Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ryan Burr Makes Sense Of The Petty Merger

Nothing could have been better for the Petty's than agreeing to appear on the Wednesday edition of NASCAR Now. Finally, someone asked the right questions and got the straight answers on the Petty merger. That person was Ryan Burr.

The veteran ESPNEWS anchor is in the middle of his first season as a full-time host of NASCAR Now. Along with Nicole Manske, these two team-up to handle the show six days a week.

On this day, the program was entirely dedicated to the Petty story and the background information that helped it all to make sense. Earlier, viewers had seen on both SPEED and ESPNEWS coverage of the 11AM press conference to make the announcement.

A financial firm, called Boston Ventures, was going to bring cash to the Petty organization. In return, Petty would surrender majority ownership and also turn-over the Richard Petty Driving Experience to that group.

While Kyle Petty did his best to host the press conference, he really needed a veteran Public Relations person to handle the festivities. Kyle left a lot of serious issues unresolved and the few media questions asked live on-site were not very helpful.

In the past, NASCAR Now has struggled to wrap its arms around these types of issues. Wednesday, the TV series showed just how far it had come. Burr began with a sparkling interview of Richard Petty that allowed him to address both the professional and personal reasons that he made the Boston Ventures merger decision.

The King began cautiously, and then slowly opened himself up to the TV audience about his own problem of not keeping his business up-to-date. He spoke honestly about his trauma of moving from Level Cross to the new shops in the Mooresville area and now surrendering control of the decades-old family business. He kept a smile on his face, but there was no denying these issues were about to change his life forever.

It was ESPN Reporter David Newton who was up next and put a journalism perspective on the announcement. He had the information on the set-up of the company and a potential third team for next season. He reinforced that once the move from Level Cross was complete, it had become clear that an influx of new money was the only thing that was going to keep Petty Racing alive.

Burr followed-up these interviews with another excellent effort involving Kyle Petty. Burr started right-off by challenging Petty on why and how this came about. Kyle was very much on-point and spoke like his father in clear and concise terms. For Kyle, re-signing Bobby Labonte was a key to this deal.

This interview gave Kyle the kind of platform he enjoys. In much the same way that Kyle speaks on Tradin' Paint, it was all about the bottom line and the reality of life. Kyle said clearly this was his father's decision and that he is an employee. It seemed that Kyle was ready to hand his unofficial CEO role over to former ESPN employee David Zucker and get back to his other interests.

In a change of pace, it was Jimmie Johnson up next answering some good questions about the Petty history and their place in the sport. Johnson was in NYC doing a promotion for Gatorade, but showed his understanding of NASCAR's history by hoping that the Petty team does not eventually leave the sport.

Over the last several years, it has been an emerging Johnson who has proven to be a thoughtful spokesman in the same mold as Jeff Burton. Johnson's conversation about the changing nature of the costs in the sport addressed a larger issue that NASCAR has yet to confront. Yes, he was allowed his short Gatorade promo.

Bobby Labonte was the final piece of the puzzle for Burr to address. Labonte was clear that his new four year deal would probably close-out his driving career but open the door to other opportunities in the sport away from the racing action. Everyone Burr interviewed said Labonte's decision to stay with Petty might have saved the franchise.

On these types of days, NASCAR Now benefits from having a veteran newsman like Burr at the helm. Since last season, Burr has worked hard to learn the sport and this season has been traveling for the show. Last weekend, he reported from Pocono and had more valuable interaction in-person with the drivers and personalities he often interviews from Connecticut.

Wednesday, ESPN continued to grow its new relationship with NASCAR. As the build-up to the ESPN/ABC portion of the Sprint Cup TV package begins in July, NASCAR Now will play a key role down the stretch.

Burr, Manske and Allen Bestwick are about to enter the heart of the season for the first time as a team. Judging by the series-to-date, viewers should be well-served by their efforts.

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SonicAD said...

I'm a bit annoyed. It looks like they expanded this edition to 45 minutes late on, so when I got home, I was really surprised to see that the show seemed to cut off in the middle. So, for anyone recording the late replay, make sure to add at least 15 minutes. At least I get a second-chance at this to catch the last 15 minutes in a replay.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- SUPER article. I noticed late this morning that my Time Warner program schedule showed a 40 minute spot for N-Now, which is the coverage time I programmed. Would I then be correct that ESPN planned on an extended show before press conference was over?

Why do you think there were no more probing questions at the press conference? And, if ESPN had someone at the press conference, do you think they did not ask a question at the press conference to keep the Q & A off SPEED's broadcast - to save the info for N-Now? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I only have one problem with today's NASCAR Now - the Petty story was a big story today, but there was another much bigger story. Why has the WWL not decided to shine the light on the Mauricia Grant story?

