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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49 comments:

Dot said...

Just a quick comment. AB just asked Ray about Patrick being let go at GEM. Sounds like Ray is moving out of GEM sooner rather than later. Too bad for Patrick, I think if Ray had his say, Patrick would still be around next season. I guess they no longer value his opinion.

David said...

This is an interesting situation and to me sheds a little light on why he has not commented on much of the inner ongoings until now. He honestly is out of the loop. It almost seems he is a part of GEM in name alone.

This screams disagreement though as well. Stressing that these decisions are not his and putting it on the shoulders of the Gillete's sounds to me like a guy that is on his way out of the ownership role.

This offseason will be interesting, I think Ray certainly adds a good element to the broadcasts on ESPN. He has accomplished quite a bit in NASCAR as a crew chief and while the ownership thing did not work out I believe Ray is a guy that sounds content with where he is at in life and that place is in front of the camera.

Daly Planet Editor said...

david,

Do you think Andy Petree or Brad Daugherty should be hearing the footsteps?

JD

cvt said...

RE's situation vis-à-vis GEM is a foreshadowing of what's in store at Petty's.

ESPN went out of their way not to embarrass RE, now the cat is out of the bag, he'll find a way to gracefully announce his active retirement.

Anonymous said...

So Ray " want to make sure I have credibility with the viewers and that's important to me.''

When you go to the link to the Yahoo story, or if you follow the Jayski link to ESPN comments, you will see that many people don't view Ray as having credibility and bring up the drivers tossed aside (Atwood, Mayfield, now Carpinter) and of course the Crocker affair.

Ray is tarnished goods no matter how much he wants to gussy up the package.

David said...

Petree has done an AMAZING job with ESPN in almost 2 seasons of work. If anyone is going to be hearing footsteps it could be a Tim Brewer or indeed a Brad. Ray has spoken on SIRIUS Speeedway about being in the booth and while he enjoys it, he has a tone that its not his cup of tea. Petree and DJ have a real chemistry and the last thing ESPN needs to do is mess that up.

Ray would be an excellent addition ala Jeff Hammond on FOX. Ray may also be able to work with AB to get the most out of Rusty where Brad is weak in adding to that mix.

Move a BD to NASCAR Now during the week, give him a "people's fun" role like SPEED uses Rutledge and keep him out of the race telecast. I understand why they are using him, its to attract a new audience and have a more general appeal, but those factors aside, but his insight is weak at best.

Petree is solid, Brad might be hearing some footsteps soon though. The ball is in Ray's court I imagine.

majorshouse said...

Even though Ray's image is somewhat tarnished, he definitely brings something that many of the other analysts do not and that is a real technical knowledge of the sport and I have a feeling that he is being worked out of GEM much like it appears that the Petty's, especially Kyle are being worked out of Petty Enterprises.
I think that Brad should be the one hearing the footsteps of Ray Evernham and I too think that he and Allen Bestwick could really keep Rusty in his place as well as he could work really well with Jeff Hammond in the Hollywood Hotel as well.

PammH said...

I also don't think Andy's hearing any footsteps. He's done an excellent job and w/his crew chief/winning car owner background, he brings ALOT to the table. Brad only bring diversity. He spouts NO new ideas, just repeats what other people have said. He doesn't fill a void at all, Andy does. I don't care much for Rut's antics, but at least he has a purpose-he's supposed to be funny. Once in awhile it works. What is Brad's purpose?

Anonymous said...

If Andy Petree is replaced I will be very upset. What would make me even more upset was if Petree is replaced, and Captain Punch is not.

Anonymous said...

ESPN hiring Cup team owner Ray Evernham is bad, unprofessional conflict of interest and worthy of several critical articles.

SPEED hiring Cup team owner Kyle Petty is a great move, no problems at all.

boyd said...

Brad should be hearing the footsteps. He now owns (partly)a Cup team, and doesn't add much to the telecasts.

His former role as a minority voice for NASCAR has proven that he is just a rubber stamp for them more often than not.

The most interesting part of this is that the Gillettes are Canadian (aren't they?) and they let their Canadian driver go.

Newracefan said...

