Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Who Says ESPN Broke The Junior Story?

There was a big grin on the face of NASCAR Now host Erik Kuselias on Tuesday evening. In dramatic fashion, he told the viewers that ESPN had "broken" the story of Dale Earnhardt Junior moving to Hendrick Racing. Then, he brought on reporter Marty Smith, who was introduced as "the man who broke the story." Wait a minute, is that screaming I hear?

The collective yells heard after Kuselias made that statement came from the print, Internet, and radio reporters who had been on the Earnhardt story since the press conference at JR Motorsports was announced. Early Tuesday afternoon, the ESPN.com website still had only one story saying Earnhardt's best opportunity was with Gibbs Racing. Nothing else about Junior's future, just this one story.

When the press conference was announced, telephone calls were placed to the major teams that were in the running for Junior's services. One-by-one, they denied their involvement until the only "big boy" remaining was Hendrick Motorsports. Back when I was in High School, we called this the "process of elimination."

Almost simultaneously, stories began to appear by several major news organizations and NASCAR "beat writers" about this developing situation. One of the websites that was updated with this new information was ESPN.com. There was also local Charlotte writer David Poole, the AP with Jenna Fryer, and even Jayski.com had an on-going and constantly updating story. The story itself was "breaking" because of the press conference announcement.

Don't get me wrong for one second, we like and respect Marty Smith. But, NASCAR Now comes on at 6:30PM and Erik Kuselias clearly said "ESPN broke this story." He then introduced Marty as the man who broke it. There is a very big fundamental problem with those two statements. The problem is NASCAR Now.

NASCAR Now is the same TV series that had a black hip-hop DJ as the host who then mysteriously "disappeared" a while back. He knew absolutely nothing about NASCAR and squinted a lot. NASCAR Now is the same show that had Kasey Kahne on live to ask him if he "still stood by his statement that David Stremme was fat." NASCAR Now is the same program that would not show Busch Series highlights on Sunday...of ESPN's own Busch races.

NASCAR Now has the "well-intentioned" comments of Brad Daugherty as their "expert analyst" in the studio. NASCAR Now has Tim Cowlishaw from Around The Horn who yesterday said the problem with NASCAR is..."they have no rules." NASCAR Now is the same show that gives five minutes to review the ESPN.com NASCAR Fantasy League, and then does not show Craftsman Truck highlights.

NASCAR Now is struggling in almost every way possible. They promote their own NASCAR Busch Series races, but not the NEXTEL Cup events...because they are carried on other networks. They promote their own ABC/ESPN IndyCar and NHRA events inside NASCAR Now, but not the Craftsman Truck Series races. They completely ignore the NASCAR Regional Touring Series.

Since NASCAR Now came on the air, it has been about ESPN and ABC Sports and not about NASCAR. Now, after one solid hour on Monday of ridiculing NASCAR in almost every possible way, the lead story on Tuesday is that ESPN is suddenly the leader in NASCAR news? That somehow we are supposed to believe Erik Kuselias when he says "ESPN broke the Dale Junior to Hendrick story." Sorry guys, not buying it. No sale.

If this had been Allen Bestwick, Ryan Burr, Mike Massaro, or even Jerry Punch viewers might have listened...and believed. But, we have seen Erik Kuselias bash NASCAR at every turn, question every decision, and hype every tiny racing incident into a major problem. He has never established the kind of credibility he needs to have for NASCAR fans to believe what he says. Why should they?

There is only one voice that answers when the question is "who says ESPN broke the Junior story?" That voice is Erik Kuselias, and he screams...ESPN does!!

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