Anonymous said...

Mine actually recorded the full time. Since I was in a position to where I couldn't actually watch I had looked over at the TV and saw it was still recording something about 5 minutes after the show normally ends so I thought I had something else set to record that I forgot about. But I checked the midnight recording and see that's set for 40 minutes as well. I didn't look at the earlier recording window, so I didn't know it was set to do that.

I have Time Warner as well :). But I've noticed that many times TW updates "last minute changes". I was surprised they hadn't changed anything today, but I've had a few previous press conferences set to record (either manual or record the infomercial) and double check in the AM to see it says NASCAR Press Conference in that slot.

I truly hope this is good for Petty. I know the King was literally kicking and screaming to move, but I hope this move and this merger will get them back on top :).

Tracy said...

Anon at 10:34 - I agree. I've been waiting for someone to interview at least her attorney. I can't imagine there's a gag order already in place.

Anonymous said...

No disrespect to the earlier commenter who posted about Ms. Grant, but even as big a story as a lawsuit might be against the business, it pales in comparison to this story. A lawsuit is a lawsuit but this story goes to the core of the very sport.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Good point folks, the Grant story right now has no content available.

Originally, a NASCAR spokesman said Grant and her attorney had released it to the media before NASCAR ever saw it.

After the press conference, Brian France said he had not seen it yet but was sorry she had not followed the NASCAR HR Manual and reportered any problem up the chain of command.

There is no possible way right now to generate any info, because Grant is not talking and NASCAR will not comment while a civil lawsuit is in progress.

Burr ran this story with the available details in this show. I would expect we will see more details as her attorney works the civil system which in the end if focused on money.


Newracefan said...

Comcast also changed the listing so it recorded the entire show for me, thank goodness because I wasn't home. I thought Ryan did an excellent job with every interview and really help me understand the merger. JD I agree about Jimmie since he is so soft spoken he use to be drowned out or missed but now with 2 championships they are paying attention and he is usually very insightful, I like the comparison to Jeff Burton. Now if I can just get use to the change in hairstyle.

Tracy said...

This morning's paper carried a lengthy interview with both Ms. Grant and her lawyer, responding to some of France's comments (which were clearly not vetted by an attorney).

Money, especially punitive damages, is the only way to get the attention of big companies that tolerate a level of sexual/racial harrassment that has been imbedded in its culture so long it's no longer noticed. I have assisted as legal counsel for sex discrimination cases, and there's a very precise and careful foundation that must be followed before suit is filed. It sounds, from Ms. Grant's comments, that she and her attorney have done so from a legal basis. Believe me, Nascar knew this lawsuit was coming.
That the TV reporters haven't gotten into it is amazing. Sure, the Petty deal is big, but so is this. In some ways, this suit will rattle Nascar's cage in a way that will pale in comparison to the furor over the Kentucky track's litigation.

Lou,Kingston,NY said...

Good Afternoon JD,
Another good show from NASCAR Now. Ryan and his crew did another bang up job, nice work. The King, Kyle, and Bobby L., were good. Just hope it all works out for PE.

Joan said...

I just finished watching the show, and was very pleased by the coverage & the Q&A with all the participants with Burr. I caught the earlier press conference at lunch & some of the questions. I watched the whole thing today also - I had lots of questions about how & why, but,none were answered at the presser. Yet Burr and Co got them answered. It was really a solid show.
And I have a TimeWarner DVR and it recorded all of the press conf. & NN .

Lisa Hogan said...

JD- I know this is OT. Since the subject has been posted, I did want to comment. If you need to delete, I understand. :)

Just my opinion:
I read about Ms. Grant’s suit and it just seems strange to me that she didn’t feel the need to file suit while employed by NASCAR. She also didn’t feel the need to resign and file suit. She only felt the need to file suit after she was fired. I believe that she hopes for a settlement.

Newracefan said...

Lisa, I am on the same page as you are. While I do not doubt there was some inappropriateness along the way, just because I am a skeptical realist not because I know anything, the time line bothered me. I understand how someone might not want to rock the boat but if they were "writing down all the incidents" then share them with upper management don't just take it. I also am having some difficulty understanding why a deep pockets company would even risk a law suit by firing someone who was claiming theses types of problems. Perhaps I am just naive.