Hopefully it's Brad who is hearing footsteps. I would not like to see DJ and AP split up they need help with the PXP not the analysis. Ray would be great in the infield studio working on big picture stratgey that the booth guys don't have time to think about along with JP since AB will be in the booth. Hopefully it's not Tim's spot although he usually annoys me I don't think that would be a good use of Ray's talent.

Anonymous said...

The Gilletts are American (from Wisconsin), but own or co-own major sports franchises in Canada and Great Britain.

Ray's OK, but Andy Petree doesn't have anything to worry about. He's probably the best thing ESPN has going in the booth right now, followed by DJ.

Also one caveat about Ray's statements: Ray (in case you're surprised) has been known in the past to say things to reporters that simply aren't true. He's gone back and forth on the level of his GEM involvement this year - saying one thing one month, and another thing the next month. Luckily for him, the Gilletts hardly ever talk to the media, so he can say what he wants without them contradicting him.

Ratings for the race were down, according to scenedaily.com:

"ABC's broadcast of Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway earned an overnight rating 3.5 from Nielsen Media Research, Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Daily reports.

The figure is 12.5 percent lower than the 4.0 ABC earned overnight for the race in 2007."

Jessica said...

I know this is futile but why, for the love of baby Jesus, is Mikey wearing golf shoes?

Dot said...

With the way they run things at ESPU, the footsteps we'll hear will be Ray's & Rusty's walking to the booth to be with Jerry. Rusty, Brad, Suzy & Brent will be in the media center, or whatever it's called. Erik will be the Rut of ESPU, but more annoying. AB will be in the pits, but won't be allowed to ask intelligent questions. Can't make the dwins look bad. DJ & AP will get hired at VS to cover that big secret stock car racing series JD alluded
to Sat night.

All kidding aside, DJ & AP belong right where they are. AB needs to take the walk upstairs. Talk about a dream team.

PammH said...

jessica-because Buffy is cleaning him out w/this "separation", plus he started THREE cups teams from stratch?? he's poor, like most of us. ;)

Gymmie said...

Add me to the Mr. Petree love! I'd be VERY upset if he's ever released. I love him :). He seems like a very nice man :).

@dot--YES! DJ, AP & AB--the Dream Team!

Anonymous said...

Few people know NASCAR like Everham, and even fewer know about winning in NASCAR like Everham. I don't always agree with him, but any time he says something, I want to hear it and consider it carefully. I don't know how ESPN will use him next, but so far I like the way they've used him and I think he has a lot to contribute.

PS Maybe Everham didn't have anything to do with Carpentier's release because he simply didn't have to. Honestly, his run in Cup made Dario Franchitti look competent by comparison. I can't think of a single race he ran where he didn't fully spin out. Not a single one. And he usually took someone with him. Everham didn't need to contribute anything to that decision process, it kinda made itself.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Hey guys, let me be the first to say that on-camera talent choose to move-on for many reasons.

In this case, you have one person who is going to try and run a Sprint Cup Series team hands-on next season in Daugherty.

You also have Petree, who may well be itching to get back into an active role in the sport instead of just talking about it.

There does not have to be a problem for a talent switch to happen, it just may be someone who needs or wants a change.

Keep that in mind as things move forward so we don't get caught-up in the "bad job" conversations.

Thanks for the great comments, as usual.

JD

David said...

Andy Petree has done it all. Championship crew chief, own a moderately successful, winning Cup Series team, now he is enjoying success in television. If he decided to take an active role inside the sport I would hope it would be something he truly wants to do and it not be a money issue or see him come back and struggle. Larry Mac does a great job on tv but I imagine him and Petree would have quite the adjustment period after being out of the day-to-day inner workings of a Cup race team to enjoy any immediate success.

I believe Ray would excel in any position ESPN would choose to use him. If that is up in the booth or down in the infield studio I believe Ray would connect with fans and provide useful insight.

Dot said...

JD, What do you know about Andy? I would think that before he got the gig w/ESPU he would've hooked up with a team before now.

Economically, wouldn't it make more sense for him to stay in the booth? It's a guaranteed paycheck and I would think less of a headache than owning or crewing a team. Especially if there is any truth to the rumor of less cars on the track in the near future.

One more thought, I think all owners (Brad, Rusty) should be on the pit boxes and not on the air.

Hey, what's with the word verification?

Vince said...

It may just be me, but I had gotten the impression early on that Ray wasn't involved in the day to day decisions at GEM. Just reading between the lines and with what I saw and heard in the media.

