it actually turned out to be, so then Ben’s down mood made sense.
That’s one of the reason’s I like Ben Spies so much. Here he’s just had one of the biggest victories of his career and all he can think about is the condition of his rival (and friend) Nori Haga. Spies is truly a class act.
Here’s to a quick recovery for Haga. Spies wants to win the title, but I know he’d rather do it racing against Haga instead of winning while the hard-working veteran Haga sits on the sidelines.