I know, the first thing you’re thinking is “Who in the world is Brent Maurer?” Recall that this has become “The Danica Season”, and we are bombarded by constant media coverage of her every move. While reporters have scrambled for one more interview or one last quote from Mrs. Hospenthal, one man has stood the last two years as the buffer between The Media and Danica!
That man is Brent Maurer, Director of Public Relations for Rahal Letterman Racing.
After viewing the infamous video from Michigan, it seemed like a solid idea to catch up with the poor guy who had to walk along and help pick up the cones Danica had managed to knock over. As you may have noticed, even Mr. Hospenthal was keeping his distance while Brent had to keep doing his job and remain with the driver.
Brent was kind enough to agree to 5 Quick Questions despite having a schedule that keeps him busy long after the season ends (“I have been busy working on a media stunt with Honda for early October.”) He also said that despite what Jeff Simmons PR Guru Karl Ueberbacher may say, it’s rather taboo for Public Relations folks to do Q & A. But My Name Is IRL sent a relentless stream of
reporters emails until he cracked, and Brent not only answered but even provided his own introduction and disclaimer.
Thanks for this opportunity. I had to get special sign off on this from the rest of the Kangaroo Court. You should give a special shout out to Mark Robinson of Bridgestone/Firestone, Arni Sribhen of the IndyCar Series and Pat Caporali of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. They waived any PR violations and subsequent fine for this so they basically said no to a FREE steak dinner. How downright charitable of them.
Geez, these PR folks are tighter than the Freemasons. Ladies and gentleman, Brent Maurer.
1. So how did you get into this position with RLR? Is your background in auto racing PR or something else?
My background is in media/public relations. I started working in sports while I was a Radio/TV major in college. My first gig was as an intern with the Pacers while I was in college. I moved onto two years of working with the Celtics while I was in grad school in Boston. That was the late 80's so I got the chance to watch Bird and McHale play in 'The Garden' and I basically had courtside seats for two seasons.
After graduating with a degree in Mass Communication Business from Emerson College I moved back to Indianapolis and took a job with some people I knew from the Pacers who were running the Indianapolis Ice. At the end of that season I was one of four people that the owner selected to move to Columbus, Ohio to start a new hockey franchise, the Columbus Chill. I was with the Chill for six seasons handling PR and promotions. I then had an opportunity to take over as the Director of Media Relations for the American Hockey League (NHL's Triple A). I moved to Springfield, Mass and lived there for two years.
I heard through a contact in hockey about the position at Team Rahal in 1999. I sent Team Rahal a resume in February of 1999. I interviewed later that week and was offered the job two-days later. I have been with the team since.
2. Was that you in the infamous "Mad Danica" footage from Michigan this year? What were you doing when that happened and what are your usual raceday duties?
Guilty as charged, that was me. Whenever a RLR driver stops on track, mechanical or by contact I, or my counterpart who worked with Buddy Rice and Jeff Simmons, try to find the driver. It helps to have a friendly face to help them navigate to the transporter, pit lane for TV or medical center if needed. It also helps, as was in the case of Danica at Michigan, to buy a bit of time for them to cool down for their TV interview. As soon as I heard she was stopped in Turn 1 I started walking towards her. I had to wait for the race to end, but as soon as I caught up with her on pit lane she started venting.
My usual race day duties over the last couple of years has been the primary media contact for Danica. I keep a close eye on her schedule and coordinate her movements around the track for sponsor and media events and eventually get her to where she needs to be for racing. It is a balancing act with Danica to maximize the media and sponsor ops but still make sure she has enough time to prepare for the race and to compete as an athlete. I stand in the pits and feed the pit reporters and media information from the team. After the race I coordinate the media requests and make sure we take care of what we need to accomplish. After the day is over I type up the release and send it to the media and sponsors as well as post it on rahal.com.
3. What's the craziest thing you've had a fan ask Danica (or any driver) to do? Anybody ask her to autograph a Hostess Twinkie, some Secret deodorant or a gallon of Peak antifreeze?
For Danica the craziest thing might have been at Kentucky when fan came to the Meijer appearance and had her autograph his arm. The guy was covered in tattoos and he went from the autograph session and had her autograph tattooed to his arm. He showed up at the track the next day just to prove the tattoo was real.
Danica is unique in that just about everybody that comes to get her autograph has a special item to have signed. Most drivers are simply signing hero cards, but in her case she is signing Sports Illustrated, die cast cars, FHM photo's, trading cards, photos, posters etc.
I have to add that I never knew there were so many mint copies of SI around. She signs several hundred SI's a weekend and they are all immaculate. I had a rep from SI tell me that her issue was one of their five biggest selling issues of 2005.
The craziest thing I have ever seen a driver asked to sign was when I worked with Michel Jourdain Jr. We were at a Firestone appearance in Cleveland and a lady asked Jourdain to sign her dog. He initially declined, but the lady insisted so eventually he signed with a washable marker.
4. A few women have commented that Paul Hospenthal is a fine looking man. Do you handle PR for him and if so how does his wife feel about that?
I'll have his people answer this. Just kidding.
If a media outlet wants to talk to Paul I will help coordinate the interview, but am I pretty busy with the media for Danica. Danica encourages Paul to do as many or as few interviews as he wants to do.
(Ed. Note: You may think that’s a silly question, but the man is a doctor AND he marries a celebrity. He’s what every Oprah-loving mother hopes her child becomes. Paul could be next Tony Robbins. Seriously…OK, not so seriously.)
5. Let's say you could do PR anywhere other than racing. Which famous people would you like to work for?
If I could choose my ultimate PR job I would handle media for Danny Ainge and the 16 time World Champion Boston Celtics. I love working in racing, but NBA hoops is my passion. That said if I worked in the NBA it would probably ruin my love of the sport so it is probably best that I just watch the C's on NBA League Pass and stay their number one fan in Ohio.
If I weren't in sports I would enjoy working in politics. After all politics is the ultimate sporting event.
I think he’s on to something. The only thing better than seeing Brent helping Danica would be seeing Brent picking up a pylon knocked over by an angry Hillary Rodham Clinton. That’s entertainment.
Our sincerest thanks to Brent for taking the time to provide such thoughtful answers and our promises to never, ever ask any Rahal driver to sign a dog. Best of luck to both Team Rahal and the Celtics in 2007, although that’s just because the Phoenix Suns are in the other conference.
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