Thursday, March 26, 2009
Helio Castroneves Leads ESPN's NASCAR Show
Never has the quandary that ESPN often finds itself in where motorsports are concerned been more evident than Wednesday afternoon. ESPN is now into the third season of the daily NASCAR Now series without as much as a once a week program focused on other motorsports.
The good old days of John Kernan and his daily dose of RPM2Night are long gone. ESPN is still deep into the NHRA and only recently stepped aside from the IRL scene. Formula 1 is making news, the 12 Hours of Sebring was just last week and the AMA season is in full swing.
Unfortunately, none of those stories ever show up on SportsCenter or ESPNEWS. Perhaps, when the drivers in those series learn to tackle, bunt or perfect a fade away jumper they too might break into the great and mighty stick-and-ball highlights machine.
This left ESPN the Magazine reporter Ryan McGee at loose ends. McGee has been in Florida covering the criminal trial of IRL fan favorite Helio Castroneves for tax evasion. With the trial winding down and the facts on the table, McGee was ready to tell the TV viewers all about it. There was just one fundamental problem.
In order to do that, he would have to call Dave Despain over at the SPEED network. Wind Tunnel is the only general motorsports interview show still standing. Fans may remember that Wind Tunnel, just like NASCAR Now, started as a daily show and was axed to once a week a while back.
Leave it up to ESPN to solve the problem the old-fashioned way. They would just lead the Wednesday version of NASCAR Now with McGee and the Castroneves story. The key to making all this work would be for McGee and host Mike Massaro to just say the word "NASCAR" a whole lot. That is exactly what they did.
Castroneves may have danced with the stars and driven a mean IRL machine, but he has absolutely no direct connection to NASCAR. He was alleged to have kept money paid to him off-shore to avoid taxes. It was cut and dried.
Names like Roger Penske and Sam Hornish Jr. were used a lot. One of Castroneves co-conspirators is a lawyer with some NASCAR clients. Penske and Hornish were not alleged to have done anything wrong. The lawyer, however, could be in big trouble.
McGee's normal challenge is to compose a good article for ESPN's magazine and website, which he normally does quite well. On this Wednesday, however, his biggest challenge was to explain why an IRL driver's tax problems were the lead story on NASCAR Now. The explanation was not very convincing.
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