Monday, October 13, 2008
Evernham becomes ESPN's New Wild Card
Veteran NASCAR journalist Dustin Long has been a frequent guest on Tradin' Paint this season. Long writes for several newspapers and is very good at expressing his views on TV.
This weekend, he wrote a column that contained one of the hottest topics where NASCAR TV and the viewers are concerned. It is a topic that always brings a ton of email and comments for a wide variety of reasons. That topic is Ray Evernham.
This year, ESPN introduced Evernham in February as a part-time member of the NASCAR on ESPN team. He has quietly been used in almost every role possible this season.
Evernham has been added as the fourth person in the Infield Studio as a commentator. He has been upstairs in the announce booth as an analyst. Viewers have seen him as a panelist on Monday's one hour NASCAR Now roundtable with Allen Bestwick. He has appeared on ESPNEWS and other ESPN programs talking about NASCAR as an expert.
You can read Long's column by clicking here. Below is the excerpt that got the attention of so many NASCAR fans.
Ray Evernham, who has a minority share in Gillett Evernham Motorsports, said he was not involved in the decision to release rookie Patrick Carpentier. Evernham stressed he's a minority partner in the team and hinted maybe that role could change to not being a part of the team.
"That's largely up to the Gillettes,'' Evernham said if he would remain with the team. "I want to help Mr. Gillette, and I'll do whatever I can to help him be successful, but I also want to pursue ... I'm enjoying my life at ESPN. I'm enjoying a little bit of semi-retirement. I want to help as much as I can, but I also want to make sure I have credibility with the viewers and that's important to me.''
Some folks feel that the real reason Evernham needs to keep his credibility with the ESPN viewers is because that is his next employment destination. Evernham created Race Wizard a while back, an ESPN2 series that featured Evernham's son Ray J. and offered explanations on various NASCAR topics with a family-friendly theme. That program did not return for this season.
Instead, ESPN slipped Evernham under the radar and brought him in-house for some additional TV exposure. There was no doubt that ESPN faced a tough situation. Evernham was still on paper a multi-car owner in the very series on which ESPN has asked him to comment.
Now, Evernham seems to be sending clear signals that he is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations at GEM. Amazingly, that comes at a time when ESPN is within weeks of ending that network's NASCAR coverage for 2008. Remember, in TV there is rarely such a thing as a coincidence.
Click here for the Yahoo! Sports post that addressed the TDP coverage of the Evernham issue. The topic was how Evernham consistently got a free pass from Allen Bestwick on GEM issues during the Monday NASCAR Now program. Evernham seems to have tried to answer just that question with his comments to Long.
Update: Evernham addressed the Carpentier issue on the Monday edition of NASCAR Now and basically repeated what he said to Long.
It should be interesting to watch carefully how Evernham is used in the final month or so of the NASCAR on ESPN season. What role Evernham will play for ESPN in 2009 has yet to be revealed, but it is clear that he is the former crew chief in favor at the moment.
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