Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day Two: "PTI" Targets NASCAR - The Aftermath

Update: This story was splashed all over the media on Wednesday morning. ESPN NASCAR announcers and executives were asked about it during their Daytona preseason press conference. PTI added Jimmie Johnson as a Wednesday guest and he asked Tony Kornheiser to attend a race as his guest so Kornheiser could begin to make "educated comments" about the sport.

The female reporter named by Kornheiser, Liz Clarke of the Washington Post, appeared on Sirius NASCAR channel 128 to clarify her comments. ESPN's top motorsports executive said Kornheiser's comments do not reflect the views of NASCAR by ESPN.

Add to that Dale Earnhardt Jr. who had a practice crash and will start at the rear of the field for the Daytona 500 after switching to a back-up car. So much for leading the field to green on national TV. This story will stay up until the live blog of the Duels Thursday afternoon.

There are two schools of thought at ESPN where NASCAR is concerned. One group of employees enjoys the sport as part of the motorsports landscape, while another group is firmly convinced that NASCAR is completely fixed from top to bottom. It was this way when I worked at ESPN back in the 1980's and it is that way now.

Stick and ball sports are played out in the open. You make the catch against the wall for the final out. You intercept the ball and run for a touchdown. You shoot the puck into the net, putt the golf ball into the hole and it all seems so simple.

The dark voodoo of NASCAR perplexes those not exposed to motorsports as just another form of real sport. The reason ESPN has Tim Brewer on telecasts telling us wheels are round and fuel makes cars go is because the network believes that viewers need that basic level of assistance. In other words, people who watch this stuff are idiots.

Over the past four seasons, there have been many hilarious moments when the need to discuss NASCAR-related content fell to ESPN on-air employees with no clue. SportsCenter announcers rush through brief highlights so they can return to real sports. ESPNEWS anchors have that deer in the headlights look when a NASCAR interview surfaces. Names are mangled, details are wrong and the sport suffers.

The most bizarre graveyard for NASCAR on ESPN has been the weekday show called Pardon the Interruption. Originating from Washington DC, the show features two hosts discussing sports stories of the day with a time limit on each discussion.

Tuesday, fulltime host Tony Kornheiser was paired with Dan LeBatard, a substitute host and writer for the Miami Herald newspaper. In the picture above Kornheiser is on the left and LeBatard on the right. The fourth topic on the show rundown was Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his Daytona 500 pole run.

Here is the conversation on the program that ran on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS only days before ESPN will start NASCAR racing coverage and FOX will telecast the Daytona 500:

LeBatard: Since we are already questioning college football's integrity, why don't you start investigating NASCAR's too, Mr. Restrictor Plate.

This is the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's death, (TV) ratings are down since. Two hundred thousand fans will hold up three fingers in his honor at the Daytona 500 on Sunday. It just so happens that his son, Dale Earnhart Jr., has the pole position for that race. You believe the fix is in, don't you?

Kornheiser: Well, it's a great America moment isn't it when Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Daytona can have the pole position...a guy who has not won a race in his last 93 starts.

There are people in and around the NASCAR world, not just drivers but people who cover the sport as well, who are winking at this one. Who are wondering if this wasn't a set-up because it's the pole position, it's not winning the race.

It's just getting on the pole, having the lead and bringing the viewers in. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the most popular driver for the last seven or eight years and he can't win a race. This is a good set-up moment, is it not?

LeBatard: But is it a great American moment or is it professional wrestling? If you're going to lob this accusation out there...and look, I've heard the comments where people say you let something go on the car and give a guy a certain advantage. I can't deny that Junior winning would be good for NASCAR.

Kornheiser: Everytime he runs if he wins it's good for NASCAR because he is the most popular guy out there and they want to get the ratings back up. I think the suggestion here, someone I talked to who covered auto racing for a lot of years, said she believed there was a 60% chance that Junior qualified with a car not quite up to code and people looked the other way.

There are no points involved, the other drivers don't get hurt and running three good laps is not the same as running 500 miles. Everybody in NASCAR is going to feel good about this.

Needless to say, even though Kornheiser's comments lasted less than two minutes, the damage done was pretty thorough. What Kornheiser did was dredge up an issue that has plagued the sport for years. That is integrity.

Last season, Denny Hamlin was fined fifty thousand dollars for commenting on a late caution flag in one race. All Hamlin did was say he expected it and it did not bother him. The hint that NASCAR put out a caution to close up the field for a better finish lightened his wallet.

Kornheiser chose to ignore almost all the reality surrounding Junior's qualifying run in order to make his point. He chose to not reach out to NASCAR for a comment or help with an understanding of the situation. More than that, he did not take a moment to speak with Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett or Andy Petree.

The allegation that the NFL fixed a coin toss to give the home team a favorable starting position would cause outrage. The suggestion that Major League Baseball allowed a corked bat for a slumping hitter to get better results would get a phone call from the league.

What NASCAR chooses to do with this should be interesting, especially because ESPN has a scheduled preseason press conference with all the NASCAR reporters in the Daytona Infield Media Center at 11:30AM on Wednesday.

