Sunday, August 19, 2001

Auto Racing Insider

Shur-Good Racing Report boasts big ratings

        People ask all the time, because they know this is a Reds-Bengals town. The question: “Can you believe how many people follow auto racing now?”

        Yes. And tonight, many of them will be listening to the “Shur-Good Racing Report” on WLW-AM (700). The show airs from 7-9p.m. each Sunday during racing season and cuts back to one hour (7-8) during the winter. And right now, it's hot.

        “We had an 11.9 rating for the last period for the 25-54 age group,” said Bill “Seg” Dennison, the show's host. “We were No.1 for the period.”

        Sister station WEBN-FM (102.7) was No.2 for the ratings period, Dennison said. WLW program director Daryl Parks, who has the exact numbers, was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

        Suffice to say the Shur-Good report, which Dennison hosts with Dennis Neal and Bob Schmidt, is wildly popular.

        “It kind of varies with the season, but right now a lot of people are tuning in,” Dennison said.

        The show also gets some “name” guests. This year, NASCAR truck star Jack Sprague has called in, as have Busch drivers Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Purvis. IRL star Buddy Lazier has been on, and the show often gets NHRA drag winners the same night.

        It's tough to get NASCAR Winston Cup drivers, at least right after races.

        “Sunday night is always their travel time,” Dennison said.

        But 2000 Winston Cup champion Bobby Labonte appeared on the show last year to talk about his season title. In past years, guests have included Mario Andretti, Richard Petty and Tony Stewart.

        The show has built a loyal fan base. WLW's signal reaches most of the United States at night, and fans have called Dennison via cell phone while sitting in postrace Winston Cup traffic.

        RAY FIRED: Greg Ray, who finished 13th in last week's IRL race at Kentucky Speedway, has been fired by car owner John Menard.

        Ray won the 1999 IRL championship for Menard but has had a bad 2001. After winning at Atlanta in April, he hasn't been in the top 10 since.

        Jaques Lazier, younger brother of IRL star Buddy Lazier, will replace Ray.

        Menard, a Wisconsin billionaire, has employed several high-profile drivers, including Tony Stewart. Stewart was an IRL star for Menard before moving to Winston Cup.

        SPLIT CITY: The chances of CART and the IRL unifying grew slimmer this week when CART signed a new TV deal with CBS and Fox.

        The contract will take the series away from ABC and ESPN, who own the rights to CART's rival, the IRL, through 2004.

        Mike Soltys, ESPN's director of communications, told the Indianapolis Star that the CBS-Fox package came together when ESPN officials stopped negotiating.

        “We're going to put our resources behind the IRL because we feel it has greater growth potential,” Soltys said.

        GARLITS RETURNS: Drag racing legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits is coming out of retirement, at least briefly. If he can settle on sponsorship, Garlits hopes to drive at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park on Labor Day weekend.

        Garlits, 69, last competed in 1992.

        His goal is to achieve a career-best 300 mph and qualify for the Top Fuel field. He was the first driver to reach 190 mph, 200, 240, 250 and 270 in NHRA competition.

        Contact Tom Groeschen at 768-8450; fax: 768-8550; e-mail:

        • Kentucky Speedway coverageAuto racing coverage

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