I think Ray would be a great replacement for Brad. But I can see him in Tim Brewer's role also. I think those two should both be hearing footsteps.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Dot,

A lot of the Google Blogspot sites got attacked by automated spam today. I have spend hours deleting porn from my site...nice huh?

So, the verification is back until the spam-bots move onto another blog.

About Andy, I know absolutely nothing about his status and let me make that clear. What we do know is that Ray is making noise about coming over to TV and you just do not invent a place for him to go.

All we are doing is wondering what role he would fill? ESPN has moved him all over the place this season and he has done pretty well in each test.

I have a feeling we are going to have no clue about all of this until next February, just like last season.

JD

Dot said...

Thanks JD.

@ Vince, I agree with you. I'd rather see Ray in both roles and Tim & Brad go on their merry ways.

David said...

Dot, I mentioned that earlier. I can see Ray playing a "Jeff Hammond" type role where he is down in the infield studio yet can break down the technical stuff too.

My biggest knock on ESPN: TOO MANY FACES/VOICES. You don't need 11 people to cover a race!!!

FOX uses 8, maybe 9 (not sure if they use 3 pit reporters or 4)

TNT uses 9 i think...so what is the added benefit of ESPN having the extra person or 2? It just adds to the "script" IMO.

Gymmie said...

If Mr. Petree wants to be an owner again that's fine...I just want it to be his decision and not the network brass making it for him :)

Anonymous said...

I think Andy Petree has done a fine job and works well with DJ. Brad is a great guy but adds nothing to the shows. He doesn't seem to posess any real understanding of how Cup cars work. Rusty is a dinosauer that is best at telling War Stories. I wouldn't miss his over-sized ego. I have always appreciated Ray's technical knowledge about the sport. There's no glitz or hype with Ray. He just tells you what he knows,which is a lot.

Anonymous said...

How many years are you people going to crucify Evernham for "affair" that you think you know all about? Do you even know all the facts? You are simply going by what Mayfield spewed because he was revealed to be the non-driver he really was. His driving record has proven that to be true. Ray and his wife could have been separated when the "affair" started for all we know. The point is he is not the first man to have done and I can guarantee you he will not be the last but one thing I can tell you is that Ray is very intelligent when it comes to being a crew chief, car owner and spotting talent on a race track. The merger with Gillett was caused by the inflation of our economy and the demands King Brian has placed on the teams. He has all but killed the small teams in the sport and it has become basically a four teams sport. If he cannot see this that this is the cause of the empty seats, falling ratings then he will be left wondering what happened when his kingdom has fallen. As for Ray, people if you are perfect by all means criticize if your not, well I think you know what to do.

Anonymous said...

Ray should not even be allowed to use the word CREDIBILITY. Anyone around in the 90s knows his huge gifts, the incredible success he engineered for Jeff Gordon (who's never been the same since Ray's departure), and the way that Jeff and Rick screwed Ray and drove him to the Dodge program. However, anyone around since then has witnessed a different Ray--you know, the one who has made some of the poorest personal and personnel decisions ever in the garage area. Forget about big mouth Jeremey Mayfield, who pissed his own fortunes away by shaming Ray in public (who wants a guy who would do that?); Ray has discarded just about every talent he's managed to secure, save for Casey Kane, who, no doubt, wishes he, too, was somewhere else. Is it only a coincidence that Ray was on the scene of Ford's two biggest talent losses--Jeff Gordon and Casey Kane? We'll never know, because ESPN is not about to ask Ray any questions that might make him uncomfortable. In fact, ESPN's credibility might make a perfect match for Ray. Just so long as they don't use the word CREDIBILITY either.

glenc1 said...

I agree with david. Andy & DJ have known each other forever, but they don't come across like we're the outsiders--more like we're their new pals. I don't think ESPN will mess with that. It's a bit like Ned & Benny. Brad brings such enthusiasm, and I appreciate that, but I think they could find a different tole for him. I am not an Evernham 'fan', particularly, but I do think he brings a lot of knowledge and he comes across well on TV. Brewer--I like Tim, but I can't see him being so crucial if they wanted to give that job to Ray and expand it. I dislike saying people should be out of a job but TV is s tough business.