It will be VP of Motorsports Rich Feinberg along with Marty Reid, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree talking about the network's approach to NASCAR this season. Perhaps the two analysts will be asked about one of ESPN's top rated programs alleging that Junior was placed on the pole to help with slumping TV ratings.

It is ESPN that televises the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races, including the entire Chase for the Championship. Any negative fan reaction during the off-season is a direct result of ESPN's efforts down the stretch.

Kornheiser was once suspended for remarking on the retro 80's fashion sense of a certain female ESPN anchor. In this case, he simply alleges that one of the top professional sports in North America orchestrated the pole position for the biggest Sprint Cup Series race of the season.

We welcome your comments on this topic and will update this post after the morning press conference. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.


Unknown said...

Kornheiser's a fool and I have no use for him. His ignorance shows through on this issue.

I find it hard to believe that Nascar would rig something like this. Am I saying that certain could be overlooked? Sure, but what do they gain by something like that if proven that they indeed bent the rules for one driver?

The late race "debris" cautions are troubling, but is it Nascar's fault that one driver is just "on" that day and dominated?

Roger Goodell said...

NASCAR was, is and always has been thoroughly marginalized as a hick puppet show for years. It continues to be a sideshow more fraught with notions of dumb rednecks then anything else. This is the entertainment value of NASCAR in the mass narrative. It's a problem in so far as it prevents new blood coming into the sport, such is the misconceived notion in the common sense before someone gets more curious about it. That said, we don't need people to uncritically blind to see the high stakes, technologically advanced world that NASCAR really is to come into this sport anyway. It's hardening NASCAR interest as a counter-culture movement for those truly in the know who surely don't care when a Northeastern frat boy marginalizes their sport as a circus act for conservative bigots and poor, trailer-dwellers.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR will not do anything in this instance, for Brian France is a feline.

If NASCAR was fixed, Dale Jr. would be Five Time, not Jimmie Johnson. Overlooking this small fact speaks volumes about the integrity of the two gentlemen on the television.

Anonymous said...

Tony K takes NASCAR non knowledge to new depths. He will spew for the rest of the season. Nothing will happen to him for these remarks, just like last year when he spewed all of it was fixed, and its not really a sport anyway so why are we covering this?

This kind of junk is why I'm convinced espn hates NASCAR in an official way.

GinaV24 said...

I never watch ESPN's "talk" shows, since they bore the absolute tar out of me. Most of the talking heads at ESPN don't know squat about NASCAR and there's always the "nudge nudge wink wink" slyness about their comments.

However, I also believe that NASCAR has brought a lot of this sort of speculation on itself. NASCAR has, by many of its decisions, made itself into racer-tainment and the management often plays fast and loose with the rules in order to manufacture excitement. It's why someone made the idiotic decision to have MULTIPLE green white checker restarts and Hamlin's comments about expecting a caution made NASCAR mad, but the topic was already part of the conversation among fans.

As far as asking any of the NASCAR announcers such as Rusty or Brad, well, they have far too much conflict of interests for me so I take what they say with a grain of salt.

Do I like Kornheiser's comments? No. Do I feel like NASCAR would be ecstatic if Jr won the 500 on the 10th anniversary of his father's death? And do I feel like they would do whatever they can to make that happen? Yeah, unfortunately I do think exactly that.

NASCAR lost their credibility with me several years ago. I just have a hard time believing anything that I can't prove for myself. NASCAR put itself on the slippery slope and although I'd like to defend the sport I follow to others, I have a much harder time doing it than I used to since I quit drinking the kool aid.

Matthew said...

Wasn't this brought up because of an article? They discussed it on Around the Horn too. Is this different than questioning foul calls or referees in the NBA?

Off-topic, but do you know if ESPN is updating their race graphics?

thort said...

As a fan of all sports, I follow many different web sites and blogs. It is very hard to separate truth from fiction. JD, I love your site and read it almost every day. I come back because you have a good reputation and don't really have an agenda. This post will certainly raise the hackles on many people. I also watch PTI religiously. I would agree that sometimes, things are said by TK to provoke a reaction and are not always supported with fact.

Having said that though, the conspiracy theories were already being floated on the web Monday morning; well before PTI today. Perhaps we can agree that NASCAR does indeed do some questionable things to affect the outcome of races (phantom debris comes to mind). So it is not outside the realm of possibility that things may have been overlooked to "assist" Dale Jr. in his quest for the pole.

Now, accusing NASCAR of this does toe a line that ESPN should try to tread lightly around without verifying the veracity of the statement. But, how does one do this? We certainly cannot trust Messrs. Wallace, Dougherty, or Jarrett to be truthful since their bread is buttered by NASCAR via ESPN. Tony Kornheiser has no horse in the race. I don't expect TK to know the "ins and outs" of NASCAR, but he can raise the questions to a larger audience than many smaller web sites.

I respectfully submit that this conspiracy theory could have some basis in fact. I look forward to a healthy dialogue on the subject.

Anonymous said...

