Chicanery: Happy, Happy, Happy

Henny Ray Abrams | September 23, 2010

There’s just no pleasing some people.The good folks at the Daytona Motorsports Group have gone out of their way to put a smile on every face in the paddock. To turn those frowns upside down. To put a spring in everyone’s step. They’ve made sensible calls on racing issues. They’ve stopped the favoritism in technical issues. They’ve addressed timing and scoring issues. As a goodwill gesture, they invited most of the paddock to the narcolepsy-inducing end of season awards banquet at the Barber Museum free of charge. In short, they’re trying.As part of the outreach program, team principals and members have convened twice. The first meeting was held for a select group at Infineon Raceway. It was productive. The most recent meeting had four times the voices and it wasn’t pretty. The reason you probably didn’t hear about it is that AMAPR/DMG boss David Atlas politely asks that the discussions remain private. Unfortunately, Atlas isn’t aware of the Hell’s Angels credo that three can keep a secret if two are dead. And when the number is in the 30’s…The main topics of discussion were ECU’s and testing, and there was a predictable divergence of opinion, even among some teams. Some say electronics are impossible to police, so they believe it’s a lost cause. It isn’t. Sophisticated electronics aren’t allowed in the SuperSport class. How hard was that? Instead, there is no limit to what can be spent on electronics. You want Rossi’s Magneti Marelli electronics? Not a problem. Just sign here. There are cheaper alternatives.Testing couldn’t be easier to police and needs to be. The M4 Monster Energy Suzuki and Geico Powersports/RMR Suzuki teams tested ten days before the race in South Jersey. Is it a coincidence that John Hopkins finished a season best third in Sunday’s race? Or that Eslick won one race and Cardenas the other? Granted, both Eslick and Cardenas have multiple race wins this season, but it didn’t hurt.The very simple solution is to set a time period after which a rider can’t test and hold firm to it, because what we’re talking about isn’t as much testing as practice. If the teams want to test, do it the day after the race, not the week before. And don’t allow anyone to ride at the previous weekend’s club race. This would require the cooperation of the track owners, some of whom schedule club events for the previous weekend.There was a spirited discussion on the merits of both issues. Those who take a populist approach and want to make racing more inclusive for the occasional rider had one point of view, the elites thought the opposite. The discussion reached an ugly nadir when one team owner, who has a horse in the championship race, and, in front of about 30-35 team members, plus AMA officials, spewed at AMA Pro Racing’s race boss Dave McGrath, “On the record, f— you.”A quick digression. Before Al Ludington was the tech boss for AMA Pro Racing, before there was a DMG, before DMG ruined road racing, putting far too many good people out of work and hiring too many bad ones, before they were struck with the medically identifiable condition known as Wacky Ideas Syndrome-see rolling starts, pace cars, pace bikes, etc.-before their business and race practices killed attendance at race tracks nationwide, which not only put the track owners in a hole, but also made it impossible for them to find money to make safety improvements, thereby endangering the health and well-being of the riders, before they played favorites with some teams and punished others, before they made silly rules and enforced them dogmatically, before all that, Ludington considered going to work for the other AMA, the one which was incompetent in a different way, and not venal.Ludington, who coaxed, prodded, and motivated Miguel Duhamel to his best days, didn’t get the job. When I asked why, he told me, “I failed the physical. They took a back x-ray and found I had a spine.”At Auto Club Speedway last year Monster Kawasaki’s Jamie Hacking was overheard making a disparaging remark to his wife. One AMA official, who has since left their employ, heard it. For that Hacking was suspended indefinitely, then forced to apologize and fined a sum which just happened to equal his weekend’s winnings. What he was being punished for wasn’t that profanity, but for vowing, along with Mat Mladin and Jake Zemke, not to race in the rain at the Speedway, which shouldn’t even be considered. What’s our hatemonger get? Nothing.Now, what would happen if a NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner stood up at a teams’ meeting and told VP of competition Robin Pemberton to eff off? Pretty good chance he’d be stricken by the hammer of Zeus. And yet, so far nothing’s been done to the irritable team owner.How can that be? How can AMAPR be so spineless as to let one of their officials be humiliated in a public forum in front of everyone who matters in the paddock? The truth is that in a very large way DMG boss David Atlas brought this on himself.The team owner is, or was, an Atlas confidant. Atlas hasn’t chosen his confidants wisely, which is why he’s in this pickle. The paddock is filled with well meaning, knowledgeable people who have the best interest of racing at heart. McGrath is one of them, as is Ludington. There are others whose opinion he should solicit. Top of the list is my friend Jim Allen, who retired from a stellar career at Dunlop with his sterling reputation intact. (If Jim was still there, there wouldn’t have been a surprise front tire at NJMP). No one in the history of AMA road racing was better informed. He was trusted and welcomed in every transporter, well, all but one. He followed the Hell’s Angels credo, even if he didn’t know it. And when the company screwed up, as they did more often than he’d have liked, he took the heat.AMA Pro Racing’s management is trying their best to be the anti-Edmondson. They’re trying to be the nicer, cuddlier AMA. They want everyone to like them, to ask them to the prom, to tell them they love what they’ve done with their hair. They need to knock it off.Seeking a consensus is a wise thing to do until it turns into the Tower of Babel. Soliciting the opinion of 30 or 40 people may be a nice thing, and it might satisfy the needs of the insecure to feel wanted, but it’s not a very clever thing. Pick the best and the brightest and listen to them. Make a decision. And, as Eric Cartman would say, “Respect my authority!”Ironically, trying to please everyone is what many condemned in the old AMA. That and not making decisions. These guys make decisions, rightly or wrongly, and take the heat, if there’s heat to be taken. And now they have to decide whether they can accept being humiliated. If they don’t, they deserve everything they get and everyone will suffer.There’s just no pleasing some people.

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.