Personally, I never thought the owner/tv conflict was a big deal in terms of shows like NASCAR Now or Tradin' Paint, in the case of Petty--now, when the race is in progress that's something else. (Many sports have injured players comment on the games, even their own teams, but usually pre-game.)

Maybe ownership wasn't as much as he expected and he likes the less pressure of the TV gig. No, I don't like the personal stuff, but that's not part of the TV job.

Anon 7:05, Jeff won a championship after Ray's departure and continues to be competitive--the *sport* has just tighted up considerably in terms of money and effort. And Ray is certainly not the only owner who lost talent--again, the competitive nature of the business causes this to happen. If I heard Spencer go on about the lack of talent one more time I'll scream--there is plenty of talent, they're just too 'old' to be marketable to sponsors, or not appealing or articulate enough.

diane said...

If ESPN uses Ray for the Cup broadcasts then I will not watch any race live. I will record them and fast forward looking for action (passes, crashes, pit stops) and only subject myself to as little of his presence as possible. Of course this means that I will fast forward through the commercials, so ESPN's sponsors won't have my eyes and attention.

Lisa Hogan said...

Just got to shake my head at the anons who crop up with the "you people" and think that they are the authority on what we should think and post. Always amusing!

I have been a non-fan of Evernham for a long time and that has nothing to do with his mid-life crisis.

How viewers feel about Evernham won't influence ESPN on their decisions about his future at the network. Viewers screaming Nooooo when he first appeared and being ignored has proven that fact.

I can only hope that Evernham is not placed in the booth during broadcasts. If I wanted to watch sawdust, I would visit the local lumber yard.

We, as fans, are at ESPN's mercy and will just have to see what next season brings.

As always, I am armed with a remote and not afraid to use it. :)

AndyPandy said...

My intense dislike for Ray is slightly less than my intense dislike for Rusty, so my vote is to send #2 back to his old hot rod and let Ray take his place. For some reason, I like Brad's rah-rah enthusiasm, and to me, he really does seem to know what he is talking about. He doesn't comment too far beyond his depth of knowledge, which is more than I can say about certain pit reporters.

Speaking of pit reporters, these ESPN races just make me miss Lindsay Czarniak so much more. She's got the total package - enthusiasm, knowledge, and the ability to ask good questins. The drivers seem to respect her and like to talk to her.

(yeah, I think she's really cute, too)

Adam T. Martin said...

"If Andy Petree is replaced I will be very upset. What would make me even more upset was if Petree is replaced, and Captain Punch is not."

Same here. It would be a disaster.

I think Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett are great together. They don't talk down to the audience and they know their stuff.

I don't mind Ray joining ESPN. He could replace Tim or Brad. Those two only add fluff to the broadcast which is unnecessary.

majorshouse said...

I like Ray and really wish that he was still on the pit box for Jeff. That team has never beenthe same since he left and I don't know about Jeff and Rick running him off, but I do know that the 24 has never been the same and I really think that Jeff has gotten the short end of the stick this year. I would love to see both Brad and Rusty replaced by Ray because like so many have stated all that they bring are over sized egos and fluff.

3bud said...

Ray knows his stuff,as does Andy, Brad is the fan therefore I would think expendable. Rusty seems to have come into his own in the infeild studio,and think Rusty between AB and Ray could maybe be better,as majorshouse said keep him in his place.

Anonymous said...

The point is he is not the first man to have done and I can guarantee you he will not be the last

Kind of funny that you start out by berating us for not "knowing the facts" about Evernham's affair..and then later on, admitting he had one.

By the way, Ray admitted that himself.

Not being first nor the last doesn't excuse what he did.

Anonymous said...

How many years are you people going to crucify Evernham for "affair" that you think you know all about?

More than two, apparently.

glenc1 said...

Lisa, I find your comment intersting ("Viewers screaming Nooooo when he first appeared and being ignored has proven that fact".) How do we know how many viewers screamed 'yeeeeeeessssss'? I was indifferent at the time, but I'm just saying, if this blog is poll-like, clearly there are people on both sides so I don't think we can assume the majority were/are against.

I personally have no issue with those who decide they cannot watch him...everyone has the right to choose what they find personally offensive for whatever reasons. I can't think of any in racing, but in other sports there are definitely analysts I refuse to listen to. But as you say, ESPN will not make its decisions based on that.