Tony Kornball who? He doesn't like Nascar, but I don't like or watch baseball, golf, soccer, March madness basketball, etc. etc. blah, blah, blah. GOLF? is a SPORT? HOW? I like NBA Basketball, too..... WHEN IT'S OVER!!!!!

JCB said...

This is coming across as all Kornheiser. Makes me wonder if Wilbon was there, this would have even happened. I've seen some comments from Wilbon and he seems to have enough respect for NASCAR not throw something like that out there. Just a theory.

Anonymous said...

Kornheiser's comment is like yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. I think you're arrested for that.

lacboi said...

I like TK but he is dead wrong about this and I hope the female NASCAR reporter he "talked" to wasn't his good friend and sometime co-host on his radio show Liz Clarke.

bevo said...

I don't know anyone who actually watches any of these talking head shows on ESPN much less give any of them any credence on subjects like this. None of these people believe what the say - they just throw crap out there to generate some kind of controversy.

Trick Dickle said...

It would be convenient to think of the Jr. on the Daytona pole as some NASCAR sponsored event, but the bottom line is that Junior has historically excelled in the draft and at plate tracks. The Chevy's have just been faster in general anyway, so in spite of the heart warming story line I'm just not buying it. If Junior starts winning poles at Dover and Martinsville, come talk to me. Not going to happen. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

Anonymous said...

I think that most people could care less what these two guys from Espn think, but the conspiracy theorists will have fun with Junior winning the pole. I must be totally naive, because even with all the "Tenth Anniversary...." stuff, I didn't give Junior's deal a second thought. Junior ran the #3 Wrangler car in the Nationwide series last year and had a good run. I didn't give it a second thought until all the doubters came out of the woodwork. What I want to see Sunday is some real racing and not a Soap Opera. Here's hopin'

Tom said...

Once again, Gina has hit it on the head. While I do not watch these shows, or agree with what was said, NASCAR has no one to blame but themselves on this issue. It is primarily an inability to provide solid consistency in rule making and enforcement, plus the decidedly non transparent way NASCAR conducts business that causes this.
Say what you want about this, but until NASCAR is a non privately owned league, like the NFL or MLB, this sort of speculation will continue. A "sport" cannot own over half of the venues it tries to fill every year and expect not to be criticized.

Inverness, FL

Anonymous said...

Oh my, I don't think this is was NASCAR asked for when ESPN returned to the sport. I rarely watch sports talk shows on ESPN besides NASCAR Now. All their 'personalities' like to hear themselves talk.

I tend to question the integrity of the sport at times, but this accusation is crazy and lacks any foundation.

Unknown said...

Dale Jr. won the pole by .032 seconds. That means he covered a 2.5 mile race track 32 THOUSANDS of a second quicker than Jeff Gordon! A small gust of wind at the wrong time and in the wrong direction would have changed the outcome. The first 21 cars qualified within one half a second of the pole time. Any one of them could've gone just a few thousands quicker. If NASCAR can "fix" all that, they're way better than I thought!

Joe - NC said...

I fully agree with most of what has been said on this blog so far. Does anyone else think there's a reason that ESPN did not even really discuss NASCAR events except a brief moment on Sunday evenings prior to getting involved with the TV contract?

Even during Fox's run, there is a lot less mentioned on SportsCenter and other programs as opposed to when the races are on ESPN at the end of the season.

ESPN doesn't truly care about the sport; they care about the ratings. I long for the days when races were shown on TNN, TBS, and other stations that truly had an interest in the sport.

This "lucrative" TV deal has ruined what used to be a wonderful sport.

Anonymous said...

I heard the comment last night and almost came out of my chair, first and foremost I am not a junior fan but qualifying at Daytona is not rocket science it is about horsepower and the fact that the Hendrick Cars were all very fast must mean that all of Hendricks cars were allowed to cheat, I think we have all heard that one before, I think it is a shame that Kornhole would make an idiot comment like this but then again he has done a few stupid things before.

Delenn said...

Unfortunately, what was discussed has been discussed by Nascar fans on many forums the world over.
Nascar has ZERO credibility, and racefans worldwide know it.
Nascar wants a good story. I might just put a bet on a debris caution in the last 80 laps.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Gina very nicely said

I avoid ESPN if at all possible. Their arrogance is unbelievable, so much so that hype hype and more hype dominates their programming and they are always trying to stir controversy.

As for NASCAR they are just as shameless. They are trying to win fans by manipulating race outcomes and messing with a unbroken points system. They sold out fans and NASCAR fattened their already bloated treasury.

I have no faith that thing will improve within NASCAR.





Lou said...

I have to agree w/bevo. Maybe two years ago I did watch PTI but NFL(not for long) on espn and not once since. The program then just did not peak my interest. Sounds like nothing has changed, so then I am not missing anything. I know there is a show called M and M in the morning. I can count on one hand how many times I have watched that program

I guess that it is sad in that espn has two different views on nascar based on your post. I view it as that espn is torn between the have and have not of nascar as it pertains to fans of auto racing.

