Monday, January 19, 2009

Evernham Gets His Name Out Of The Mix

Ray Evernham continues to pave his way toward a full-time TV career in the sport. The change that will do him the most good has finally happened.

As ESPN's David Newton (click here) reports, Gillett Evernham Motorsports has changed the name of the entire organization to Richard Petty Motorsports. Evernham recently did several interviews where he made clear that he has not been involved in the day-to-day operations of GEM for some time now.

The biggest controvery surrounded his silence over the firing and then rehiring of driver Elliott Sadler. The situation was that Evernham remained a part owner of the team that still bore his name, making him a target for questions surrounding the activity of the group.

Now, the Evernham name will be removed and Richard Petty will be the "branding tool" that is used to move the company forward in the sport. This is a good role for Petty, as a team ambassador but without the same management responsibilities that put Petty Enterprises in the original situation from which they could not emerge.

Evernham is slated to appear all season on ESPN in a wide variety of roles. He will handle race analysis in the booth on select races, appear in the Infield Pit Studio as a panelist and appear as an expert on shows from NASCAR Now to SportsCenter.

This move allows Evernham to fly under the radar for this season and maintain his "outsider" status that has come to be his trademark when questions are asked about GEM. Now, expect the words Richard Petty Motorsports to be said on a regular basis by Evernham with a big smile on his face.

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What Questions Would You Like To Ask On SPEED's "Preseason Thunder?"

Sunday on The SPEED Report, co-hosts Krista Voda and Leigh Diffey threw cream puffs at NASCAR on Fox analyst Larry McReynolds.

Here were the question asked of McReynolds on the show in order:

1 - Why are teams testing at Rockingham? Answer: It's right down the road.
2 - How about tires, what is the latest from Goodyear? Answer: Teams are testing on old tires. We have not seen the 2009 tires yet.
3 - Anything the teams are doing right now help for Daytona? Answer: No.
4 - How did you like Fan Fest with no cars on the track? Answer: It was different.
5 - What is your view of no testing? Answer: I don't think it's a big deal.
6 - What can we expect in Bud Shootout practice? Answer: 28 cars in each session.
7 - How is Tony Stewart handling team ownership? Answer: That deal will work, he is just wearing two hats.

What Voda and Diffey failed to ask were any NASCAR questions of substance.

This seems to be the agenda of SPEED in the pre-season. We saw it with Preseason Thunder in week one and now we see it on The SPEED Report for the second week in a row.

Perhaps, you may have some suggestions of topics that SPEED can address during the next week. The network has Preseason Thunder on Monday through Friday at 7:30PM and has many NASCAR personalities available to comment on your topics.

What do you want to know as the season approaches? Truck Series issues? The fate of the Nationwide Series? Sprint Cup team questions? Recent sponsorship announcements? Contingency plans? TV cost-cutting? Top 35 questions? 4-car ownership rules? Bud Shootout changes?

Why not take a moment and click on the COMMENTS button and give us your top questions as the season approaches? TDP gets plenty of questions in email and fans usually address a wide variety of topics.

Let's see if SPEED addresses your questions this week as the days of Preseason Thunder roll by. Reporters Wendy Venturini and Bob Dillner will be on the Charlotte Media Tour, so there will be plenty of resources available to answer your 2009 NASCAR pre-season questions.

Thanks again for helping, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy directions. Rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page.

What do Ron Hornaday Jr. And The Pittsburgh Steelers Have In Common?

The answer is they both got smeared by ESPN. This process is very simple and easy to understand. It starts with a person or a team that is singled-out by ESPN well in advance.

Despite the reality of the facts surrounding the subject in question, a team at ESPN takes months to create a high-profile smear-and-run campaign.

It involves many ESPN employees who work for the TV, radio and Internet divisions of the company. Once the plan is complete, the story is launched at the most opportune time to garner the best publicity for all of the ESPN "platforms."

In 2008, this happened to Ron Hornaday Jr. when ESPN announced to the world that Hornaday had taken steroids for performance enhancement because of his advanced age. Click here for the original story.

ESPN reporter Shaun Assael alleged Hornaday was worried about losing his ride to younger drivers. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Ron Hornaday thought he was dying.

The campaign was launched (click here) just before NASCAR began the 2008 Chase for the Championship on ABC. The story was released mid-week so it had several days to grow on the Internet before the Truck and the Sprint Cup Series raced together at the very same track. What a coincidence.

By the time Hornaday pulled into the race track, the media had been whipped into a feeding frenzy. Where ESPN was concerned, the execution of the plan was perfect.

There is a growing slice of the very big ESPN pie that does not care about truth, accuracy in media or sports in general. The purpose of the smear-and-run is not to expose a story or confront an issue.

It is simply to get ESPN's "brand" in the news on a global basis. The stigma (click here) still lingers for Hornaday. There was no performance issue. There were no lies. The topic was gone with one press conference.

One day later, Dr. Jerry Punch said on the air "Ron Hornaday will not be disciplined by NASCAR for the testosterone use for a medical condition, a thyroid condition."

The entire response from the NASCAR on ESPN on-air team took eight seconds. The topic was never mentioned again. No one from ESPN ever apologized to Hornaday. They did not have to, he was collateral damage. The real mission had been accomplished.

