Thursday, August 7, 2008
This will be the first long day for Dr. Jerry Punch as the NASCAR on ESPN gang tackles the road course at Watkins Glen, NY.
Friday action will begin on ESPN2 at Noon ET with Sprint Cup Series practice. Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree will handle this ninety minute session.
After a lunch break, the ESPN gang will return on ESPN2 with Cup qualifying at 3PM. Jamie Little, Dave Burns, Shannon Spake and Mike Massaro will be featured as ESPN likes to do a lot of driver interviews during this long session. The Cup action is scheduled for two and a half hours with 46 cars trying for 43 spots. At Watkins Glen, starting up front continues to be a very big advantage.
There is no rest for the Punch bunch as the Nationwide Series cars take to the track right after Cup qualifying for practice at 5:30PM. This will be a one hour live session that will lead directly into a thirty minute version of NASCAR Now.
While ESPN will be done for the night, the NASCAR TV switches-over to SPEED for Trackside at 7PM. Steve Byrnes, Larry McReynolds, Jeff Hammond and Elliott Sadler will host guests David Gilliland and Patrick Carpentier from the SPEED Stage.
SPEED will have the Rolex Sports Cars from The Glen airing from 8 to 10PM, and then Tradin' Paint comes along. Host John Roberts and Kyle Petty welcome NASCAR TV veteran Randy Pemberton on this week's show. As usual, NASCAR Performance is next with Larry McReynolds, Chad Knaus and Bootie Barker. This will put a cap on a long day of NASCAR on TV.
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ESPN's award-winning news series is called Outside The Lines. Created around veteran sports news anchor Bob Ley, this program has long been a news-oriented window into some of the biggest sports issues in the public eye.
This Sunday, OTL will turn to NASCAR. It has been several months since the allegations of racial and sexual abuse from former Nationwide Series inspector Mauricia Grant against various NASCAR employees were made public. Now, ESPN turns the spotlight on NASCAR and the culture of the workplace on racing weekends.
Most NASCAR fans have no idea what the reality of a NASCAR inspector's weekend entails. We see the inspectors on pit road during the TV races and sometimes we see them during tech inspection on TV shows like NASCAR Live . For most of us, this is new territory.
Here is ESPN's explanation of the theme of the OTL episode in question:
"Sunday’s Outside the Lines (9:30 a.m. ET ESPN; noon ESPNEWS) will look at minorities and women who work on the NASCAR circuit. This past June, former NASCAR official Mauricia Grant filed a discrimination lawsuit against the stock-car racing association. In light of Grant’s lawsuit, OTL will explore the work culture inside the NASCAR community."
That is certainly a bold statement coming from NASCAR's largest TV partner. The size of the ESPN company and the ability of OTL to look at this issue with an outsider's perspective should make for some interesting viewing. Whether the outcome will affect public opinion about the Grant lawsuit is up for debate.
OTL has shown a previous history of jumping into the deep end of the pool on hard news issues and this certainly will be a first for NASCAR. An active TV partner talking about and examining the very culture that NASCAR developed and continues to maintain at the racetracks.
We should remind ourselves once again that the allegations in the current lawsuit are limited to the Nationwide Series. Grant was particular in naming names, and two of those mentioned in the lawsuit have already been suspended by the sanctioning body. NASCAR maintains the suspensions have nothing to do with the lawsuit.
Sunday morning on ESPN should be a very interesting time for NASCAR employees and fans alike, as a hard-hitting sports news show ventures into new territory and presents the findings to the entire nation. The results may be a cause of discussion for some time to come.
NASCAR was recently granted a three-week extension to file the response to Grant's lawsuit. That time is now up, and the legal papers will be submitted on Friday, August 8th. Two days before Outside The Lines debuts on ESPN.
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