Saturday, August 30, 2008
ESPN Rookie Joins "NASCAR Now"
NASCAR Now got a nice present on Thursday when ESPN.com's rookie NASCAR writer made his first ESPN network television appearance.
You may have heard of him. His name is Ed Hinton. That is Hinton above back in 2006 talking with Junior. Pictures of Hinton alone are hard to find. He seems to almost always be seen talking to someone.
It was host Ryan Burr who introduced the former Orlando Sentinel writer to the NASCAR Now audience. Unlike Hinton's sometimes raucous appearances on SPEED's Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain, this time he had to play it straight. After all, this was ESPN.
Dressed in a nice suit and tie, Hinton tried with all his might to tow the ESPN company line for Mr. Burr and the viewers. That lasted about two questions.
In the blink of an eye, Hinton was at full-speed and enjoying the freedom of TV. This time, no editor was going to come along and take out a paragraph or two. Hinton was off to the races and Burr let him run. What he said may still be bouncing around the Bristol, CT studios of NASCAR Now.
Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards facing-off down the stretch was the first topic. Hinton started with a plea to NASCAR's Mike Helton and team owners Joe Gibbs and Jack Roush.
"Leave these guys alone...let them rip!" said Hinton. "Don't try to cool off their jets. If you cool their jets you are going to cool the hottest thing that has come to NASCAR in a long, long time."
Next on the agenda was the topic of the COT and recent NASCAR rules enforcement. There was little doubt this one was going to be interesting.
"They are legislating themselves into blandness!" said Hinton of the NASCAR rule makers. "Everything is considered cheating now. They are taking the outlaw spirit and the innovative spirit out of NASCAR." Hinton used as an example the talented Chad Knaus and his current inability to push the rules and keep things interesting. "It's very fitting that the car is boxy because it is a box that the teams can't get out of," concluded Hinton.
Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske were up next. Both of these veteran race team owners were not having success in NASCAR. Burr simply asked why and then stood back.
"You've got to spill 100% of your guts and your effort and (put) everything into NASCAR," stated Hinton. "Look at Roger Penske, he has been trying to apply Indy Car methods to NASCAR for thirty years. He has...one Daytona 500 win and that was a bit of luck."
"Newman is leaving him (Penske) for what he feels like is a stronger team," said Hinton without a moment of hesitation.
"Chip (Ganassi) is going to have to realize that you don't see Joe Gibbs or Rick Hendrick off running Indy cars and sports cars," added Hinton. That is an opinion the likes of which may have never before been heard on NASCAR Now.
"To win in NASCAR its got to be 100%...it has got to be a total effort," said Hinton. He concluded by saying that anyone trying to bring an IRL or other cross-over method to NASCAR is destined to fail. "It just doesn't work," he said.
Hinton was only on the program during two segments where he responded to Burr's questions. Fans who had not seen Wind Tunnel may have been left asking one thing. Who is that guy and when can he come back?
The broader perspective on the sport that a veteran journalist like Hinton brings is just what NASCAR Now needed to add another solid piece to the puzzle that ESPN has been working hard to put together this season. Last year at this time, fans were livid at the inexperienced host and the forced storylines on this TV series as The Chase approached.
Now, Burr has established himself as a solid host and his patience and treatment of Hinton once again backed that up. Allowing Hinton to speak completely and expand on the issues that Burr raised really worked well on this Thursday night program.
Hopefully, this is an opportunity for Hinton to participate in other NASCAR on ESPN programs including the Monday roundtable and the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show. While Brad Daugherty has been holding his own, it is unvarnished perspectives on issues in the sport that have been missing from this coverage. Hinton does not seem to have an agenda and his experience certainly allows him to speak to almost any NASCAR topic.
This first toe-in-the-water moment for Hinton on ESPN2 went well and gave fans a lot to talk about. If ESPN can find a place for him on additional NASCAR TV shows, it should add a nice touch to coverage of The Chase as the season hits full stride.
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