Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Doug Yates Makes His Case On National TV
The serious struggles of several historic teams in the Sprint Cup Series this season has caught many fans by surprise. The twist in the fortunes of Petty, Yates and the Wood Brothers threatens to affect the face of NASCAR on many levels.
While Kyle Petty has been all over the media about the situation at Petty Enterprises, both the Wood Brothers and Doug Yates have been relatively low-key.
On Tuesday's thirty minute edition of NASCAR Now, host Nicole Manske took time to interview Doug Yates. It was nice to see a professional and well-spoken NASCAR veteran who clearly was motivated to return his company to good standing.
Manske challenged Yates on why the performance had suffered, and he was up-front in his response. Doug and his father had let things stay as they were when times were good, instead of making changes for the future. This is a statement that could probably be applied to all three of the historic teams now in trouble.
ESPN's Andy Petree was the right person to comment on this situation as the NASCAR Now analyst. Petree had been a car owner and run into almost exactly the same type of struggle with both sponsorship and performance. His honest evaluation of Yates issue addressed both the positive and negative elements of the situation from a veteran perspective.
It was nice to see ESPN step-up and insert themselves into a situation like this by offering Yates an opportunity to be seen and heard on national TV. This is using the power of the ESPN Networks as a partner to NASCAR. If sponsorship comes from this appearance, I certainly hope NASCAR Now follows-up on that story as well.
Manske also spoke with the highly-excitable Johnny Sauter who is stepping back into the Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix. Sauter was a great interview, and put his cards on the table in terms of having to show what he can do in Phoenix to continue in this ride. Instead of the angry and impatient Sauter of the past, he sounded like a racer who recognized that opportunities like this one do not come along too often.
Petree then put the issue in candid perspective, calling it a "make or break" situation. Saying it was one of Sauter's "last shots" at Cup racing, Petree was also honest in calling Jeremy Mayfield's release "pretty tough." Petree hinted that Mayfield may find himself turning to another series to keep himself in NASCAR.
At this time last year, fans were in full outrage at the antics and hype of NASCAR Now. This season, viewers can casually tune-in expecting the news of the day, analysis from one of ESPN's own broadcast team and top-flight guests. Manske has also integrated herself seamlessly into this broadcast since day one.
In ESPN's last go-round with NASCAR, it was John Kernan who anchored the coverage on the general racing show RPM2Night. That series quietly became the place to go for race fans of all types. Now, after two months of solid programs and professional analysis, ESPN has once again found the right mix to bring NASCAR fans that same level of comfort.
As the season plays-out and the stories continue to develop, the only challenge remaining for NASCAR Now is to grow that new found level of comfort into a solid bond of trust with the NASCAR fans. The last two months have been a pretty good start.
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