Tracy said...

newracefan: I'll tell you why a big company will risk it - deep pockets. They can outlast almost any single fired employee until the cows come home because they have the resources to do so. Because lawyers are paid on a contingency basis in this type of case, it's difficult to find counsel to jump into the burning lake of oil unless the case is really, really solid. Economically, because these cases are traditionally long and hard-fought, no attorney who doesn't want to lose his/her practice to bankruptcy will take it on without a substantial war chest for costs and a more than fighting chance to win.

Ms. Grant said in today's paper that she had to get up her courage to file - that she knew she'd be smeared and vilified, and it scared her. Also, it probably took her a while to find a lawyer who would represent her.

I stand and applaud any man or woman who has a solid case and the guts to take on any big corporation in a race/sex/age discrimination suit. This will get ugly. I just wonder how objectively it will be covered by the press. Nate Ryan, what do you have on your plate that you can ignore so you can go after this story?

Daly Planet Editor said...


I hope you will see both sides when something like this comes up and not take it as a male vs. female issue. Lots of very diverse people work for NASCAR at the races.

Maybe we can wait until some other information comes along that is not attached to a legal or financial agenda to begin forming an opinion?


glenng said...
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glenng said...
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Anonymous said...

"Lots of very diverse people work for NASCAR at the races. "

"Lots" is a relative term. If you're saying there are more diverse group of people than there were five years ago - when diversity on NASCAR teams was practically nonexistent - yes that's true. I would still take issue with the word "Lots".

And all the drivers in all three top series, except for two, are white. No women. No blacks. That's what the public sees and why they regard NASCAR as a white male sport. An all white male sport.

The point is this should have been a bigger story on NASCAR Now. Even if Grant wasn't available (and I also read her interview, so she was talking), it goes to larger issues in this sport. NASCAR Now should have been all over this with their reporters and analysts, even without Grant, and they weren't.

Just like the issues with the safety crew and Montoya last week. Where was the followup on that? What was the explanation from the track who hired the safety crew? Looking back did NASCAR see they might have approached it incorrectly, since drivers and commentators who are former drivers said the rescue approach didn't sit well with them?

NASCAR TV coverage only covers the news NASCAR wants covered. I'm glad more people are noticing.

Anonymous said...

“I never wanted this to be the legacy of my name,” said the 32-year-old Grant. “I know that I had a lot of responsibility of being the first African-American female official to work in this capacity for NASCAR. I was really proud of my position. …. I was good at my job.

“I was happy to do my job. I hung in there. I did the hard work. It’s like a slap in the face. It’s unfair. And it’s a very frightening thing to put yourself out there for public ridicule.”

Grant said she would like NASCAR to work on changing the attitude of its officials.

“I would like for them to implement some sort of system to change the culture of NASCAR and change the way the garage is run on the inside,” Grant said. “They need to incorporate more cultures of people, so that the people that are there now are not so shocked when they meet somebody of a different culture.”

Despite her lawsuit, Grant said she would encourage minorities to follow dreams they have to work for NASCAR.

“It’s an exciting, wonderful fun sport,” she said. “Minus the troubles and the people that I had to deal with and the ignorance that was present in the garage area, motorsports in general is a fun and exciting career.

Tracy said...

JD - I'm not taking sides. I'm just laying out the legal realities of undertaking this kind of litigation -sex, race, or age. It ain't cheap and it ain't easy. Compared to discrimination cases in federal court, the messiest divorce case is a cakewalk. And I consider them to be he** on wheels.

If any reporter had done homework (even the most basic - checked into the case of the woman who sued Madison Square Garden recently, for example), s/he would have had a sense of what this case will mean for Nascar. That's what I'm waiting to hear. Hopefully, NN tonight will cover it. As soon as I get home, I'm hitting the PLAY button.

I'm praying everyone will pay attention and let the legal system do its job without making life more difficult for all parties involved, and that includes the Nascar officials to whom Ms. Grant says she reported the alleged abuses.
But I do expect to be informed about what's happening, just as we were with the Kentucky suit. The agenda now, as then, is very legal.

Daly Planet Editor said...


I think you can already see things skewing out of control from the comments on the various web sites.

What I am saying is that it is usually vital to wait until the actual evidence is on the table before deciding where to come down on an issue.

In my response, I pointed out that one thing is very important. That is the ability to hear from those not tied to the case either by employment or by money. That excludes both Grant's side and NASCAR.

I believe that is exactly what ESPN is doing by continuing to mention the story regularly, but looking for something independent before speaking out.

If I get any additional TV related info about those efforts, I will update the story.


Lisa Hogan said...

Thanks, JD
Of course, I always have something else to say! :)
I will leave this off-topic topic alone unless you bring it up in a future column. :)