Another indication it’s the end of one era for NASCAR… news this week of the apparent unceremonious cessation of Jayski via ESPN. For anyone who worked in the industry over the past 20 years, Jayski was a paradox depending at times upon what you actually did. On one hand, as the sport moved into the national sports scene and the internet grew rapidly, it evolved from simply an often unsubstantiated online rumor source into a leading independent news resource for the sport – not just for fans, but those working in the industry. However, for those of us on the management/contract side of the business, it became increasingly difficult to keep major driver, team and sponsor news from leaking – and Jayski was typically the first site where such news broke. And frankly by the mid 2000’s, I don’t recall news of any major NASCAR driver/team change not being scooped first by Jayski – except one.
On or around June 10, 2006 word reached media (including Jayski) from the team that we had made the extraordinarily difficult decision to approach Hendrick Motorsports about Brian Vickers parting ways at season’s end. But no one in the sport over the course of the next few weeks knew exactly where he might go next as we worked thru related legal and contractual matters; only I knew that entire short list of parties who eventually had access to that information, and let them know that fact – thus setting clear expectations for ensuring strict control over its release. For me personally at the time, from a strategic manager perspective, it was far more critical using the confidentiality of the information to gauge and establish high-level trust amongst the stakeholders including Red Bull Racing and Toyota/TRD, than the PR/media implications.
When we eventually signed Brian as lead driver in the No. 83 with Red Bull Racing, just issuing a boilerplate PR wouldn’t due for Red Bull – they truly innovated on nearly everything they did! So we came up with something a little different together with Steve Pegram at RBR – letting Brian break the news himself nationally live on Dave Despain’s “Wind Tunnel” – at the time the leading national TV racing news program on SPEED Channel. Afterwards, we even commemorated the event with limited edition copies of the news penned by Red Bull Racing’s official artist and autographed by Vickers and Despain.
Now it’s critical to understand another reason why this was unique – because it was well before the social media age of instant self-reporting via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. And I can honestly say that for the 24 hours leading up to the broadcast, the news outlet we were most concerned about scooping our announcement was… Jayski.
So when Brian finally came on TV live from a hotel in CA shortly after completing the race at Sonoma to announce he was “Taking the (red) bull by the horns”, we had him well-prepared and both he and Dave did outstanding jobs as usual. Watching the footage today, ironically we realized that Dave actually scooped Brian during his introduction. But everyone involved took a great measure of pride in the fact that we had indeed scooped the entire sport and media with Brian’s nationally televised announcement – including most notably Jayski (although I recall Jay posting it there within minutes of the broadcast)! Credit a very short list of people for their respect and discipline including my staff at BVLLC, RBR including Steve and Jim Gunning, and Dave Despain and his production team at SPEED for accomplishing that – no small feat indeed!