Friday, May 25, 2007

Power list an inexact science

Naming the most powerful people in NASCAR might be the most interesting thing I do all year. It’s absolutely one of the most maddening.
The list that appears in newspapers and on today is our 10th annual listing of the sport’s movers and shakers, and every year things change a little bit.
Last year, for example, I sent out emails to about 50 of my colleagues in the media and asked them how they’d do the same list. This year, I’ve gone back and forth with several industry people who’ve offered suggestions and criticism and I’ve put the list together.
For a couple of years, I also ranked the most powerful companies in the sport. Last year, we went from the 25 most powerful to a list of 43, matching the number of cars in a Nextel Cup starting lineup.
Some of the people I talk to about the list each year don’t like it that I sometimes list more than one person in a given position. I can understand that, and I’ll admit that I probably allow myself to use that “cheat” a little too much. But this year, for instance, how would I separate Dale Earnhardt Jr. from his sister, Kelley Elledge, who are an unbreakable team when it comes to determining where Earnhardt Jr. is going to race next year?
I will tell you that this year’s list looked very different every time I messed with it. I moved people in, moved some out. I moved some up and dropped some down – sometimes several positions at one whack.
If I looked at it 100 more times, I’d probably still make changes. You find yourself comparing people who wind up close to one another, trying to figure out how you can justify putting this guy ahead of that guy but behind a third guy. At some point, you just have to throw up your hands and say that’s about as good as it’s going to get.
I will plead guilty up front to perhaps assigning too much power to people in the television business. I wrote about sports on television before I started covering racing and maybe that makes me lean that way. But there’s no question television plays a critical role in what happens in racing today, so maybe I am not that far off base.
Power, of course, is a fleeting thing. One thing you worry about is that in the time between you have to turn this list and the time it actually runs something major is going to happen. If, for instance, Earnhardt Jr. got his deal done before the list went public, the car owner who signed him would automatically be too low on the list.
It’s also very hard to decide which drivers to list where.
Beyond Earnhardt Jr., whose influence is obvious right now, the list includes Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Jeff Burton. Mark Martin certainly has been and continues to be an influence on his peers, Jimmie Johnson is the reigning champion and Juan Pablo Montoya could be an emerging force. You could make arguments for at least those guys.
One thing I’ve learned in the past couple of years is that I don’t yet, even after nearly 11 years of doing this, feel comfortable that I’ve got the right people from the marketing side of the sport on this list. This year, I’ve got three lawyers and/or agents on the list and there are probably at least that many more I should be considering every year.
What I am saying is that this is a long way from an exact science. It never was meant to be. It’s aimed at making people think about a side of the sport they might not always think about.


Anonymous said...

It may not be an exact science but it does make interesting reading. I appreciate your time and effort in putting it together.

Anonymous said...

David, I haven't even heard of some of the people on your list, but listening to you explain it on Morning Drive, and then reading your explanation here, I understand why they are included.

These are the people behind the scenes that fans don't hear about, thus no anything about.

Exact science or not, I agree with tsrfan, it was interesting reading.

Have a happy and safe holiday!


Anonymous said...

But there's no doubt that you are the true mack daddy of all journalists....your refreshing honesty makes you #1!