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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29 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree that this certainly did not need to be the lead story. However, it could impact Penske and Sam Jr. If Helio goes to the big house, Penske might snatch Sam and force him to take over Helio's team. That is a NASCAR story. The part that I thought was kind of a cheap shot was in mentioning drivers who shared the same attorney.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Not to mention that Hornish said a full season for him in NASCAR this year is on tap.

Your point about the attorney is great, that was really stretching it.

JD

Newracefan said...

Hopefully having the same attorney won't give someone any ideas and try to imply that the other drivers have done some of the same foolish things Helio has been accused of. I was afraid that's where ESPN was trying to go but they appeared to stop short, kind of unusual for them, maybe because it was Ryan and he doesn't throw out unsubstantiated rumors as fact like some others at ESPN.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Nice of them to have Ryan on, wish he and Ed Hinton showed up a little more often during the mid-week and gave that show some pop.

JD

Anonymous said...

McGee has only attended two days of trial and has left out a large portion of the case against the defendants which included a sponsorship contract that Helio signed with a Brazilian company named Coimex. Coimex paid Helio $2 Million in Brazil in each of the years 1999, 2000, and 2001. Helio transferred $2 Million in each of the aforementioned years to a Panamanian offsore company in a US Bank account, that Helio owned with his family. This panamanian offshore company then transferred $1.8 Million in each years from 1999 thru 2001 to the bank accounts of the Coimex directors in their US bank accounts, thus breaking Brazilian Laws with these kickback payments (research and read the articles of Helio and his family being investigated in Brazil with the Coimex directors). These documents of the Coimex deal and the money transfers were presented at trial along with two altered documents that Katiucia faxed to Penske Racing. A Special Agent also read prior sworn testimony by all three defendants from the Fittipaldi vs Castroneves lawsuit that did not favor the defendants' current defense strategy.

In addition, the prosecution has not completed their case against Helio, his sister (Katiucia) and their attorney (Alan Miller). I believe that the indictment stated that there were other unreported income and false deductions by Helio and his sister. I guess that these will also be presented with evidence by the Government before the defense puts on their case at trial.

Anonymous said...

Nice Picture of Helio and Juliana!!!

Anonymous said...

This whole thing is a bore. THere are more important things to worry about than this story.

Dot said...

@ Anon 10:03, Yikes!!

Not to sound unAmerican but, doesn't this lawsuit seem hypocritical of the government? What's the Treasury Secretary's name again? I am not condoning tax evasion, just an observation.

Do you think when they named it NASCAR NOW it would put them in a box? RPM2NIGHT referred to any engine. Too bad, since there is all kinds of racing to cover out there. I'm sure there are others like me who watch drag racing, IRL, ALMS (Lucas Luhr, yum). etc.

Should Helio lose his ride, I really hope Sam H takes it. He might say he wants to stay in Cup but, I think he really wants to win.

Photojosh said...

Eh, I'm not with you on this one JD. It wasn't that bad of a story. Penske is involved, it's logical that Hornish might take over the empty seat if Helio goes to jail, that attorney is involved with Nascar, etc.

Overall, I saw it as a "slow news day" more than anything. As long as Nascar Now is 95% Nascar the rest of the time, I don't mind hearing a few motor sports stories that are related. Will we all jump on NN's back if they do a story on Kyle Petty driving a Grand Am car? After all, it sounds like Kyle has as much to do with Nascar these days as that lawyer does.

Anonymous said...

Penske already has a driver subbing for Helio, Australian driver Will Power.

Anthony said...

I'm not even sure what to say about this news. I am really glad that I did not get to see tonight's NASCAR Now. What do we care about what happens to Helio? Unless, as Anon 9:09 PM pointed out, this affects Penske Championship Racing, I see no correlation AT ALL to NASCAR.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Hopefully, some folks are getting the point that perhaps a weekly motorsports show on ESPN2 would be the way to go.

Great comments.

JD

tiamatsrevenge said...

When the indictment was first released, the majority of stories surrounding the case mentioned Mr Miller's clients involved NASCAR drivers by name ...

When the IROC series was still around, Helio had expressed interest in joining NASCAR ... with Mr Penske ...


Dot - Yes, you're correct about the fed govt being somewhat hypocritical in regards to Secretary Geithner (as well as several other members of the Cabinet / Congress) compared to Helio ...



That said ... SPEED and / or ESPN have desperately needed a weekday news show that covers ALL of racing and not just NASCAR ... There are LOTS of racing news stories that break during the week and neither network has anywhere for fans to turn (except to the internet) ... It's a BIG disservice done to the viewers and all of motorsports ...

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Great NASCAR Now show last night - Massaro is really getting it done - Bravo ESPN for making the switch

Anonymous said...

Seems like anon 8:12a works for ESPN. They then posted a follow up with plug for Massaro.

Nan S said...

The solution is simple, bring back RPM tonight and then you cover all motorsports.

hotaru said...

Yeah, I found myself thinking to myself 'They're going off-topic... again!'. I remember them taliking about Lewis Hamilton (F1) and having Danica Patrick (ugh) as an in studio guest.

Nowadays (as much as I hated the show when I was little), I also miss RPM2Night.

Tracy said...