You know, I would love and respect what Dale, Andy, Rusty and Alan Bestwick would have to say about this. But then again I think this is internal to espn, and do not expect them to go as low as TK did. But just think, during the pregame of the Daytona 500 one of the four I just mentioned threw TK under the bus. That just might make me watch pre race show again.

rich said...

Well they say any publicity is good publicity but in this case if Nascar doesn't reprimand ESPN for this crap then they are the fools and not ESPN.
Those guys at ESPN are just plain ignorant of the workings of Nascar.

Rocky said...

Tony K is a moron. ESPN talks about Tiger Woods all the time. He comes in 40th in a golf match and the ticker at the bottom of the page talks about how many birdies he made, but the leader or winner of the match gets no headlines. JR is a good guy, very humble, but our nation likes to prop up Tiger, Vick, people that are just pure scumbags !!!!

West Coast Diane said...

Not only is JR not 5 time (great point) he hasn't won in 93 races, didn't make the Chase last 2 years and wasn't even close. So,the theory is NASCAR makes sure he gets the pole, in a race where it really doesn't matter, and that solves all the problems of the world? Pains me to say all this as he is my driver. LOL!

Maybe NASCAR feels if they say something it will make it worse. Who knows. But certainly ESPN could put up a counter to that to present both sides.

I am perplexed as to why ESPN, who actually broadcasts the races and, one would think, want great ratings, would bring up on another ESPN show that the sport is a fraud.

My "conspiracy theory", for sometime, has been that ESPN wants out of the contract early.

PS...omnious signs, unless people are showing up late...infield is really empty. Our group which takes 35 RV's and has 41 sets of tickets, got 16 (2 are the hosts). So that is 14 paying customers for sites outside turn 1 and seats in top rows of Sprint Tower. The hosts think the company may cancel this event next year. They already cancelled Charlotte.

The strange thing is that the Camping World president, Marcus Lemonis, is now head of the company that does these tours.

Anonymous said...

@bevo - I turn them on everyday, right after a late lunch. Then with a full stomach I drift into napdom. Its the best 1 hour nap a person can get. Only when NASCAR or a team I follow gets mentioned do I open my eyes & pay attention. Its the best way to watch the 2 shows.

Unknown said...

Kornheiser was commenting on a sport he knows nothing about, it was obvious, if he was watching the qualifying or took the time to talk to anyone who did he would have known better.
I really can't believe that I am taking time to comment on this Clown (big red nose & make up and he's BOZO) maybe this was his intention to get more press to his stupid comments, nah that would make him smart and that is one thing he is definitely NOT!!!!

52 yr. fan said...

To Thort: Great descriptive comment on "bread being buttered by NA$CAR". It epitomizes the
"partner" designation, or as I
like to say "all hogs feeding at
the same trough".

If NA$CAR wants integrity, let them
show pit road speeds and ALL debris.

Anonymous said...

Nascar can say something to ESPN, but it probably won't do any good. Every time I've heard TK talk about racing, he always admits that he knows nothing about it. So, his comments on the subject should be taken with a grain of salt.

Years ago it was a lot easier for Nascar inspectors to let things slip through, but today it's a lot harder.

Could it be done? Maybe. Was it? I doubt it, especially after seeing Fox's Ghost Tracker which showed Jr held his line better than Jeff and that made the difference in winning the pole.

Is Nascar happy Jr's on the pole, I'd have to say absolutely!

bbqguy said...

Did anybody take the time to listen to his radio show? He was quoting Liz Clarke of the Washington Post who covers Nascar. If you don't like the comment, take it up with her.

Sympliredd said...

This is not the first time that NASCAR has been accused of "fixing" a race to improve the outcome. I hear this almost every time a Hendrick driver wins, especially if it's the #48. TK has no idea how good Jr is at the plate races and therefore speaks without being informed and makes himself look uneducated. He has to deal with that image of himself and I really don't think he cares that much. It does not surprise me in the least that Dale Jr is on the pole. He has shown too many times that plate racing is one of his best events. He almost won the 500 last year. Is it a coincidence? Maybe, but I have seen stars align in other major moments in the sports world, so why is this any different? It is good for NASCAR to have Jr in front, but if they were really fixing things, then we would see the 88 win a lot more than it has.

Robert said...

Well in 1992, Petty somehow qualifies 2nd for the Firecracker 400 and leads the 1st five laps in his last time to drive there. OK - right. I admit I wondered "how perfect" when Jr, got this pole. Kind of like when he won the July race after Sr. death. But, he's always strong here and Dega.

I have no doubt that ESPN forces these topics on this show. I watch it daily and through the season they struggle through a weekly 1 minute segment on something they admit they no nothing about.

NASCAR never comes up on Tony's radio show. Other sports but not racing.

Stick With The Biff said...

I do watch PTI. I also watch Around the Horn. And no, they are not just spouting whatever they want to stir controversy. *Sometimes*, not all the time, one reporter will speak about something that he/she is quite passionate about and make some very good points. And those are what I watch for (well, that and there's usually nothing else on...)

