Thursday, June 21, 2007
Thanks to everyone who wrote in about the last segment of the 6:30 PM Eastern Time showing of NASCAR Now. ESPN2 had technical problems, which seem to have originated from their Master Control Switching area.
The last segment of the program never aired. There were several attempts to re-air portions of the segment, but they all failed. Earlier in the show, host Ryan Burr indicated that this portion of the show contained the infamous "Vault Cola Driver Pick-Ems."
In this show, Around The Horn's Tim Cowlishaw was doing the picking, and we never saw it. No word from ESPN if viewers called upset, or very happy. When ESPN lets me know what happened I will pass it along. Thanks.
Last year, things got pretty rocky for veteran NASCAR pit reporter Ray Dunlap. As a guest on SPEED's Tradin' Paint, Dunlap found himself trying to make a point about the absence of minorities in NASCAR. Unfortunately, he referenced some issues that clearly should have been out-of-bounds.
Everybody stood-up and did the political thing that is so "in" these days. Ray got suspended for a week, and his name was all over the media and the Internet. SPEED said they were sorry, and Ray said he was sorry. NASCAR said they were "incredibly disappointed." As if they watch Tradin' Paint. Rumor is they were "notified" by a reporter calling for a reaction. Maybe they saw it on Deadspin.com.
Well, now Ray has been working hard once again this season for SPEED, and he was the guest this past weekend on Tradin' Paint. This time, Kyle Petty is alongside as the "driver," but John Roberts is still the host. This was an important appearance for Dunlap, because it was the first show since Junior's big announcement. There was plenty on the table to talk about, and lots of people were watching.
You have to hand it to Dunlap, he waded right into the deep end by saying that the Hendrick advantage right now in the COT will be gone next season. Basically, Dunlap is saying that Junior might be buying today what he won't be enjoying next year...success. Dunlap has a great point as we have seen the other big teams catching Hendrick already this season in COT performance.
Next came the Kyle Busch discussion. Petty and Dunlap tried their best to put a brave face on the fact that Kyle had gotten the boot at Hendrick. Petty sounded like a supportive dad, and his words were well-taken by the live audience. Dunlap suggested Busch would not return to Rousch, but would pick the team that puts him in as the number one driver. Petty politely said...Busch was not mature enough for that role.
Dunlap was then strong in his comments about Denny Hamlin. Dunlap said he has seen Hamlin's crew "just flat screw up." Dunlap referenced his DirecTV Hot Pass experience, and that he had seen first hand a lot of crews this season make very strange pit calls. I think viewers at home would agree with that, but Jeff Gordon's "strange" strategy move kind of worked out.
John Roberts allowed Ray, as a veteran of the Craftsman Truck Series, to speak freely about this series as a whole, and the season to this point. He raised a fascinating point that had not been discussed before in the media. With the COT full time in 2008, there really is no "test" data that teams can get from the Busch cars. The rumor is that Cup teams will be coming back to the Trucks to "test" the elements that are similar to both, like the splitter.
"Someone needs to make a plan," said Dunlap about the fact that both the Busch and Truck Series are so heavily impacted by Cup owners. Kyle's point was if the "Buschwackers" move series, they will just become "Tailgaters" and flood the Truck Series, pushing out the "Truck only" teams. This was a very interesting discussion, and exactly the type that Tradin' Paint was meant to elicit.
In the next segment, the issue of race came up again. Dunlap was solid in his praise of the gifts that mixed race F-1 driver Lewis Hamilton possesses. He added that a big issue for NASCAR right now is that the sport has yet to have a female driver succeed. Dunlap's point, which was similar to the one from last year, is that driving ability and not skin color or gender will be key to the success of anyone in NASCAR. This time, he stayed on course and was completely well-spoken.
Finally, the best part of going back and looking at this program several days later was made very clear. John Roberts asked Dunlap what the headline would be in the papers after Michigan. Without hesitation, Dunlap said "Hendrick Motorsports finally got toppled." A quick check of Edwards, Truex, Stewart, Mears, and Junior as the top five reveal that Ray has a pretty good grasp of things other than the Truck Series.
It was nice to see a hard-working guy like Ray Dunlap back in full stride with Tradin' Paint, and his continuing coverage of the Truck Series for SPEED. Veteran fans will remember that Ray worked his way up the ladder, and unlike some others who prowl pit road, understands the sport very deeply.
This season, Tradin' Paint has proven to be a good platform for key people in the sport to be seen, including Dunlap, Randy Pemberton, Reporter Jenna Fryer of the AP, and even Humpy Wheeler. Let's hope the producers continue to expand their ideas of who can appear, and include new viewpoints. For those who have not seen it, Tradin' Paint is a good little show to program into your DVR.
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