The Most Painful Wounds

oger Penske, on a sunny May Day in Gasoline Alley at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway more than a quarter-century ago, taught me an invaluable lesson of life and business.

“The most painful wounds,” racing’s most successful corporate executive and team owner said, “are self-inflicted.”


“Because they can easily be avoided.”

Penske’s words -- and wisdom -- sped back into my consciousness when NHRA released its 2010 Full Throttle schedule.

That announcement capped an August when only congressional representatives at town hall meetings took more heat than the Lords of Drag Racing.

I won’t consume space here by recounting NHRA’s long hot summer of discontent.  Truthfully, Jeff Burk and Jon Asher and Susan Wade and Bobby Bennett have done that more knowingly than which I am capable. Their reporting and commentaries likely have already been consumed and digested by the DRO readership and certainly are readily available to those who have not. (God Bless Google!)

As it pertains to the ’10 calendar, however, I can inform you from personal experience.

I’m based in beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona, which among its many pleasures, is one of America’s three top golf destinations. From my home, it takes less time than required to complete the opening round of pro eliminations to reach the Tournament Players Club, site of February’s FBR Open.

Even if you’re not a golfer, you’ve heard of the FBR (which stands for Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group, a financial/capital markets corporation). It’s the biggest party on the PGA Tour – setting records for attendance, charitable contributions and after-hours socializing at the nearby “Bird’s Nest” -- and infamous for the short par-3 16th hole. That’s the one surrounded, amphitheatre-style, by fans who loudly cheer shots that are close to the pin and lustily boo those which are not. In 1997, Tiger Woods aced it, and the roar would even have surpassed four-wide Funny Cars at Charlotte. The ovation rings in my memory (maybe, even in my ears) to this day!

The annual total turnstile count exceeds 500,000. A PGA Tour single-day record was set in 2008 when 170,000 spectators showed up. That event raised some $8.6 million for charity, distributed by the Thunderbirds, the local and respected organizing group.

The Greatest Spectacle in Golf – and a trip to Arizona in winter -- makes the FBR an annual “must” for media and fans alike.