This is not one of those times. I missed this broadcast, but I would like to know more about what they were reacting to as bbqguy mentions (I guess I have to find Liz's article.) But in general, when they comment on NASCAR they admit they don't know much about it, so I don't take their opinion seriously. TK knows a lot about hockey, Wilbon about basketball, I know very little so on those sports I might consider their opinions. Not here (and I doubt LaBatard knows anything about NASCAR either.)

Many have made the obvious points. Conspiracy theories exists because of how NASCAR has governed itself. But when you give an opinion, you need to back it up with something. How can you just ignore that Junior came in 2nd last year, Gordon has P2, HMS engines and Chevys are typically good at plate tracks, etc, etc.) And as other have pointed out, if it was fixed, they'd be having Junior win, and they wouldn't keep changing the rules to try and thwart the 48, and the ratings would not be in the state they are in the first place.

Steve L. said...

For the viewers watching that show, the damage has been done.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line. If Nascar were cheating then Jr would have won more in the last 3 years. The ghost tracker showed where he beat Gordon. Maybe, just maybe he is good at this. This guy is an idiot and I wouldn't watch his show for NOTHING. If he wins, he's cheating, if he doesn't win he's washed up. Could it possibly be a racer who has won 2 championships, 18 races and numerous other races is simply in a slump and might be coming out of it? Hum........

Anonymous said...

does anyone have a location for the original comments by Clarke? Been searching, cannot find and it is rather relevant.

But--I am soemwhat with Gina. I personally don't believe NASCAR did anything to help the 88 win the pole, but I can't be shocked that others may think so.

The Mad Man said...

When you have the VP of Racing Operations for NA$CAR say that it's "family orientend sports entertainemnt", the first thing that comes to peoples' minds is professional wrestling because by their own admission, professional wrestling is sports entertainment.

Then you have NA$CAR's own admission of intentionally throwing cautions to "bunch them up" and "make things more exciting". That sounds just like something Vince McMahon would say if he was running NA$CAR. It gives the appearance that NA$CAR is manipulating the races, which they are when they do this.

Then we have NA$CAR's inconsistency with enforcing their own rules. It's OK for Driver A to go below the yellow line but not OK for Driver B to go below the yellow line. Driver C gets a warning for having a car out of specs and Driver D gets nailed to a cross for the same thing that was wrong with Driver C's car.

I'm not sticking up for ESPN or TK, but NA$CAR has not done itself any favors since 2003 with their playing fast and loose with the rulebook, promoting certain teams and drivers over others, promoting certain car makes over others, and chasing away its true fan base.

If you look at the "anniversary" wins Jr has had since his dad's death, there's a whole bunch of coincidences there that give a lot of ammunition to the conspiracy theories.

Would NA$CAR actually do something to give Jr a win this Sunday? As desperate as they are to get butts in the seats, get TV ratings up, and sell bunches of souvenirs I wouldn't put anything past them. Would Jr have any foreknowledge of this? Doubtful. Nothing against him but he's not enough of a gearhead to know.

bbqguy said...

Liz Clarke said it on the radio, not in an article.

Go to

Select "Audio Vault"

Tony Kornheiser show 02/15/2011 - I can't remember whether it was hour 1 or 2.

Anonymous said...

As a 40 year Nascar fan, I'm not the least surprised that this issue continues to generate noise.

There have been numerous documented occasions over the years where a particular competitor was given a break in the inspection process "for the good of the sport". Typically, those breaks favor a particular manufacturer and lately, a particular team. So that makes the argument completely legitimate in my opinion.

Nascar has never been shy about overhyping these "special interest" stories and then bending the rules to favor their geese that lay the golden eggs, (ie, Earnhardt (x2), Waltrip (x2), Gordon, Johnson, etc). It's been happening since they held the first race on the beach. So I wouldn't bet my last paycheck on the fact that there wasn't something going on related to the anniversary of Sr's death.

Zieke said...

These TV networks are getting more shameless all the time. PTI has always been on just to stir up controversy, and of course there are many more just as bad, all to try for ratings. When one has no life or just wants some entertainment, I guess they can watch that stuff, but take those shows with a small grain of salt. They are garbage.

JoeS said...

Sounds like Robin Miller from SPEEDTV feels the same way...From his current Mailbag.....

Q: The annual 4+ hour commercial/snoozefest known as the Duhhtona 500 is this week.
This being the 10th year since Big E died. Do you think Little E will get "the call" and be given the win much like the first summer race there following the accident? Have you or any of your contacts seen the script for the commercial, er ahh, I mean the race?

Bob, Excelsior, MN

RM: Little E wins pole, falls five laps back, gets five Lucky Dogs and beats Jeff Gordon by four inches to win it. That was the last draft of the script I was allowed to see.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and that's 'Pardon The Ignorance', too.

bowlalpo said...

I don't watch PTI, ATH, etc. I almost hate the shows (yes that includes SportsCenter) where people only TALK about the games. I only want to WATCH the games (races). That's my choice. Therefore, it's unfair for me to criticize what was said in a non-game. It sounds like the old dilemma; "do you dignify the outrageous accuser with a response?" If you do, you give him/her the dignity he/she is seeking; if not, you leave yourself open to others making the same accusation.

