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Racing Wizards Brought Out From Behind Curtain

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 8 2012

INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard made a good call on the future of Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

Want to waste a good 15 minutes some day? Try telling a stick-and-ball loser that racing is as big of a team sport as is basketball or football. More of a team sport than baseball. Then get ready for some really comical indignation.

Fact is, of course, team work is more important to success in racing than it is in any other sport. A single screw-up in racing by any of a hundred team members – or by one of thousands of people on the periphery – doesn’t just cost a point or a run. It can cost a life.

It’s just that the drivers get all the attention. They are the headliners who get the endorsement deals, the life of constant red carpets and are asked to co-host “LIVE! With Kelly” (OK, two out of three ain’t bad).

RacinToday.com staff members were recently asked to name a non-driver whom they think played the biggest outside-the-spotlight role in racing in 2011: The most important player “behind the curtain”, as one staffer said.

The following are the senior writers’ picks for the 2011 Wizard of Oz Award.

Mike Harris: INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard.

“Bernard obviously made some mistakes along the way, but he gave a moribund series a push forward with some new ideas and an energy that IndyCar has been lacking for some time. The death of Dan Wheldon is a huge blow to him, the series and race fans everywhere, but that does not diminish the fact that Bernard did breath new life into IndyCar and should continue to do so.”

Jeff Hood: Speedway Motorsports Inc. COO and president Marcus Smith.

“Following in the footsteps of his father, Bruton Smith, and longtime Charlotte Motor Speedway

Marcus Smith is playing bigger role in NASCAR. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

promoter “Humpy” Wheeler, Marcus Smith is constantly making news as he attempts to attract fans to the 1.5-mile oval. His new high-definition big screen that overlooks the end of the backstretch has become a big hit with fans.”

Jonathan Ingram: Crew chief Darian Grubb, formerly of Stewart-Haas Racing. He was on the pit box for Stewart’s championship-winning campaign.

Rick Minter: Ronnie Crooks of Stewart-Haas Racing.

“The chassis/shocks guru moves from Gibbs to Stewart-Haas. One team goes up, the other down. Now you know one of the reasons why.”

Jim Pedley: NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France.

“The 2011 Sprint Cup season may have been the best ever. EVER. You can argue about France’s methods, you can despise the commercialism, you can rip the rules, you can hate the Busch brothers. But, week to week, the on-track competition was superb. And the ending was even better. NASCAR’s 2011 season was a classic.”

John Sturbin: NASCAR Hall of Fame voters.

“To all the panelists who passionately lobbied and then voted for Richie Evans’ induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame for 2012. We native Romans are incredibly proud to see the nine-time NASCAR Modified champion – and representative of grassroots racers nationwide – enter the HOF’s third class alongside Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Inman and Glen Wood.

Deb Williams: Darian Grubb.

“To know he wasn’t returning to Stewart-Haas Racing and then to turn the team around from August to the end of the season to win the championship was a phenomenal feat. It will always remembered as one of the sport’s greatest comebacks.”

Larry Woody: NASCAR team owner Roger Penske.

“Dumping a talented driver like Kurt Busch took guts and sent a message to boorish athletes that’s been overdue in all of pro sports.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 8 2012


  • Mr. Tony Geinzer says:

    My Wizard of Oz award would go to those who voted Richie Evans into the NASCAR HOF. Long overdue.

  • Terry says:

    The head of FORD racing and the FORD family stepping up to make sure they stayed relivent and competitive in ALL RACING venues…
    Good for USA world wide…..