FIRST PERSON/OPINION: By Michael Gougis Every time you think the current regime in charge of AMA Pro Road Racing can’t come up with a worse business deal, Daytona Motorsports Group digs deep and outdoes itself. Signing off on a TV package that somehow overlooks televising AMA Pro classes during the MotoGP race weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca–the biggest stage of the season for the AMA Pro series–is crazy enough. But how it was done–and how DMG, dba AMA Pro Racing, failed to notify teams, fans or even the event promoter of this little detail–may be even worse. Television is the lifeblood of sponsorship for professional sports. No TV, no sponsors. Sponsors give teams money to go racing because they want their logos and their names in front of television audiences. It is not an accident that motorsports sponsorship exploded around the time that television cameras started showing up at racing circuits around the world. So television coverage of what is arguably the most important single race of the season–in terms of profile and publicity and the attention it gathers–is critical to the sponsors who pour money into this series. Not only did the AMA Pro Racing’s David Atlas sign off on–and actually brag about–a TV deal that offers series and team sponsors no exposure at the two events scheduled at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (apparently, there are no plans in place yet to televise the AMA Pro races during the September 27-29 World Superbike weekend, either), he didn’t bother to tell the teams that rely on sponsorship money to make it to the grid. And apparently, he had no plans to say anything to anybody until the pit-lane and hospitality suite TV monitors came up blank during AMA Pro sessions at the actual event. Or maybe not even then. Imagine what series and team sponsors must be thinking at this point: “Exactly what am I getting for these checks I keep writing?” By not telling anyone that these races were not going to be televised, AMA Pro’s David Atlas has made everyone who’s made a sponsor pitch based on television exposure look like a liar at worst, or at best, ignorant of the most important details about publicity for the series. AMA Pro Racing management’s behavior has undercut the credibility of teams reaching out for sponsorship. It has left the series once again looking like a minor-league ball club. And it has placed into jeopardy the ability of teams to obtain sponsorship that puts them on the grid and creates a race in the first place. It also puts in jeopardy the ability of the series itself to attract and retain sponsors, who no doubt are wondering what other little problems DMG has neglected to reveal. It’s funny. Every year, I get Turn Four grandstand seats for the MotoGP event at Laguna Seca because I like the big-screen displays. This year, unless the track itself manages to hook something up, those screens will be blank when the AMA Pro riders are on the track. And that will make a powerful statement about the ability–or lack thereof–of the current AMA Pro regime (still being headed by Atlas, despite what recent games being played with his title are designed to indicate) to promote and advance this sport. I admire DMG majority owner Jim France and his dedication to protecting and preserving professional Superbike racing in the U.S. I mean that seriously–Jim France has been a good friend to motorcycle road racing, the way that only a truly passionate fan can be. But it may be time to start deploying the gangplank for some of those who run the series on a day-to-day basis, starting with the man described in the press release announcing the 2013 TV deal as “Managing Board Member of AMA Pro Racing.” I’ve been around this sport for a long time, and lots of people talk to me. Not a lot of them have good things to say about what is happening right now. Perhaps most disturbingly, the complaints vary widely. I suspect that the smoke we see on the horizon may soon be a wildfire. This just in: As of noon on Wednesday, July 17th, the official AMA Pro Racing website (www.amaproracing.com) listed broadcast dates for September 14-15 from the round at New Jersey Motorsports Park only, with nothing shown for the August 2-4 event at Miller Motorsports Park. Despite that, when reached by phone, Miller Motorsports Park Media and Communications Manager John Gardner told Roadracingworld.com that he understood that there would be TV coverage of the AMA Pro event at the track. See the broadcast listings on the official AMA Pro Racing website here: http://www.amaproracing.com/rr/events/tvlistings.cfm?year=2013
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