Monday, September 15, 2008
"NASCAR Now" Singles Out Junior
Halfway through the Monday review of the Sprint Cup Series race from Loudon, NASCAR Now host Allen Bestwick turned to a TV guest for more information on the race. It was ESPN.com writer David Newton. His topic was Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earlier that day, Newton had written an article about Earnhardt for ESPN.com's NASCAR section. The thrust of the article was that Rick Hendrick had to step-in and manage Junior during the races. Newton said Junior was "having a fit."
Newton wrote that the main problem was Earnhardt's "expletive-laden rant(s)" and "radio tirades." Newton made sure ESPN.com readers knew exactly the words Junior had said by carefully using just enough letters to get his point across.
Last week, Earnhardt had joined Tony Stewart in speaking-out about ESPN's perceived poor treatment of NASCAR drivers and teams on-the-air. What Earnhardt had objected to was ESPN's use of team radio comments during the races. The network had replayed several audio clips of heat-of-the-moment comments much later without putting them in context. Some had been used for days.
"I think it's just poor taste by the networks and I am seeing it too often," said Earnhardt. "It's taking it too far where they're putting those type of conversations on network television and it's getting the kind of press it's getting. It's really about class...or the lack of it."
There is an interesting irony in seeing Mr. Newton and hearing him essentially repeat his ESPN.com story on NASCAR Now. Bestwick's Monday guest is usually a driver or crew chief who is in the news from the weekend races. The Monday show has consistently been one of ESPN finest NASCAR offerings.
In appearing on this program, Newton said Hendrick "for a few weeks now" had been monitoring Junior's radio. Newton indicated that Hendrick had turned "amateur psychiatrist" because Junior "gets out of control at times." Again, Newton made sure to mention that Earnhardt "starts yelling and screaming profanities" at Tony Eury Jr. during races.
Hendrick was interviewed after the race. "The fans probably think that he (Junior) wants to rip Tony apart," said Hendrick. "Then he gets out of the car and wants to hug him. If he can just focus, they have a real shot at this thing."
What Hendrick was trying to give Junior on the radio was referred to as "old man experience" by the veteran owner. At the end of Newton's appearance, Bestwick stated that Earnhardt is "always emotional" on the team radio. When asked if this was something new for Junior, Newton said "he was about the same" at Loudon as the other races.
Newton tried one final time to sell this story. "He (Earnhardt) says stuff to Tony Eury Jr. that you wouldn't say to your worst enemy at times and that's got to have an impact," said Newton. All of this hype, it turns out, was over a set of tires.
Earlier in the show, Junior had talked about how just one bad set of tires put him back in the field and he just did not have the time to get back up to the front. In his first Chase race for Hendrick, that had him upset. In a post-race interview with an ESPN pit reporter, Earnhardt was polite and thoughtful.
Todd Bodine, Ray Evernham and Mike Massaro made up the panel for this program and added their thoughts. Evernham suggested that Hendrick will sit the team down and preach his philosophy of respect. Bodine wanted to make sure Junior knew he was the quarterback on the team and everyone took their cues from him. Massaro wondered if Earnhardt will change his style to the non-emotional and more analytical approaches of teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
NASCAR Now touched on all the race highlights, including a good review of the Kyle Busch situation. An added touch was a good decision to show Craftsman Truck Series highlights that included the post-race fracas and let Bodine explain what happened. In talking about the meaning of Hornaday's win after the steroid hype, Bestwick made sure to say that was an ESPN the Magazine story.
Things certainly get interesting this time of year when the pressure is on for all those concerned in the sport. Bestwick let Evernham completely off the hook as an owner, even as the Jayski.com website is reporting that GEM is set to buy Bill Davis Racing. That is a huge story that should have been covered.
Bodine was again fun to watch and plain-spoken as usual. Massaro is an observant and thoughtful reporter who has really lent a hand to this series each week with his journalistic perspective. Next week, Boris Said will join Evernham and Massaro on this program that airs each Monday at 5PM Eastern Time.
The photo at the top of the page is Earnhardt in Loudon before the race courtesy of Getty Images.
Here is the link to the David Newton story:
Hendrick Busy Being Referee
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