Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Glaring Omissions Taint E:60 NASCAR Story

The Tuesday night story about the Full Throttle Academy's Driver Development Program on ESPN's news magazine show called E:60 stirred-up some interesting reactions.

After TV viewers saw the final ESPN product, email poured-in asking how something so criminal in nature could be allowed to continue? The E:60 story suggested Full Throttle Academy was merely a front to separate naive parents from their money while letting their children live the fantasy of a NASCAR future.

In the program, viewers heard from Tom Baker, the Vice President of Full Throttle. Baker is not a racer and coordinates the media and PR training. It was strange that Mike Calinoff, the President of the company, was not interviewed on-camera.

Calinoff is a veteran NASCAR spotter and the creator of the program itself. Only he could provide the strategic overview E:60 needed for their story. The lack of his presence added to the feeling Full Throttle had something to hide.

The Daly Planet was surprised to learn that Mr. Calinoff was in fact interviewed on-camera by E:60 reporter Michael Smith for over an hour. Calinoff answered Smith's questions about finances, the future of the current students, and the overall Full Throttle Driver Development Program. All of this was omitted by the E:60 producers while creating the final product for TV.

Mr. Calinoff contends that the original point of E:60 interviewing himself and members of Full Throttle was as part of a story about young drivers trying to polish themselves both on and off the track so they could move up in the ranks. Clearly, the goal of his drivers was a NASCAR opportunity.

As it turns-out, ESPN cameras also interviewed NASCAR veteran David Stremme, ARCA team owner Eddie D'Hondt and other current NASCAR drivers on this specific subject. Once again, all of this footage was omitted from the final product.

The E:60 story intimated that families were moving to Mooresville, NC to enroll in a full-time academy. Video in the story showed the supposed "students" at a racetrack and in the academy classroom. In fact, there are only a handful of Full Throttle clients who live in the Mooresville area. The footage shown as the classroom was in reality a one-time seminar on chassis set-up held at a local "chassis shop."

Full Throttle Driver Development Program clients are actually spread throughout the country. The program uses different resources to coordinate the racing and public relations activities of the development drivers with the parents as the ultimate career coordinators. In essence, the Full Throttle staff is the first business managers and PR reps these youngsters have while they live at home with their families.

E:60 indicated that the youngsters are required to return a percentage of any professional earnings to Full Throttle for years after they "graduate" to NASCAR. Calinoff contends than there is an annual fee for services, but clients have the option of keeping Full Throttle as a business management group once they begin racing on a professional level. In that type of racing, business managers and agents are paid a percentage rather than a fixed fee.

Feedback from the NASCAR community and other media members supported Calinoff as a guy who is continually working hard to advance others in the NASCAR world. One check of the Calinoff website displays his current business interests. With his gregarious personality, many folks could not understand why he did not appear in the E:60 report.

The final piece of the puzzle is reporter Michael Smith, pictured on the far right above. One video on the E:60 website contains what is labeled as a pitch meeting. This is normally the time when ideas are put out in a group setting and then selected to be developed as stories.

Since Smith admittedly has no NASCAR knowledge or experience, it is curious that he speaks in specifics about Full Throttle and the issues associated with driver development. Is this a meeting that actually happened before the story was selected or the re-creation of a pitch meeting now that Smith knows all the details and the final version of the segment is already done?

There are certainly two sides to every story. The final E:60 product walks a fine line of innuendo and suggests that extravagant claims to naive parents and significant income for the executives are the keys to Full Throttle. They point to the fact that no Full Throttle Development Drivers are currently in NASCAR and the school cannot guarantee success.

Calinoff says he answered those questions and more during the unseen on-camera interview with Michael Smith in Mooresville. He indicates that none of his current Full Throttle Development Drivers are old enough to race in NASCAR yet. Finally, he is adamant about the fact that he would not sacrifice an on-going NASCAR career by misrepresenting the sport that provides his primary paycheck.

This is The Daly Planet's first experience with the division of ESPN that produces this program. The documentary experience of the executives and the sports experience of the reporters have combined to produce a very interesting result. With these latest revelations about the deliberate omission of a key interview, that result is now very much in question.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.


TexasRaceLady said...

I'm totally befuddled as to why the editors of the film interviews would cut out valuable interviews from Calinoff, et al.

Are they deliberately skewing information to present a distorted view of the school and the people who run it?

This is "yellow" journalism at its worst.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update JD!

It's a shame this story had so many glaring omissions :(. I hate for those who don't know about your site or aren't NASCAR fans to have this negative picture of Mr. Calinoff and his venture :(

Anonymous said...