Now that the NFL is into the playoffs, ESPN's latest target is the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. The allegation (click here) is that the players took Human Growth Hormone (HGH) given to them by a dirty team doctor.

The ESPN reporter is Mike Fish, the same one who surfaced last season to feed (click here) the phony NFL video cheating scandal. That story was released just before the Super Bowl and instantly put the ESPN "brand" around the world in less than one day.

In reality, the doctor in Fish's newest smear left the Steelers organization back in 2007 and the HGH shipment the physician admits receiving was in 2006. That does not seem to be an issue because The Steelers made the playoffs this season. Any story from ESPN with Steelers in the title will get published worldwide. It (click here) certainly did.

Pro Football Talk (click here) suggests that the only reason ESPN released the story recently is because it feared the Steelers would lose in the playoffs and the story would lose its "scandal appeal." Here is an excerpt:

The overriding purpose (of this smear-and-run) is to create another Patriots-style lightning rod, drawing eyeballs and ears to the various ESPN (TV, radio and Internet) platforms so that ESPN can acquire information and express opinions about whether the Steelers’ most recent Super Bowl win is tainted and whether their current run for another title can be undermined by the efforts of ESPN to create a distraction. We wonder how long ESPN can peddle this same, tired formula.

The Hornady story resulted in a TDP column (click here) titled "The Two Faces Of ESPN On Display."

One division of ESPN telecasts both NASCAR and the NFL. This side of ESPN is loaded with hard working men and women with a love of sports and an incredible work ethic.

The dark side of ESPN is loaded with guys like Mike Fish and Shaun Assael. They exploit the power of the ESPN "brand" and attack the very sports that allowed ESPN to flourish and become a success. They do it when the stories will get the most publicity and have no conscience about truth or the effect of their written words.

NASCAR is weeks away from the start of the most confusing and off-balance season in the modern era. Collapsing teams, angry drivers and bankrupt sponsors are threatening to push the sport to the brink. It should be very interesting to see which side of ESPN shows-up to handle this situation.

NASCAR Now on ESPN2 starts February 2nd at 5PM ET. Stay tuned.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page.

How Are You Feeling About The Approaching Season?

There seems to be a very different vibe in the air this January when it comes to the upcoming NASCAR season. Lack of information about what is actually going to happen in the three national touring series seems to be an epidemic in the media.

This is especially true in TV land, where ESPN has limited the NASCAR exposure during the off-season to virtually nothing. No featured stories in SportsCenter presented by the NASCAR on ESPN analysts or reporters. No segments on ESPNEWS talking about the overall picture in terms of the sport on the track this season.

SPEED has been guilty of veering off-course in dramatic fashion, featuring "puff pieces" about teams and even throwing in a "Mall Cop" movie promo. Both the Preseason Thunder shows and The SPEED Report have missed the opportunity to host a panel of SPEED's own experts to talk about this crisis.

For those fans who have Sirius Satellite radio, it's great that you have heard some more information than the rest of us. Certainly, the Internet continues to grind out stories as Daytona approaches, but almost all of them talk about only one topic.

With the recent news that the merged Ganassi-DEI team might be down to two cars, the reality of the new season is really hitting home. If these are the struggles of the Sprint Cup teams, what in the world is NASCAR going to put on the track for the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series?

This week will be a key opportunity for SPEED to solve these problems for the fans. Taped this week in Daytona during Fan Fest were five Trackside shows that will air Monday through Friday at 7:30PM ET. This should give Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds an opportunity to touch on exactly these issues.

It will be a shame if host Steve Byrnes is put in the position of interviewing the Fan Fest drivers and asking the same type of generic questions that fans saw on Preseason Thunder during week one. Trackside usually runs wide open and talks about almost anything, hopefully that will be the case this week.

SPEED will also use Bob Dillner, Wendy Venturini and Ray Dunlap to chase the Charlotte media tour as it goes to the various race shops in the Mooresville and Concord, NC area. The reporters will offer their information in another week of Preseason Thunder shows that will originate from the new SPEED studios at 7PM ET.

These two shows need to focus on the issue of keeping the remaining fans in the sport and not allowing this economic challenge to continue NASCAR's slide. While Sirius listeners may have heard Mike Helton and others talk about these challenges, TV viewers have not.

In addition to the teams and drivers, fans need to see the faces of the sport like Helton, Brian France and Jim Hunter. It is an especially confusing time for the newer fans who do not have a perspective on the manufacturer, team and racing history of NASCAR. A few well-chosen words can go a long way coming from the right person in an official position.

Ultimately, the TDP email has been busy with fans trying to make a personal decision about committing forty weekends of the upcoming year to a sport that seems to be in a nosedive. Certainly, the struggles of 2008 with the COT, tires and the dominance of Jimmie Johnson left a tough taste in the mouth of some fans.

TDP is wondering if you have made a decision about this season yet or if you are one of the fans still pondering if and how much of NASCAR you will watch on TV this year? Once the spectacle of Daytona is done, will you be back as the series travels to California?

Thanks for taking a moment to share your TV and NASCAR thoughts with us, there will be new columns up all week talking about the multiple TV shows on the air.

To add your comment, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Than you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.