Wish Dave Despain had talked to Ryan in depth. Maybe he will. Adding a Penske interview would be super, but I doubt DD could get him on WT.

I miss the other shows too. Also, Speed's Seven Days, Beyond the Wheel, etc. Sigh. I can't tell you how much I HATE Pinks.

Anon at 10:03, thanks for the synopsis of charges.

Anonymous said...

I was glad to see that NASCAR NOW did lead with this story. It is newsworthy regardless if it is NASCAR related or not. I follow auto racing and am not so nearsighted that I only look at NASCAR news.

majorshouse said...

It looks like I really missed nothing last night, but this is an interesting case and it will be really interesting to see how it all shakes out.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 12:44PM,

Thanks for your comment. My point was that ESPN has 24 hours a day on three different networks to offer one motorsports show a week.

To simply invade NASCAR turf because there is nowhere else to go seemed a little bit off base.

Totally agree that this is an important story and hope the best for Helio.

Just don't see Baseball Tonight leading with an NFL story anytime soon.

JD

Photojosh said...

"Just don't see Baseball Tonight leading with an NFL story anytime soon."

I wouldn't be so sure about that. Slow news day, some sort of scandal that involved a "two sport" owner, an agent representing stars in both sports...It could happen.

Would you have been any more happy about the story if they hadn't LED with it? And if so, what "news o the day" would have been a better lead? Last year's winner non-telegenic talking about the upcoming race? Another of 500 stories about the 88 team and it's troubles?

Like I said, it was a slow news day.

However, I do think that motosports needs a daily news show to talk about all the racing going on. I would watch it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Josh,

Slow news day? My point is that stories on Jayski and on the ESPN.com website were not followed up on NASCAR Now.

It would be nice to get the Truck Series or the regional series some regular Wednesday exposure. We have been talking about that for three years.

ESPN is trapped in a cycle of high-profile stories only getting on the air. Where are the Mooresville reporters? Where are the behind-the-scenes stories? Put someone in charge of Wednesday features and let them get to it.

Once again, Helio has nothing to do with NASCAR news IMHO. SportsCenter or ESPNEWS is the location for IRL stories.

As many emailers pointed out, McGee actually delivered nothing new and the trial was still in-progress. At best, it was ESPN filling time without investing effort in NASCAR reporting.

Jd

Photojosh said...

I'm not going to argue that the Trucks could use a lot more love. But when isn't that true? It's not like they get a lot of attention from anywhere, even Speed.

"Stories on Jayski"? Well here's wednesday's stories on Jayski:

http://jayski.com/past/2009/day090325.htm

Would you rather have had a "Boy scouts honor Gordon" or a "Busch: Smell My Face Beltway Race" story?

Not much in tuesday's news either. I suppose the Front Row motorsports thing is a decent story, for a small team anyway. But how does "Gillette could sell NHL team, could race team be next?" get to be any better than the Penske thing? There was no real mention of him selling anything having to do with Nascar. It was just straight out speculation.

Anyway, I'm not defending ESPN overall. They should have a "motorsports" show and they have shown a disturbing tendency to just push sensational (and often incorrect) big stories. Particularly when it comes to Sportscenter showing anything having to do with racing. But I'm not going to stress out on this particular Helio story. I stand by my "slow news day" judgement.

Lesley said...

Why the HC tax story?Easy! The much needed drama that is lacking in nascar....Bristol was even boring..As a side note..I feel bad for Mr Hendrick in that Dale Jr has all but lost the fire in his belly so to speak for racing..Rick is really caught between a rock and a hard spot on this one..Get rid of hime ,LOSE..DE fans would hate rick forever.Keep him and all the 1st 2nd and third cousins removed...LOSE..Maybe there will be some drama!!Bummer Rick

glenc1 said...

I'm with Photojosh. This just doesn't bother me *on a slow news day*. If there had been something vital and they'd gone with the other story, then I'd have been annoyed. But I totally agree we could use an RPM show again. I miss it. But also, if this lawyer...well, whatever bad stuff he might have done, if his clients included NASCAR figures, they could be either victims or involved. Either way it's a story.

Bobby said...

This is a NASCAR-related story because Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, and others are represented by the former Patriots running back (Miller, who played a few seasons in the AFL).

Penske is involved because of how Castroneves' contract was first signed. Reportedly, the first contract was hastily written with his name written in places where the late Greg Moore's name had been printed. The Maple Ridge, BC driver was signed for Penske for the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series in mid-1999, but was killed at the Auto Club Speedway. That's when Castroneves, a free agent following the demise of Carl Hogan Racing, was signed to Penske.

If Castroneves had signed with Penske under different (not emergency) situations, then this would not have happened. It seems the issue is the emergency situation that came up resulting in his joining of Penske came into play. It seems the issue is with the deal that was signed by Penske hastily after his driver of the future had been killed.

Deborah said...

I agree with Bobby, there's definitely a NASCAR connection to this story since Alan Miller not only represents numerous drivers, but he's been involved with negotiating many deals in the garage area. Seems to me that there might be some nervous people about how the outcome of this trial in terms of what's going to happen to Miller and how it might effect them. And of course there's been speculation for quite some time that Sam Hornish will be leaving NASCAR to replace Helio if he's found guilty.