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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