A Big Migrane

No one would be surprised if Andy Houston has a major headache these days.

Earlier this week, Houston was let go as the driver of Herzog Jackson Motorsports, where he drove the No. 92 Excedrin Monte Carlo on the Busch Series.

So far this season, the team is sitting 11th overall. And for the past three seasons the team has finished within the top-10.

But what makes Houston's story so interesting and perhaps incredible, is the pre-season hype the team got in the New York Times, some of which revolved around Houston’s driving and marketing abilities.

In a fairly detailed article in the Times’ Sunday magazine section, Excedrin laid out its marketing plan, why it got into the sport and what it expected from the program.

A large part of the piece was about how Houston was selected to drive.

This far in his career, Houston might best be described as a journeyman driver. He had some marginal success in the Craftsman Truck Series, has a great racing bloodline, and seems to be a generally okay guy.

He struggled in Winston Cup a bit, although his experience with a major sponsor like McDonalds was what helped him land a ride in the Excedrin mobile.

Fact is, in so many words, folks speaking in the Times piece said Houston got the job because of his marketing skills, rather than his driving prowess.

Put another way, they wanted him to sell aspirin.

But lo and behold, a few races in and all of a sudden racing matters more than selling drugs.

Now, this isn’t to condemn the team. I don’t know Houston, have never driven with Houston, or know how he worked with his team. To that end, any team needs to win, no matter how they present the marketing picture.

It’s just terribly ironic that a guy hired with the knowledge that he wasn’t a great driver gets dumped after just a couple races.

What happened to the mumbo jumbo about wanting an okay driver and a good marketer?

That’s the kind of switcheroo that has everyone reaching for the Extra Strength, or is that Migrane formula?

Elswhere, say farewell to Fox’ Jeanne Zelasko, the network’s NASCAR pit reporter.

Because of careful camera work, viewers may not have noticed, but Zelasko has a bun in the oven. Now in her eighth month, Zelasko will appear for the last time this weekend at Atlanta.

Zelasko is expecting her first child in Mid-April and feels its time to get out of the Fox racing suit – before she ends up delivering right there at the track.

Following Sunday’s race, she will return to Southern California and wait with her husband Curt Sandoval, a sports reporter for KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

“Curt has told me that it’s time to come home,” Zelasko said. “He wants to make sure that he meets our first baby before Darrell Waltrip does.”

Speaking of Fox, RacingOne.com reader Larry Rueckert wrote last week taking issue with my assessment of the Fox telecasts. While the announcers are good, he said, the camera work on the telecasts, specifically the qualifying shows need some work.

“My wife is watching a tape I made of qualifying for Vegas,” he wrote. “I can’t watch it. I get so frustrated. The camera follows the car around the track, zooming in so close, then barely backing off.”

What bugs Rueckert is that the directors aren’t showing enough long shots of the cars, so viewers can see what angle drivers are taking around the tracks.

“One cannot even tell whether they are in a curve or a straight,” he wrote. “Why not show a wide angle?”

Good point, Larry, maybe Fox will consider your suggestions.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2002

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