Finally!  Something positive.

Kudos to new NHRA president Peter Clifford for making his first big decision a universally positive one.  NHRA’s hiring this week of writer, columnist and commentator Terry Blount as its new vice-president of Communications and Public Relations was a huge step forward for the sanctioning body and the sport.

That said, it’s not a move that immediately will restore any of the credibility lost in the debacle of the previous four months when no one, at least no one in a position of authority, saw fit to provide racers, fans, the media or anyone else an explanation for the extended absence of the company’s then president, Tom Compton.  

Imagine, if you will, Marcus Smith, president of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., or Don Schumacher, president of DSR, missing for four months without comment from their respective offices.  The outcry would be so loud and overpowering as to make a Top Fuel dragster sound like a purring kitten.
However, to me, the fact that the High Sheriffs didn’t see a need to address the situation isn’t nearly as disturbing as the fact that nobody outside of the NHRA family seemed to care that our ship was sailing without a captain.  

To my knowledge, there were no inquiries from Sports Business Journal or USA Today or ESPN The Magazine or Sports Illustrated or AutoWeek or the LA Times or any other national news outlet.  

That speaks to the wealth of prestige we have lost since the passing of NHRA founder Wally Parks who, thankfully, is not here to see what has become of his life’s work.

Of course, had Blount been hired earlier, he might have been able to keep this particular ship off the rocks or, at the very least, been able to offer some suggestions that would have minimized the damage to its keel.  

But, timing notwithstanding, the move gives me a glimmer of hope for the future – just a glimmer, though, nothing more.  

There will be a period of adjustment, of course, when we see if the newest VP is granted the autonomy to do the job.  I would say that Terry Blount today is like a transplanted heart or liver.  Over the next few months, it’ll be touch-and-go as to whether he is accepted or rejected by the host.

Although I believe he has the necessary skill and knowledge, I don’t think success is assured due in large part to one of the revelations in the announcement press release.

According to that document, Bount “will report to Gary Darcy, NHRA senior vice president of sales and marketing.”

It has been my experience that while Marketing and PR SHOULD operate in concert, they usually DO NOT. They almost always have opposing agendas, a fact that invariably leads to conflict.  It’s like putting the Advertising Department in charge of program or publication content.  In either case, objectivity and creativity usually are the big losers.

I do recall, however, a time when marketing and PR did effectively work together without major incident.  That was when the late Denny Darnell was running the NHRA PR department and Susie Arnold was the NHRA Marketing Director.  They worked exceedingly well together and, I suppose, that is possible with Blount and Darcy, too.

Regardless, if Blount is given just a little latitude, it’s possible that our sport still has a chance to reconnect with the mainstream media and transform itself into something more than just an afterthought at the bottom of the “in other sports” column.  

I‘m encouraged in that belief by the fact that there still are so many bright, enthusiastic, passionate people in this sport.  I’m further encouraged by the fact that some of them even work in Glendora.