Lisa Hogan said...

glen-I used the word "viewers" as a plural, not implying majority. I based that statement on conversations with various fans both in my circle and at the tracks. I read a lot of forums/boards and found some fans very vocal against Evernham and had letter writing campaigns to ESPN about their displeasure.

Daly Planet Editor said...

What I find interesting is that Evernham and Erin Crocker are very much together as a couple right now and Ray has been divorced for a while.

There are plenty of Internet news stories about those two out racing for fun together at local tracks and even working on a new low-cost sprint car design.

Racing is a transient business and the marriage toll is high. The fact that they are both single adults has lowered my feelings about the bad situation from several years back.

If Evernham leaves GEM and moves to ESPN, he will do so in theory as a single man with no remaining financial interests in the sport.

That may be the second chance that he needs to get himself back on track with the fans who found his original behavior beyond tasteless.

If he does not divest himself of GEM, Allen Bestwick may find himself looking over at two Sprint Cup and one Nationwide Series owners as his Infield Pit Studio partners and I don't think that is going to wash with the fans.

JD

glenc1 said...

Lisa, I understand your explanation--but obvious neither of us has any way of knowing the real numbers. People who dislike something are more vocal and active than those who like or are indifferent to it. I imagine ESPN may use focus groups and such in addition to viewer feedback.

JD, I have been adamant over the years about how much I dislike the 'insider' aspect of NASCAR broadcasting (ie, they're all too 'beholden' to them for their hard cards and such), but I would be less critical for wraparound shows than I would for the actual race. On the other hand, I think you are right that there needs to be a balance. There ought to be more 'independents', but I think the nature of the sport makes it harder to find such people.

As far as the personal stuff goes...we all know there are NASCAR people past and present who've done the exact same thing...very, very popular people, in fact, whose 'catting around' as Herschel McGriff once put it, was well known. Doesn't make it right, but I can't hold one to standards that others I admire have violated as well. Just something to think about.

chase said...

My feelings toward RE are rather ambivalent. That being said, it would be nice if ESPN rid themselves of Brad and Rusty and Tim - RE in a 'Tim' position would bring great knowledge to the table and he would be a big help in explaining things to new and old fans alike. I fail to see the purpose of Brad and Rusty doing any sort of 'broadcasting' (if you can call it that) inasmuch as they are team owners and even though they say their ownership does not color their coverage, it does indeed and smacks of their own personal interests. Andy and DJ are great in the booth - just add AB to the mix and you've got a win-win situation. I did love the comment above 'have a remote and not afraid to usse it' - I used my remote Sat. nite just to drown out Punch's inane coverage but wanted to hear DJ and Andy and AB - sadly, my remote does not allow me to mute individuals!!!! If technology could only make that happen then I'd be a very happy person! Thanks John, as usual and as always.

Dave S. said...

Idea: Everham replaces Daugherty; Bestwick to PxP; Punch to pits; and -- don't shoot me, folks -- Little as infield studio host.

Anonymous said...

You people still dont understand Rusty Wallace is the most knowledgable person espn has he is a champion driver speaks well understands the sport and the car.I think people that dont like him are the people that were not his fan when he was driving.So quit being negative this guy is good.

Anonymous said...

So quit being negative this guy is good.

If by "good" you mean unable to form a coherent sentence, then you'd be right.

AndyPandy said...

I tell you what, that cat drives a mean hot rod, lemme tell ya.

David said...

I don't doubt Rusty's knowledge. He just ISNT an analyst type for being up in the booth. What bothers me is ESPN missed the entire boat on the Talladega tire issue. Yet NASCAR performance managed to have logical explanations asto what could have happened.

Rusty would go as far to say splitters were cutting tires down when there was no contact to support his theory.

Rusty has a deep well of knowledge, but he also carries an attitude that polarizes you one way or the other. His explanations sound as if they carry an "Im right and thats the only view you can have" whereas a DJ and AP give an insight based on their knowledge but remain open to other theories. They don't speak out of their role which Rusty does from time to time.

Richard in N.C. said...

It appears to me that ESPN likes to make sure it has more "experts" than it needs. So if Ray reduces his role at GEM or leaves, I predict you will see more of him on ESPN, but he will not replace anyone - just another cat in the garage.