I'm no E:60 fan - the way they ambushed Tejada was horrible and made them look bad, not Tejada. But did you talk to Michael Smith about this? I understand Calinoff and Baker are giving their side, but to come to the conclusion that what Calinoff and Baker say is true or say is omitted without talking to the reporter also appears questionable to me. I don't see how conclusions can be drawn without comment from Smith, and I don't see that here.
"Feedback from the NASCAR community and other media members supported Calinoff as a guy who is continually working hard to advance others in the NASCAR world."

Well of course they're going to step up to protect their own - and protect their own interests. There were some prominent NASCAR names consulting for this company on the list Geez provided. They are NASCAR professionals, they don't want their names associated with anything awry, even if it is awry.

Daly Planet Editor said...

What does Smith have to do with holding back the fact that the questions he raised in the piece has been addressed by the president of the company?

The point of my column is not whether Full Throttle is the best or the worst, only that in reality the person who could have answered those questions....did.


Anonymous said...

This is what happens when 'news" people decide what thir story is before they actually go cover it, then make what they get suit their original plan, even if it isn't true.

Ritchie said...

ESPN seems to have some issues with the "journalism" aspect of covering sports. I am reminded about your columns regarding the "breaking news" that pops up on "NASCAR Now" every so often.

I have watched this show a couple of times (though not the racing school episode), and I have never been impressed. It is a poorly executed attempt to duplicate HBO's "Real Sports".

Where "Real Sports" uses some of the most respected sports journalists in the world, E:60 seems to always leave the viewer wondering if you are getting the whole story. So, the fact that a key interview was left out of this story doesn't surprise me.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen it, but it doesn't sound like a good bit of journalism.

But just as it didn't tell the positive side, don't 'assume' that this enterprise is a good one. I wouldn't give these people a dime.

Anonymous said...

Smith is the REPORTER on the story. If you yourself are REPORTING that the story walks the fine line of innuendo because of information you've discovered, you are supposed to talk to both sides: The Full Throttle people who say information was omitted and the REPORTER who you believe omitted facts.

Good grief. That is basic journalism 101. I can't believe you're asking what Smith - the REPORTER of the story - has to do with your column.

I forget - this is a blog, where people can pass opinion and one side of a story off as fact. No wonder the great sportswriter Buzz Bissinger derided sports bloggers and their "investigative" writing methods on the Bob Costas show last week.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:01,

I am from a long line of newspaper men. You may have noticed the name on this blog is the newspaper from the Superman comics. It is tribute to my dad and grandfather, both editors.

Smith is not a print reporter, this is a new dynamic where the reporter is deeply involved in the production of the piece. E:60 is a combination of documentary execs and sports TV reporters of all types.

As I mentioned in my column, the footage of Calinoff addressing the very issues alleged in the piece exists. Smith and his Producer have some explaining to do anyway you choose to cut it.

Mr. B's performance with my buddy Will Leitch was disgusting. His reputation will never be the same and his future work will be received quite differently.

To try and throw stones at me by mentioning that incident is beyond juvenile.


red said...

anon 11:01 -- having met buzz bissinger when i was the general mgr of a bookstore, i can tell you that, in my opinion, he is a bully, full of anger and a bad temper that he uses whenever he can in order to force people to do what he wants. having had to try & work with him, even at that limited level, i cannot take any of his verbal rants seriously.
great writer, to be certain, but not always so great in person.

as for taking the reporter in this case to task: is the position that all the reporter does is read the text from the teleprompter? what is a reporter's responsibility to such a story? in my opinion, if he doesn't ask the question about "what about that interview we did with . . .?", then he's just a reader of someone else's text, not a reporter. may be semanatics for some, but for me, the reporter should be certain that what he/she is saying accurately reflects what he/she KNOWS occurred. if the editor omits something that can change the complexion of the story, whose responsibility is it to make certain that omission is corrected? if it's my face/name out there, being tied to that story, you can bet i'm going to make certain it's right.

Desmond said...

John, thanks for the information on the interviews that were left out. Mike Calinoff's name was mentioned on-air and I wondered why ESPN did not air any of the interview. Nor that it even say that Calinoff wouldn't talk to the network.

ESPN2 has coverage of the Nationwide Series race this Friday night and I wonder if it will issue any statements at that time.

Still, I do not think that Full Throttle Academy is a good idea. This is another example of parents so desperate to see their children succeed that they will do anything and pay any price to make it happen. It will be worth it only if a graduate makes it to the green flag of a major NASCAR race.

As Nick Bakay has famously said, "There are no winners here."

Anonymous said...

"Smith and his Producer have some explaining to do anyway you choose to cut it."

Then why didn't you contact them to ask them to explain? You have email. I assume you have a phone. You have contacts with ESPN PR. I see nothing here that says "Smith and/or Producer X were contacted by The Daly Planet and declined to comment about the compilation and production of this story."

Shoddy journalism and followup takes no effort. Good journalism does. JMO.

Anonymous said...