I remember watching the race Robert wrote about. After Petty led those laps, he said later that he fell back because he wasn't as good as his car. It takes both the car's and driver's ability. There's no way you can "fix" a race unless you give a car extra laps on paper. Even the lucky dog won't do it; the driver is back in the pack and/or off the lead lap because of a problem or was slower than the competition.

You CAN fix the position where a driver finishes in the points (see: Bowyer, Clint, 2010 Sprint Cup Series). That's what I don't like about WATCHING the races.

Anonymous said...

I've been forecasting this for months. A Jr. win on the anniversary of his daddy's death at Daytona. With a little help. You have to understand that untold milliions are at stake here for Na$car itself and anyone else associated with the sport in merchandising, PR, ticket sales, tv ratings, and on and on. Not small change. Big money. All for one marginally bigger restrictor plate. Sorry, us old time fans have no faith left in the integrity of NaScar. That commentator just said what we all already know.

Dave in Ohio

MRM4 said...

You had to have known with Junior winning the pole on the 10th anniversary weekend of his father's death the black helicopter crowd would be in full force. And they are.

I have been around racing all my life. My uncle raced when I was very small and I got to see the likes of L.D. Ottinger and Jack Ingram race. I saw my first Cup race in 1975 in Atlanta and have been hooked ever since. I have seen all kinds of things in NASCAR. While I tend to think some things get overlooked, NASCAR cannot control every outcome. I do believe some of the debris cautions are thrown to prevent "stinking up the race".

Tony Kornheiser is a big mouth who is totally out of his element when it comes to talking about NASCAR. That would be like me discussing the finer points of soccer - I know nothing about it. I get tired of people that don't know a thing about racing offering an opinion as though they know the ins and outs of it. All his comments do is the fan the flames for the black helicopter crowd.

Roland said...

Well its a moo point now. Dale Jr just wrecked in practice and has to go to a backup. Starts from the rear in the 150s and the 500

KoHoSo said...

GinaV24...your second paragraph is pure gold.

Robert...good to know that I'm not the only one who remembers the King's sudden discovery of qualifying speed for that race.

I don't find Kornheiser's comments in and of themselves to be all that bad. Anybody that has watched PTI knows that he is there to play the character of the crusty old goat that really only cares about the three major team sports.

Mr. Daly brought up the overall problem in his article but I think it is being missed somewhat by those that want to express their distaste for Kornheiser. The true problem is that Disney/ESPN shows no respect to NASCAR or its fans anywhere outside of its NASCAR programming. If it were only Kornheiser acting this way, it could be excused. After all, he is there to entertain and is certainly entitled to his opinion whether any of us agree with it or not. Sadly, this is a far-reaching and constant problem with ESPN and goes far beyond NASCAR's original stint on "the worldwide leader" when Dan Patrick would, in good-nature, snicker when announcing the final finishing position of Dick Trickle.

Anonymous said...

I really feel for Junior. The guy simply can't win in this situation. If he doesn't get the win then everyone will be saying,... 'he's just a looser who doesn't belong in a cup car'. If he wins the race, it's not because he can drive but because the fix was in.

No matter what you might think of this guy, I think he deserves more credit than that.

Someone else mentioned how close the qualifying times were. We're talking about fractions of a second here. If NASCAR can fix that then they're much better than I gave them credit for being too.

Yes, I do believe that NASCAR would love to see Junior in the winners circle ... not just for Daytona but at any track. But I really don't see how they could fix this stuff. There are just too many variables and too many people in the garage with their own agendas for that to happen.

Personally, I think all these grassy knoll folks need to take up a new hobby.

I'm just sayin'...

racingfool said...

Well the ole mNASCAR fix is gone now since Jr. wreck out in pratice and goes to the rear.
What they say? "The best laid plans of mice and men--- dadada

Chadderbox said...

I landed in Daytona this morning around 10am and when I got into my rental car it had Sirius Satellite activated so I tuned into the Nascar 128 channel. I was very surprised to hear what Tony K. had said on his show. Obviously it was what they were talking about on Sirius when I tuned in. Dale Jarret was pretty fired up speaking on Satellite this afternoon.
Personally I think Kornhieser needs to get his butt down here to Daytona and get a first hand account of stock car racing. Yes, Nascar could have purposely overlooked something on JR's car in order to give him an advantage in Qualifying. But, I don't think anything of the sort occurred. It's just my opinion. It's also my opinion that the elite folks at ESPN don't have any respect for Nascar.

Scum Mudd said...

I have always liked Kornheiser. I thought his radio show was great,and I like his sense of humor on PTI.

But I heard him live yesterday when he accused NASCAR of the fix. At the very least he should be suspended and forced to apologize. I think you could even make a case that it is time for an apparently senile man to go permanently to the home.

bowlalpo said...

Oh well, so much for that conspiracy theory!

