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Monday Conversation: Live Nation's Denny Hartwig

(Sorry we were a little late on our Monday Conversation, but with West Virginia University in the Sugar Bowl, well, it was a busy day getting ready to watch freshmen Steve Slaton and Pat White run wild over and past the University of Georgia Bulldogs.)

The busiest man in the world of supercross this week just might be Denny Hartwig, Live Nation’s go-to man for Amp’d Mobile Supercross media concerns. We somehow got through to him in between phone calls with major news media outlets, as well as few smaller ones begging for press passes for this weekend’s Anaheim Supercross.

Live Nation's Denny Hartwig
photo: Frank Hoppen
Racer X: Denny, first of all, Happy New Year! It’s almost time again for supercross.…
Denny Hartwig: It sure is. It seems like every year when the holidays roll around and our busy season is starting, it’s hard to get a lot of things done. Everybody here is working, but some of the people we have to rely on at stadiums, television stations, wherever … they’re not always working, so it makes it difficult—even something as simple as ordering catering for a press conference. Like, this guy from Angel Stadium says he’s not back till next Wednesday, and I’m like, “Wait a second, we have our press conference on Thursday, so we need to order some food!” Little things like that make it difficult, but it’s going to be a fun season and I’m looking forward to it. It was neat to go to Canada and get those races going. And just like some of the riders, our staff that travels, we had to work out some kinks with things that we forget normally, so it helped out and we’re looking forward to this weekend.

I know that the races in Canada, with James and Chad and Ivan following Ricky up there, it was a really good preview of what we’ll see. But there’s still nothing like Anaheim, is there?
Right. The hype is amazing. You can always tell Anaheim is coming around because my phone rings way too much. There are just so many more people that ride motorcycles in Southern California than there are in Toronto or Vancouver, so all of those people want to be a part of it. A lot of the people that are in the industry are from that area too, so there is definitely a lot of hype up there and I’m hoping to see some good races. That makes my job easier. It’s easier to pitch a story that has a different winner every weekend.

Well, ballpark, how many press credential or media requests do you get for Anaheim 1 each year?

I would say probably 300-350. It’s funny too, because what I always try and tell people is, make me want to give you a credential. When Sports Illustrated calls me up, it’s not like I have to ask them a thousand questions—they always have a very professional approach. They give me a nice letter, they tell me what they’re going to do, who’s going to be there, etc. These people are here to do business; they’re not there to be fans. So whenever I get requests like that, I want to get a request where I’m like, “I want you to be there.” Because at the end of the day, I need to report to my bosses and say, This is the type of coverage we’ve received and they did this and this. And the more I can keep my bosses in the loop on what we’re going to be getting, the easier it is for me to do my job.

Chad Reed
photo: John Clark
And from my experience in the nationals, sometimes you’ll get someone who has a website or a local newspaper in, say, Iowa, which really isn’t going to sell any tickets to the upcoming races, but they still want three or four credentials to a race in Pennsylvania. And what they don’t understand is while that’s great they’re doing coverage to help the sport, you have to draw the line somewhere—you can’t say you’re media just because you have a camera and a recorder.

Right. The funny thing is that guys will balk at you when you say, Okay, if you’re interesting in doing coverage on this event, we’ll have you out for our Thursday press conference, but I can’t give you access for Saturday night’s race. There’s just not enough room in the press box, let alone the infield.

Well, you have the big press conference on Thursday, and usually that’s when you have the presentation of the championship ring, right?
Right.

And then a whole table full of people will be there. I remember last year, everyone from Travis Pastrana to Heath Voss to Jeremy, Bubba, and Ricky were up there.
Yeah, last year we wanted to change it up a little bit and have those guys up there and let the media ask their questions, because in years past we formatted it so I don’t think it was as media friendly as it could’ve been, and obviously we’re in a constant struggle to learn more. So we changed it up and tried to make it a little more friendly for the media, and this year our goal is to start it right at noon because we also have the live webcast on www.supercross.cc.com. And this year we’re going to have Ricky, Chad, James, and Jeremy McGrath up there, and the layout for it is going to be really cool this year. We’re going to bring in the guys’ bikes and have them up on risers. We’re just always trying to make that press conference a little bit better.

And people can listen beginning at 3 p.m. EST on www.supercross.cc.com, right?
Yes, that’s the official website. We’ll do the Live webcast again this year on Saturday night with Jim Holley and Jason Weigandt.

McGrath, Carmichael, and Stewart
photo: TFS
And the very next day it’ll be an hour-long show on CBS, right?

Yes, and that is coming off the heels of the season preview show, which was awesome. I know Troy Adamitis worked his butt off on that thing, and it seemed like everyone really liked it, and it was amazing. It was an awesome way to preview what’s going to happen at Anaheim.

Well, I hate to bring this up, but what about the weather?
Yeah, actually, I saw that there was bad weather in NorCal, but I have to go to weather.com and check that out.

Nobody wants a repeat of Anaheim ’05, as far as the weather goes, but when you think about it, it was still an amazing race.
Yeah, it kind of showed everybody’s personalities—just from how the whole race unfolded. There were several pictures of Ricky struggling to pick up his bike, and it just seems that guys is always fighting and clawing to get up front. And James made a few mistakes and it was just an interesting way to start the season. In a way it was anticlimactic because everybody wanted to have this awesome race and all of a sudden Mother Nature puts her two cents in.

And one week later everyone shifts their attention to Phoenix and we have an even worse break whenever James Stewart goes down.
Yeah, that was very unfortunate. But this year is going to be cool and I think we’re going to be surprised. I think McGrath is going to do well.

Yeah, Jeremy said in his column for our March issue that he’s feeling really good and he’s coming in a lot more prepared this year than he did before. And this might be it for him, so you don’t want to see the champ go out mid-pack.
The thing is with him, and I think it was San Diego last year when he had the holeshot, any time he comes to a race, he brings a certain amount of excitement to the table, and I don’t think people get too mad when he’s not winning races. Everyone is just happy to have him there and have him go up and race with Ricky and Chad and James. But the best part of this Anaheim is that I’m going to be getting some help this year from Tony Gardea. He’s been around this sport for a while, and he knows the media as well as anybody, so it’s going to be nice having a right-hand man to help get the word out with Amp’d Mobile Supercross.

Right on. Thank you, Denny.

Thanks, Davey!

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