Tuesday, August 19, 2008
E:60 Offers A Taste Of Untold NASCAR Stories
The ESPN news magazine E:60 has once again ventured into NASCAR. This time, the outcome was much better than the previous visit. Reporter Lisa Salters is an ESPN veteran and she delivered a compelling feature on GM Program Manager Alba Colon.
Handling Chevy's NASCAR teams in the Sprint Cup Series, Colon is front-and-center as GM's senior representative at the racetracks. This native of Puerto Rico told her heart-warming story of hard work and dedication. It contained soundbites from Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon who spoke about her years of service to the company.
What really got the attention of viewers was an interview with Tony Stewart. Now, almost done with his one year of driving a Toyota, Stewart said his personal relationship with Colon was one of the factors bringing him back to Chevrolet. Stewart related that he felt he had let Colon down by leaving Chevy and he was most happy to be returning in 2009.
While Salters did address the recent harassment suit against NASCAR, Colon was defiant in the fact that she has made her way in the world on her own terms and would never stand for such behavior. In her own way, she quietly suggested that things are getting much better in this male-dominated sport.
Salter's piece was just a story in a program with several others. That is the letdown for NASCAR fans. Over the last two years, long-form TV programming based on the hundreds of colorful personalities in the sport has come to a grinding halt.
NASCAR Confidential on SPEED has six one-hour episodes spread over twelve months. Dale Earnhardt Jr. bought his way onto ESPN for five episodes of Shifting Gears. In one of them, he apologized for having so many commercials. He said that is what it took to get on ESPN.
A while back, SPEED aired a pilot called The Humpy Show. More episodes of that program were never produced. TNT does not air any NASCAR programming outside of their six races. The Fox Broadcast Network has no time in prime-time for any NASCAR unless cars are on the track.
In the summer of 2007, ABC aired NASCAR in Primetime. It was five episodes of a look behind-the-scenes at several teams and drivers. Since the show was post-produced, the footage was old and the interest was low. It did not return for 2008.
This is a truly amazing situation. It is almost a Mexican stand-off. In Charlotte sits the NASCAR Media Group ready to format and produce any type of long-form program or provide technical support for a production company to do the same. The phone does not ring and there is a good reason why.
NASCAR's TV partners have no obligation to carry any sort of long-form post-produced programming. They simply don't have to do it.
We know that both ESPN and ESPN2 are chocked-full of other programming. TNT is an entertainment channel with limited sports and no interest. SPEED has made a decision to invest in "lifestyle" program series that have nothing to do with motorsports. That list is seemingly endless.
The true irony of Salter's story is that it was never told before. Colon has been in the garage and on pit road for years. Her story, and the stories of the many other interesting and unique people associated with this sport will continue to be ignored until one of NASCAR's TV partners gets pro-active and takes a risk.
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