I will also add that if Smith and Producer X were in the wrong, your followup without contacting them doesn't better that or allow you to say, I can write what I want because the story was bad. Two wrongs don't make a right.

bevo said...

This is a blog started by a man with many years of experience in the production of racing on television. It is a BLOG, which means it's his view on television coverage of a sport we are interested in. This is not a site produced by a network, newspaper or magazine so there is no expectation of "objective journalism", which doesn't exist these days anyway. As consumers of information we are smart enough to weigh the information we see and take into consideration the bias that any source may have. As long as the transparency is there it's not a problem. This particular program illustrates the problem with combining news reporting with entertainment. When an entity produces that kind of show they should expect people to question the journalism.

The performance by Mr. Bissinger speaks for itself. Disgusting and pathetic sum it up for me.

I will now step down from my soap box...

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

bevo said...
This is not a site produced by a network, newspaper or magazine so there is no expectation of "objective journalism"
Isn't that sad that you are accepting of this view; I suspect many others are as well.
Blogs can spew anything they want; anybody with a keyboard can have a blog. This is a better and more credible blog than most; when it disguises itself as provided hard hitting journalism like the above entry, it loses me.

As consumers of information we are smart enough to weigh the information we see and take into consideration the bias that any source may have.

Sadly that is often not the case. How do think NASCAR TV gets away with the commentators that is has? They're all biased, and you have to be a serious fan -not a casual one- to know where their many business/family alliances and financial connections lie.

Blog or not, if you write "facts" in an entry, they should be facts. If a blog entry is purely your view of an event (like a race) or suggestions for change, fine. That's valuable input. That's what we're here for. If not, don't act like you are providing an objective story with new "revelations" to the readers. What is being provided is assumpton and conjecture. An objective story means you contact all parties involved.

How hard is that to understand? If you don't understand it, then I'd say you're not as sophisticated of a "consumer of information" as you believe yourself to be.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the typos in the above comment - it should say
"providing hard hitting journalism" and "assumption and conjecture".

David said...


I hope you saw the Joe Gibbs story on Outside the Lines.

I thought it was incredibly well done and touching.

Hopefully there is something said about it at some point today.

bevo said...

Isn't that sad that you are accepting of this view; I suspect many others are as well.
Blogs can spew anything they want; anybody with a keyboard can have a blog.

Pesky damned First Amendment for you!

Sorry you feel so threatened by a blog yet fail to understand what a blog is.

Anonymous said...

JD has obviously gotten bored with reviewing each and every episode of "NASCAR Now" and decided to branch out and "investigate".

A friend of mine on another board emailed JD a few weeks ago and asked if he would review the NASCAR Media Group new show, Drafting Partners. He replied (she posted the response on the board) he wouldn't because it's shown on a non NASCAR partner network (not ESPN, TNT, FOX). Never mind it's a NASCAR Media Group production featuring NASCAR drivers and filming at the tracks. I suppose because it's supposed to be entertainment and not controversial, it's not exciting enough for a NASCAR TV site.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 6:28PM,

That is perhaps the most misleading comment ever on TDP.

That program is a country music show where a driver and a country music star introduce videos.

Just because a NASCAR driver appears on a program to perform a function does not make it a sports-related TV program. I believe I was very clear in my answer, although I think you only heard what you wanted to hear.

This is the same reason we do not discuss the "NASCAR in a Hurry" show on SPEED. It is simply a SPEED personality who records on-camera "wraps" that appear between segments of existing and previously seen SPEED programs.

The GAC show you reference is simply a driver and a country music star taping "wraps" to appear between country songs on a network that plays them.

If you or any other poster has an interesting TV program or other idea that you would like to be discussed, you can simply utilize the email link on the main page as so many people have done over the past sixteen months.

To try and drive your own personal or professional agenda in the comments section as an "Anon" is ridiculous.


Anonymous said...

I just happened to catch this show while channel surfing. I couldn't believe the kind of money this program costs. And, with no guarantees.
Don't teams have scouts at the smaller tracks to catch the next big up and comer? Didn't Mark Martin discover Joey Logano? I think Ryan Newman was also discovered. I believe that if you are that good, someone will find you.

Daly Planet Editor said...


That story has been well utilized by ESPN on many of their shows.

It was very nice to see it appear on a totally non-NASCAR related program just because of the compelling content.

I have met Coach Gibbs many times, he is the real deal and he is one of those guys that somehow always leaves you feeling better than when you met him, not matter how briefly.

Back when NBC did its first stand-alone NASCAR race in Homestead, Gibbs was doing the color commentary and he came right into the TV compound and sat down with the crew (I worked that race) and started talking to everyome.

As a lifelong Redskins fan born in DC, it was always fun to talk racing and football with one guy.

No matter how the season turns-out for the team, Gibbs and his family have a way of keeping the really important things in perspective.


David said...


