Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Lee Spencer from Fox Sports was up at 1AM to author this (click here) story on the end of a legendary NASCAR family franchise.
Several hours later, ESPN.com followed with a blurb (click here) about the same issue. No reporter's name was mentioned, but the details were the same. Even with the Petty name possibly tied to the new merged company, Petty Enterprises was officially closing.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that Petty VP Robbie Loomis (click here) was busy denying merger rumors and painting the future as bright. Now, the reality was finally playing-out on a national stage. Unfortunately, that stage did not include TV coverage.
On SPEED, the lifestyle programs continued to race by on Wednesday as the off-season frenzy of truck towing and auto auctions was in full swing.
This (click here) single story by Tom Jensen on SPEEDtv.com talked about the Petty legacy and the reasons this situation was about to have a profound effect on the sport in general. Jensen was not seen on Wind Tunnel, the SPEED Report or any other SPEED TV program. NASCAR on SPEED is closed for the winter.
The nerves were raw at ESPN because the breaking sports news was overwhelming the capabilities of the on-air crews. "Welcome to the machine," said the ESPNEWS anchor on Wednesday morning as the 24-hour network continued to grind out the "content."
Denver's Mike Shanahan was fired, Brett Farve might need surgery and the coaching wheel in the NFL was in full swing. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were going head-to-head in the highlights. Alcoholic golfer John Daly was suspended by the PGA and Charles Barkley was busted for DUI. NASCAR's Petty story had no chance.
Over on the "mothership" of ESPN, the SportsCenter franchise had already made its final statement of the year where NASCAR was concerned. The season's best video clips in all sports had rolled-by and most of them were predictable. But, when it came to NASCAR, ESPN had selected the best moments of the season. Well, as far as they were concerned.
"Michael Waltrip is the worst driver in NASCAR," growled Clint Bowyer again during the red flag in Bristol. Then, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards showed the best face of the sport with post-race slamming and spinning on the high banks. Topping it off were the threat and response soundbites from both those drivers.
ESPN inserted the Petty information as a blurb on the lower third ticker and credited Spencer and Foxsports.com for the confirmation. So, there it was. Petty Enterprises had effectively gone out of business as a lower third graphic on ESPN on a Wednesday morning.
The background of TDP is blue to celebrate Richard Petty's 50 years in NASCAR. Regardless of the bad business decisions, the end of Petty Enterprises is a major story in the history of NASCAR. With the passing of Dale Earnhardt Sr., there was perhaps no more recognizable and iconic figure in the sport than Richard Petty.
We are weeks away from the start of the NASCAR TV season. Perhaps, both SPEED and ESPN will take some time to follow-up on the Petty story and put this transition into historical perspective when they return to the air. Today, there will be no opportunity to see a reporter or hear an expert to help fans understand this news.
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