Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Doug Banks Ups ESPN's NASCAR Sleaze Factor

NASCAR Now host Doug Banks is a sharp dressed man. He is great on-camera, and he reads a mean teleprompter. Normally, he reads his way cleanly through a thirty minute edition of NASCAR Now, and is done. On Tuesday, things changed. He was sucked into the dirty rumor and innuendo machine that this program has become.

Doug Banks looked squarely at the "NASCAR nation" and said "a surprise in the racing world today, as NASCAR discovered that the...HANS Kyle Busch's car actually broke during his crash Saturday at Talladega."

ESPN then ran a video montage of Kyle Busch crashing all over the place in all kinds of cars for all kinds of reasons. They pulled-out all the stops to suggest that Kyle has a "problem," that he is "reckless," or that "something" must be wrong. Banks threw fuel on this phony fire by trying to suggest that Hendrick Motorsports was concerned about this "situation."

Unfortunately, the "ESPN hype kings" continue to be brought down to earth by the very reporters employed by NASCAR Now. Banks actually asked reporter David Newton "what are they saying about the high number of crashes by Kyle Busch?" Newton answered "there is really no concern at all. Kyle is an aggressive driver...that's what got him to this level. Kyle just as easily could have won those races" So, in reality what Newton is saying is...NASCAR Now made it up. You guys made this up.

Banks asked Newton, with great concern in his voice, about the "broken" HANS device that led the show. Newton replied "there is a small crack at the back...this is not something that is unusual. It did its job and they are comfortable with the way things are going. Jeff Gordon had the same thing happen." So, in reality what Newton is saying is...NASCAR Now made it up. You guys made this up.

As if NASCAR Now could not dig its own hole any deeper, Dr. Bob Hubbard, who created the HANS device, was then interviewed by phone. This was incredible. Hubbard said the device was compressed by impact, and the crack that developed was very minor. But, Doug Banks could not leave well enough alone. In NASCAR Now's best confrontational style, he asked Dr. Hubbard "Are you satisfied with how the device worked?" Hubbard quietly said "Well...Kyle is."

Apparently, Dr. Hubbard was all the reality that Banks and the NASCAR Now crew could take. It was fantasy time, and ESPN's "fantasy racing" guy Chris Harris was live to talk about removing the entire overlay of actual racing, and picking one driver against another on stats alone to "win" in fantasy world. NASCAR Now has no time for the Busch Series, no time for Craftsman Trucks, and no time for the NASCAR Modifieds, but there is plenty of time for fantasy. Amazingly, you must go to and sign-up to play in this fantasy league. What a coincidence.

In a strange twist, Banks then led to a "tribute" to Earnhardt Sr. by both Jeff Gordon and his car owner Rick Hendrick. But what appeared on-air was both men addressing once again the trash throwing incident at the close of the race. If this was a mistake, it should have been fixed prior to airing. If it was intentional, it just cemented the reputation of this show for dipping over-and-over again into the tabloid journalism bucket to throw more dirt and negativity into the sport.

As usual, with this "bi-polar" program, Banks then asked old crew chief Tim Brewer about the folks throwing things at Gordon. Brewer smiled, and said "We used to come out of Nashville, TN after winning with Darrell Waltrip. They threw full beer cans at us, chicken bones, and called us everything but good people." In other words, its not like this hasn't happened before. NASCAR will fix it.

Unfortunately, NASCAR appears to be unable to fix ESPN2's NASCAR Now. If ESPN treated the NFL the way they are treating NASCAR, Commissioner Roger Goodell would be standing in ESPN President George Bodenheimer's office the next day. The fact that no one from NASCAR has taken the time to have a "chat" with the "hype kings" of NASCAR Now is amazing.

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