Saturday, August 11, 2007
Sparks Fly On SPEED With "Tradin' Paint"
Every racing weekend on the NEXTEL Cup Series, SPEED gathers John Roberts, Kyle Petty, and a member of the NASCAR media for a thirty minute conversation about the hot topics of the week. Normally, things are interesting and opinions are varied. The Watkins Glen edition of the show, however, brought out some strong statements and had the fans at the SPEED Stage making lots of noise.
Bob Pockrass from NASCAR Scene was the media guest, and things got off to a strong start with the topic of Robby Gordon. Finally, some issues were addressed that the fans could understand about this confusing situation.
Pockrass compared Gordon's actions to a MLB batter getting called out on strikes, and then standing in the batter's box until the pitcher threw another ball. Petty disagreed with NASCAR carrying a Busch Series penalty over into the NEXTEL Cup Series by sitting Gordon out of Pocono.
The fun began when Kyle maintained that NASCAR doles out harsher penalties to Cup regulars when they drive in the Busch Series. Pockrass argued that they should receive stiffer punishment because they have nothing to lose, and basically get in the way of the actual Busch Series regulars running for the championship. That did not sit well with Kyle, who bases his argument on the larger premise that all drivers are equal at the drop of the green. This was a good one.
The potential demise of the Busch Series next season has been a hot topic all year long. After the COT was made the fulltime NEXTEL Cup car for 2008, it no longer made sense for Cup owners to run Busch teams. The cars are not similar, so now there was no information that could be transferred over to Cup. Many Cup owners were now said to be eyeing the Truck Series because they are similar to the COT in many ways. If they leave, the Busch Series is in big trouble.
Petty is true in spirit, but sometimes lacking in reality. Pockrass contends that the Cup teams train their drivers, pit crews, and mechanics on the Busch Series and then get called up to the Cup level. Petty disagrees, but does not have a leg to really stand on. Petty says the money is important, but Pockrass disagreed completely. Petty was getting steamed, and his point was again that it was not the responsibility of the Cup owners to support the Busch Series. Pockrass carries some weight in the journalism world, and was having none of the Petty party line.
Kyle got so steamed he basically said Pockrass was full of BS, had a smoke machine to blow smoke you know where, and then blamed the media. He does that a lot. While it is great to see debate on SPEED, Petty seemed to be tired and cranky and a looked a lot more like a middle-aged guy who had a long day than a NASCAR driver and owner.
The show closed with Robby Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya as the topics. While both parties agreed that Robby Gordon could win, the vote was split on Montoya. As the show closed, Petty continued to insist that Montoya could win, and Pockrass finally gave him the ultimate shot when he said...so could you. That was a cheap one.
When SPEED replaced Michael Waltrip with Kyle Petty on this show things improved and the show developed a strong character. While Kyle is pleasant and easy-going with most members of the TV and radio media, he simply does not like the print reporters.
The "Media Center gang" have proven over the years to be a surly lot who, much like the drivers, do not forget who did them wrong. While the group has become more diverse over time, there is small core of real insiders who continue to dominate both newspapers and the Internet. Everyone else, like me, is just watching the action from the outside.
Let's hope that SPEED continues to bring-on TV the reporters that feature prominently in our racing world. This type of debate is exactly what is missing on TV, and SPEED is the only network dipping their toe in the water. When NASCAR gets brought up on ESPN's Around The Horn, the stick-and-ball gang yells "no NASCAR or hockey." Over on PTI, Kornheiser and Wilbon have absolutely no clue to this billion dollar national obsession. Just like the New York Times, NASCAR does not exist for them.
If SPEED can continue to develop this show, and get more topics covered and more reporters heard, it will be better for the sport as a whole. On the Internet, anyone with a keyboard and a mouse can play God for a while, but eventually those who know and those who don't are exposed. On TV, however, it is a different world.
Conversation and typing are two very different functions for human beings, and doing a show live in front of an audience is a great test of one's ability to make a point, and then back it up. Kudos to Kyle Petty for continuing to spread his wings in the TV world, and to SPEED for continuing to offer this important show.
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