Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sports Business Daily's Author Q&A


Catching Up With NASCAR Exec And Author Andrew Giangola

NASCAR Dir of Business Communications ANDREW GIANGOLA this week debuts his new fan-friendly NASCAR book, "The Weekend Starts On Wednesday." The 300-page book, with a foreword from TONY STEWART and an afterword from KYLE BUSCH, includes stories about the sport's fans and a plethora of photos.

Giangola took time recently to chat with Staff Writer Jessica Collins about his first published book and how his encounters with fans have blossomed into lifelong friendships.

Favorite NASCAR track: It doesn't get any better than Talladega and Bristol.

Car you drive: Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Last time you got a traffic ticket: I was going zero miles an hour while "blocking the box" in a traffic jam getting into the Holland Tunnel (in N.Y.) this past summer.

Favorite NASCAR book (besides your own): LIZ CLARKE's "One Helluva Ride;" JEFF MACGREGOR's "Sunday Money;" DAVID POOLE's "Tim Richmond: The Fast Life and Remarkable Times of NASCAR's Top Gun."

Gadget you couldn't live without: BlackBerry.

Q: Where did the idea for the book come from?

Giangola: I joined NASCAR in 2003 and fan loyalty is obviously such a big thing in the sport -- it's what we sell the sponsors on, it is really the glue that keeps the sport going. In my PR job I've always been talking about NASCAR fans … and as the years passed by I got frustrated with "Who are these fans? Why are they so devoted?" I was thinking about them in platitudes, and I wanted to go explore their fandom and loyalty. I was also hearing great stories, spectacular stories. … So I went to (NASCAR VP/Corporate Communications) JIM HUNTER and said, "Why don't we do a book, and I'm happy to write it." Jim immediately embraced the concept, so I kept collecting stories.

Q: What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?

Giangola: Time. I'm one of those authors who doesn't have the luxury of retiring to the beach house and be able to tap it out with the surf crashing in the background. … While I was working races and once the media center closed down for the day I would go out to the campgrounds and the infield and I had a camera and I would take pictures. I got some really good stories that way. … It took about two years (to write the book). I would try to do as many stories as they came in or I got the idea. I would go to my hotel room and write at night and I actually wrote a few of the chapters on my BlackBerry.

Q: If someone could only read one chapter of the book, which one would you want them to read?

Giangola: "A Purple Heart and a Titanium Leg" because, for one, the military never gets enough attention and acknowledgment and exposure. The second reason is John's story is so amazing and his attitude is so amazing. If you read that chapter, he's literally imploded and his body was shattered from his heels to his shoulder blades. The fact that he survived and then RICK HENDRICK -- who didn't publicize what he did at all -- comes in and reads his story in the newspaper and gives John the homecoming he never had and gets him home for Christmas. … These stories (in the book) are of sorrow and heartbreak but also of redemption and jubilation, so I think what's unique about the book is that through NASCAR and fans you do see a slice of America. Hopefully we can illuminate some truths about the sport and its place in America and a cross section of NASCAR nation.

PHOTO: Giangola (l), With Miss USA Kristen Dalton (r),Who Is Featured In His New Book
(TOO BAD YOU CAN'T SEE THIS. Gaby says I was "leering" which I hope is an SAT word to make the insult at least personally worth it.)

Q: Was there anything you wanted to add to the book that you thought twice about because of your role with NASCAR?

Giangola: I certainly needed to be careful. The infield is a place that gets very crazy at night and sure you could write a caricature of what the infield is like, but I tried not to get very tabloid-ish there. I wanted to tell it like it was and NASCAR didn't put any restrictions on me. I think one thing that I did, and they approved it, is that we tackled some sensitive issues like how fans felt about moving races to different parts of the country. … This is not a 300-page press release. It is not a book that reads like corporate speak or like it came from some PR guy, and I am so grateful to NASCAR for letting me do that -- for letting me use my sense of humor and unique way of looking at things.

Q: Do you want to write another book?

Giangola: Absolutely. The question will be how will I find the time? I have a few ideas for books in motorsports and if NASCAR supports the topics I definitely would love to write another.

Q: What advice do you have for anyone looking to write a book?

Giangola: To find and use your voice on a topic that you are passionate about. Readers can just smell anyone going through the motions, but passion for the topic can jump off the page. Putting your words on paper can make some people feel very vulnerable and exposed, but you got to take a chance.

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