Living here in Mooresville over the last year evaluating the racing business and deciding if it is something I want to pursue I have come to many conclusions about the idea I had of it coming in and the reality of what it really is.

The only thing that never changed is that if an opportunity to work for a team came up, I'd want to work at JGR.

Great people, great organization, priorities are where they should be.

I always wish the best for Joe and the group over at Gibbs.

Erik said...

The report really didn't leave me with any negative impression of the academy and those who run it.

I see ads all the time telling me if I take a pill, I'll lose a lot of weight. If I buy a Bowflex, I'd look like a body builder in only 30 minutes a day.

There are gymnastics academies in various parts of the country try to lead young girls into Olympic stardom. Parents quit their jobs, move thousands of miles, to help provide that once in a lifetime opportunity. I'm sure they try to sell their services.

That sort of dedication is hard work. You need motiviation to keep it up and always have your goals in sight. I expect this.

I'm sure if I was viewing this story in a defensive mindset looking for any sort of angle on how E:60 outsiders are going to slam the good people in NASCAR, this might be something I'd latch onto and get very upset about it.

But, frankly, I didn't see it.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Are you kidding me? The entire point of the column was to point out that the President of this company, who was interviewed for over an hour by Mr. Smith, never appeared in the story.

As this is a TV site, my simple feeling was that this omission of content was glaring. Certainly, Mr. Calinoff and others feel it was intentional because there is no current controversy or issue with his program. They believe leaving him out was the only way to create one.

There are only two key executives in this company, and the one eliminated was the NASCAR guy who created and runs it. Fundamentally, it makes no sense.

Regardless of some of the earlier "holier than thou" posters, the bottom line for me is would my view of this school be changed if Calinoff was heard?

That is the issue I raised.

By the way, for those asking, I do not know and have never met Mr. Calinoff in my life. I had never heard of the Full Throttle Academy or driver development schools before this report.

Thanks for a group of very interesting and quite diverse comments.


Anonymous said...

Calinoff: I had dealings with him many years ago and would question anything he is involved in. Thanks for bringing this to light. shame on then.

darbar said...

This blog is designed to discuss TV coverage by Nascar-related networks. There's absolutely no reason to review/discuss EVERY SINGLE show that mentions Nascar or contains anyone who might be involved with Nascar be it a driver, crew member or Nascar bigwig. That's why you're not going to see mention of shows such as Nascar Angels, Drafing Partners or Unique Whips when Tony Stewart or Kevin Harvick get their cars detailed, or whatever blurb that pops up on TV. If you do a search of Nascar-related programming, you'll see more shows than one person can handle. What do you want, JD to review every single local racing program, every news broadcast that mentions a Nascar driver or every news broadcast that covers Nascar? Seeing that you hold this site and it's creator in such low esteem, one has to wonder why you or your female friend wanted John to review a silly show such as Drafting Partners, which has as much to do with Nascar as MTV Cribs has to do with professional sports. CMT obviously is trying to cash in on the popularity of Nascar by taking one of their ordinary programs, using a snippet of a Nascar driver and selling it as a Nascar program. I suggest if your friend wants reviews of anything, she stick with reading magazines such as Entertainment Weekly or watching Ebert and Roeper. JD or this blog isn't the venue for a thumbs up or thumbs down entertainment review of every program that calls itself a show about Nascar. But isn't it great that anyone who desires, can hide behind an "anonymous" cover and say whatever they want? Hey, isn't that what a blog is all about?

After reading JD's update on E:60, I have changed my mind on this show. ESPN is obviously up to their usual tricks by only using parts that support their agenda. It's sad that Mr Smith didn't demand that his interview with the person's who mean the most in this issue, be included in the final product. But, I really would be interested in hearing from Mr Smith, and get his take on why this important interview was not included in the final cut.

AndyPandy said...

Yeah, what Darbar said.

I wouild like to add that I remember reading some columns and responses that Calinoff posted on a racing website (I can't remember which one) a couple of years back when he was Kenseth's spotter. My impression was far from favorable. I thought he was rude, arrogant and insulting, and for a standup comedian, his attempts at humor were laughable (but his jokes weren't).

I don't know all the facts about this deal, and I think that it was misleading to not show the interview with him if it exists, but I wasn't surprised at the bad reivew of his latest moneymaking scheme.

Anonymous said...
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Daly Planet Editor said...

Just to close things out. I have no pro or con agenda here.

E:60 says what they put out in their final piece was accurate. Calinoff says they cut him out because he would have ruined their "controversy." Two sides...same story.

The purpose of my blog is to talk about NASCAR on TV and something just smells fundamentally wrong here. Not to use the video, or to even mention that E:60 talked to Calinoff makes it ever worse.

Hope it served a purpose just to point this out.

Anonymous said...

Had dealings with Tom Baker and they were ALL BAD...glad to see everyones eyes are open now....