GinaV24 said...

sorry, but I don't believe that Jr wrecking out in practice will mean anything. It doesn't matter WHERE you start at the RP tracks, I've watched cars come up through the field with 10 to go and win after they rode around all day in the back.

Some may see this as a contradiction to what I posted earlier, but I don't believe it is. Actually changing the car may give NASCAR a better opportunity IF they were going to do something with the RP.

I really hate the fact that I feel like this about the sport. I think Jr is a pretty decent guy even if he's not the driver I root for, but as the Mad Man has pointed out - there have been way too many wins where the stars and planets lined up for Jr at Daytona. Yes, the guy's a good plate racer and he could genuinely legitimately win the race BUT because of NASCAR's credibility issues, IMO there will always be that shadow of a doubt - especially if it happens to be this year.

Anonymous said...

doth thou protest too much? the scenario seems plausible. tony calls a fellow espn reporter for show prep. he stated those in and around the sport.

Vince said...

Tony Kornheiser? I've got a turnip in my fridge that is smarter than him. Or as the Scarecrow on the Wizard of Oz would say, "If I only had a brain....".

Seriously, why does this guy have a show? And secondly why do people even watch it? I mean the guy single handledly brought down the Monday Night Football franchise on ESPN. A couple of years with him and nobody watched MNF anymore. Somebody from ESPN tell me why this guy and the others like him on ESPN (and there are a lot) are even on TV? If this is what the 18-34 year old crowd wants, I guess it's what they deserve.

Anonymous said...

Twitter reports that Jenna Fryer asked the following question, that I'll paraphrase, to the ESPN person during a news conference, "Does other ESPN programs, questioning the integrity of Nascar, hurt your Nascar programming?"

The man who's the head of ESPN Nascar programming supposedly is fuming over Kornheiser's comments.

As I watched the program yesterday, I was more than angry. Kornheiser has never been to a Nascar race and doesn't understand the sport one iota. Heck, he doesn't understand many sports, as evidenced by his total failure at Monday Night Football. ESPN needs to remove him immediately from any broadcasts. His obviously lack of knowledge of certain sports shoots ESPN's credibility right in the hind section.

BTW, JD's blog has gotten legs as it's gotten referred to in many other media outlets.

Palmetto said...

Yeah, Tony, completely ignore that Hendrick-powered Chevys make up five of the top ten qualifying positions (88, 24, 39, 5, 14).

Slick said...

I agree Kornheiser's comments were silly, and they angered me, but he's entitled to his opinion.

About those late-race caution flags though: I haven't watched as many races as I used to (I hope to change that), but if I recall, every time there was one of those cautions, the camera showed a chunk of debris on the track. Then the camera zoomed out, to show the rest of the track, so people wouldn't think that the piece of metal or whatever wasn't on the carpet of NASCAR's head office room. :)

And I miss Jimmy Spencer racin'.

While he got his "Mr. Excitement" nick-name for many deeds in his past, one of my favourite things about him was that no matter how far he was behind at the Winston Cup races toward the end of his career, he'd be trying so hard, that he'd usually hit the wall with 20 or so laps to go, and bring out a caution, usually making the race even more exciting, by tightening up the field. I'd say: "Oh no, Jimmy! ... But thanks for tightening up the field...." :)

Mr. Excitement ... for many reasons. :)


Word Verification : roardag


Palmetto said...

And while I'm at it, Tony can also overlook having at least four Hendrick engines in the top ten of the first two practice sessions.

Idiot. Does he actually think 42 other drivers willingly just roll over? If NASCAR bases decisions on popularity, explain why it took Ironhead so many tries to win Daytona. He was far more popular than Jr. is.

tonybct said...

I've watched PTI since it's inception, and I've been a racing fan for 50 years, I don't expect either to change, TK was being TK, and when they had the segment yesterday, I laughed and wondered how long before all the Rightious Defenders of NASCAR came crawling out to make comments about someone who until yasterday most people probably didn't know. I love racing, I like PTI, I tune in to get their smart-ass look at the sports world, incuding NASCAR. We are still free to express an opinion

Andy D said...

I can see that NASCAR would want Jr to win the pole. The new restrictor plate is only 1/64 of an inch smaller, so yes, they only need to allow a very small advantage to get this through.

But I don't think it was a setup. I don't know enough about the inspection process but I think the chance that someone will talk is too great. I AM very suspicious of his win with the #3 last year, and Petty's 200th win for the President.

NASCAR, and every other sport wants the big story. All sports tweak whatever they can just for the sake of the big story. The indiscretions of some athletes are swept under the rug if it doesn't serve the game.

There are too many variables that prevent a race from being "fixed". That will not prevent NASCAR from making contrasting judgements about pit road violations and car anomalies in order to influence the opportunities a driver may have to win a race.

If Junior is in the top ten on lap 190, Brian France will be sorely tempted to bunch up the field. He will have the same urges if Gordon has a chance to break his losing streak. Or Mark Martin. Anyone else, he can look away, even Harvick. Brian's job is to make sure that the 500 is above the fold on Monday morning. The outcome of the next twenty races is much less important to the bottom line than this one.

