Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Shannon Spake Jumps In The Deep End Of The Pool
It was supposed to be a slow week for NASCAR news. It is the All-Star weekend. One non-points race on SPEED, the pit crew championship and a week at home for the crews.
Instead, ESPN2's daily NASCAR Now program finds itself front-and-center in the continuing saga of the first driver to be suspended under the new NASCAR drug testing policy. Jeremy Mayfield's defiance vs. NASCAR's insistence continued on Tuesday.
Instead of regular weekday hosts Nicole Manske or Mike Massaro, it is ESPN pit reporter Shannon Spake who is handling the anchor duties all this week. This substitute role on a suddenly news-heavy week is certainly a challenge.
Tuesday, Spake reminded viewers of her experience in hosting and jumped right into the Mayfield sage at the start of the show. She first called upon ESPN.com reporter David Newton who addressed several issues concerning both Mayfield and the media.
Newton reinforced that Mayfield is continuing his insistence that Claritin-D 24 combined with a prescription medication caused the positive reading. He also reported that NASCAR's Dr. Black had restated his position that the testing did not reveal any combination of these ingredients and Mayfield violated the drug policy with a "drug of concern."
On another issue hotly debated in the media, Newton stated his case. "NASCAR does not give the drivers a list of banned substances," said Newton. "There has been a story out there that the crew members had a list, but that is not true either."
Newton was referring perhaps to the following Twitter message sent by AP reporter Jenna Fryer shortly after the Monday NASCAR Now program:
"Contrary to popular opinion, NASCAR indeed DOES have a list of banned substances it provided all teams in December."
So, Newton countered Fryer with a statement of his own that sounded very official. His point was that NASCAR refuses to be "put in a box" with an official drug list because they want every substance to be questioned. The reasoning behind this, as explained by Newton, was the very nature of the dangerous high-speed activity on the track.
Spake brought ESPN's NASCAR analyst Andy Petree into the conversation next. After saying he was originally shocked by the Mayfield news, Petree confirmed that he was one of the people advocating this tougher drug policy for the sport. Petree also repeated that NASCAR has already outlined a path for Mayfield's return to the sport and the decision is up to Mayfield.
Spake went on to host an interview with Ryan Newman, allowing the driver to recap the first half of the season and discuss his goals for the rest of the year. Bill Elliott was then interviewed by phone as he prepared for a speed record attempt in a Ford Mustang at Talladega.
The ESPN Stock Car Challenge winner of the first-half of the season was next on the phone. For those into fantasy racing, Spake also gave a good-natured ribbing to Petree who was topped by his booth-mate Dale Jarrett in ESPN's fantasy racing celebrity challenge.
All-in-all, Spake handled a program packed with hard news, NASCAR interviews and ESPN feature material quite well. She allowed those being interviewed to state their case and kept the pace of the program moving right along. Nice job in a tough circumstance.
Spake continues to host the 5PM shows through Thursday and then returns for the Saturday morning preview show at 10AM ET. She will be joined on the set by Randy LaJoie while Marty Smith and Nicole Manske will report from Lowe's Motor Speedway.
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