Sunday, September 14, 2008
Stewart And Earnhardt Slam ESPN
It was just a NASCAR teleconference in a long line of media appearances and interviews to promote The Chase. The 12 drivers were on the line Wednesday when a reporter turned the topic to ESPN. Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. spoke up.
The issue was about the use by ESPN of Stewart and crew chief Greg Zipadelli's radio exchange after the Richmond Sprint Cup Series race. What was offered to viewers and Internet users was the outburst immediately after the race, but not the apology that was offered minutes later. The clip was used all over the ESPN TV networks and the ESPN.com website.
"I think it's just poor taste by the networks and I'm seeing it too often," said Dale Earnhardt Jr., making reference to multiple problems this season.
"That's ESPN," said Stewart. "We've had a terrible relationship with ESPN for years. We've been very outspoken with them as a company about how they treat the drivers, treat the teams."
"They're a (TV) production team that wants to do everything they can to stir the pot up," continued Stewart. "It's no secret ESPN and I don't get along."
"Do they have a right to air it?" Stewart continued. "Absolutely. Trust me, if there's anything negative I do, ESPN is going to pick up on it and run with it every chance they get."
"That just shows you what's important to them (ESPN). It's not the positive things in the sport. They want to pick up on everything negative they can," said Stewart.
"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," said Earnhardt. "It looks terrible for Tony. (It was) heat of the moment. You're going to say things you regret and I'm sure he regrets saying what he said and maybe Zippy regrets coming back at him."
Earnhardt said teams had asked NASCAR to allow them to switch to digital radios that couldn't be monitored by fans and media, but the sanctioning body won't allow the change.
Stewart talked about the unique advantages that ESPN and other TV networks have in covering racing.
"Things that (in) no other sports you're allowed to do," said Stewart. "Bringing fans that close to us before we can get out of the car, being able to hear what's going on in the race, being able to hear the drivers and crew chiefs talk. That's one thing ESPN has been good about is being able to find different angles to bring the fans that much closer."
"It's just what angle do they want to work with and how they use that," Stewart said. "Should they or shouldn't they? I don't think it's right or wrong. I don't think right or wrong comes into play."
It's really about class...or the lack of it," said Earnhardt.
It was one day after these comments from Stewart and Earnhardt that ESPN the Magazine reporter Shaun Assael unleashed the Ron Hornaday "steroid story."
The 2008 Chase for the Championship begins Sunday afternoon in Loudon, NH on ABC.
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Here are some story links on this subject:
Smoke Takes Shot At ESPN Over Spat
Taking Swipe At ESPN
NASCAR's Stewart Downplays Spat With Crew Chief
Stewart Says Richmond Comments Were A Sign Of Passion