Anonymous said...

Jimmie Johnson, a guest on PTI, invited Kornheiser to Daytona to keep him "from saying stupid things". Kornheiser said he was crushed by the comments, not personally, but by fans and other media.

Anonymous said...

nascar has no leg to stand on to call out Kornheiser - it's sportainment and would be the pot calling the kettle black. For me, nascar has a lot less credibility than PTI. Throughout PTI's history, Kornheiser has made this type of statement to only stir the pot. MC

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Vince could not agree more

Monday Night Football is dead to me because TK ruined it. Frank, howard and Dandy Don did MNF better than anyone.

NASCAR and ESPN are everything that is wrong with sports and how they are broadcasted

Anonymous said...

ESPN doesn't care about motorsports period! Motorsports is a fill in to them when there isn't any college sports to cover. They play the same games with NHRA drag racing. If there is a basket ball or football game on, I end up watch drag racing at 3:00 in the morning.

I hope they go bankrupt.

Slick said...

Right then.

Let's all not lose our perspection. :)

NASCAR is trying to give us their best racing, and Darrell Waltrip is fun, no matter if he can get annoying at times. He's still fun.

I liked the races on TNN and TBS, but there's a reason DW has the nick-name "Jaws". And he's proberly done more to bring NASCAR into the view of the general populace (and I'm talking during the Eighties, and into the Nineties, as well as now), than any other announcer. The man has spirit and style, and if you don't like him, then you can always switch to one of the radio broadcasts, while watching the race on TV.

Call me crazy, but I think DW is a riot! And that's good! :)


NTG_2011 said...

We are beyond the looking glass here, people, just give a few good minds the booth controls (DM me Daly) and the right audience will follow.

Tom said...

I remembered when Ryan Newman won the 500 two years ago...none other than Kurt Busch finished second after starting in the back.
Let Busch be proof it can be done.

That said, why is everyone's blood pressure at high boil over this? We seem to forget that Junior started on the front row last year, too, but he got beat by McMurray at the line.
There weren't too many highlights from Junior after that.

Saying NASCAR is fixed is just plain stupid, and hearing those words on a program on a network that airs NASCAR is just plain wrong.

Anonymous said...

A couple of things here:

1. I believe Kornheiser's comments to be mostly wrong. I don't think NASCAR arranged for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to earn the pole for the 500 any more than I believe ESPN commanded NASCAR to make Jr. crash in practice to stir up more controversy.

2. Even though he's wrong, he's still entitled to his opinion, right? So what if ESPN broadcasts the races. Does that mean everyone on ESPN has to be a NASCAR fan? It's obvious he doesn't understand motorsports, and that's fine. Not everyone needs to like every sport. Imagine how out of place I would be at ESPN since I only casually follow any other sport other that auto racing.

3. Someone above made a great comment about transparency by the sanctioning body. NASCAR could do many more things out in the open than they do and that could earn them credibility with the audience. But at the same time, some of those things (like broadcasting pit road speeds in real time) could be used by the teams for a competitive advantage. Where is the balance?

As it is, the inspection process is very open; any team can witness any other car go through the process. But what we don't see is Inspector X giving Team A a nod and a wink on something and then slapping Team B in the back of the knees with a steel rod for the exact same thing. Does that happen? Probably not, but who can be sure, especially when so many NASCAR officials are former team members and some have family members working on teams too. I am sure someone with much more knowledge of other sports can show such possible conflicts of interest in the NFL, NBA, MLB, etc.

Chadderbox said...

I am in the Fan Zone today in Daytona! The fanzone allows the fans to walk right up to the inspection station as the cars and crew chief follow the car through the room of doom, which is mere feet away from me behind a chain link fence. You can practically hear what they are saying as the cars go through tech. There is another tech station on the other end of the garage area where it looks like they are doing template checks. You can walk right up to it within a few feet.
This is a pretty open process folks.
Yes, I agree that they could overlook something on JR's car purposely, but I don't think they did anything like that.
Again, this tech station is a pretty open process here in the fan zone and it's one of the focal points of the fan zone. It would be nice for Tony K. to be here to see this.

sue said...

John, I'm sorry but I don't watch much espn. Does the PTI have a large following? Could you give some insight into this show. I don't want to give validity to a show that reaches just a small population.

Donna DeBoer said...

200,000 expected at the Daytona 500!! WHAT a compliment!!!

Veri word = incido. Yup.

bbqguy said...

Not wanting to get the black copters out but they don't need to allow a cheated car, they just need timing and scoring to post a pole time when Jr runs. A good IT guy and away you go.

Free Mr. Tony

Anonymous said...

bbqguy--that involves *people* who could 'snitch'. Not even NASCAR would be stupid enough to take that chance. They'd risk lawsuits, all kinds of fraud accusations--it would be suicide.

clem hick said...

espn hasen't been a real sports network for several years , so who gives a #$%^ what they say. acording to these twin nutcases i guess the super bowl is rigged and most certianly the world seris and don't forget golf .

i say dump there whole network
let some one else do the tv broadcast.