Monday, October 8, 2007

Petty And Fryer Square-Off On "Tradin' Paint"

In an attempt to get this show back on track after two weeks of cream puff NASCAR owner "interviews," Tradin' Paint on SPEED welcomed AP reporter Jenna Fryer alongside host John Roberts and resident analyst Kyle Petty.

One of the first sentences out of Fryer's mouth was "when does Jenna get to talk?" This set the tone for the rest of the program, and focused once again on Kyle Petty's growing anger with the mainstream NASCAR print and Internet media.

Petty responded "with the stuff you write, go ahead and talk." What he was saying very clearly is that he believes many of the NASCAR media stories are simply made-up. He has said before many times on this show "I don't know where you guys get this stuff."

The topic of discussion was Kansas, and who won the NEXTEL Cup race. Petty had already explained the NASCAR line, and Fryer was trying compare NASCAR's Montreal ruling about Robby Gordon to the "non-ruling" of Greg Biffle. She started by saying she personally was in Montreal for the race. Petty broke-in with his temper already getting hot.

"Then you have no right to comment on it (Kansas)" said Petty. "Let's move along to the next topic." Fryer looked over at host John Roberts and said "I'm just going to go, I am going to leave." Roberts finally stepped-in and took control. He asked for her opinion, which is basically the format of the show...and key to its success.

Fryer's point was that both Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, two past champions, had both complained that Biffle did not maintain a reasonable speed behind the pace car, and had in fact, run out of gas. In a rare moment, host John Roberts departed from his assigned role and began to lecture Ms. Fryer.

"That's because they didn't understand the rule" said Roberts. "Its like Kyle said" continued Roberts. This outburst was a mistake. It took the neutral party out of the mix, and painted the normally dependable Roberts as "taking a side."

Fryer's point was that its time for NASCAR to make the rules a bit clearer, so that veterans like Gordon and Johnson are not confused about simple issues like reasonable speed. This did not sit well with Petty once again.

"I don't care if ten guys with twenty championships are arguing about it, that's irrelevant" said Petty. Roberts continued to side with Petty, and abandon his host role. "Should NASCAR then penalize Johnson and Clint Bowyer for passing Biffle?" he asked Fryer. When she took a deep breath and paused, Petty said "come on Jenna, let's go!" This two-against-one twist really threw the show off track.

Bruton Smith's anger over a failed drag strip and his threat to move the Lowes Motor Speedway was the next topic. Fryer called Smith out as simply grandstanding and trying to leverage his financial impact on the area against his continuing wishes to host an NHRA event. Petty showed his political correctness by promoting the fact that a drag strip in the area would be beneficial. There was no real information about how many racing weekends, of both national and regional action, would be hosted at the track.

Fryer was asked about the COT, and expressed the normal concerns about visibility and bump drafting. Petty voiced his concerns about how and why Jacques Villeneuve and Sam Hornish were simply allowed by NASCAR to jump in the middle of The Chase with little Talladega experience. On these points, the panelists agreed and things returned to a discussion about NASCAR topics.

Petty dominates this show, and is allowed by Roberts to have the vast majority of the time. In the last two Tradin' Paint shows, the third "media" panelist consisted of a NEXTEL Cup owner. On both of these shows, Kyle was the star and the owner simply agreed with him and occasionally added-on a point or two. The return to dealing with an intelligent media personality was tough.

"You talk a lot" said Fryer after an extended Petty monologue on the state of the sport. "Yes, I know" said Petty. Roberts immediately stepped-in and said "but Jenna, you write a lot." He then switched the topic to Kyle Busch.

Finally, Fryer was given her opportunity to shine. Her frank words about Kyle Busch and the changes in both his maturity and his driving since losing his ride were outstanding. It also showed the power of her national reporting in that her original column suggested Rick Hendrick move Kyle along and hire Dale Earnhardt Jr. Almost all NASCAR fans know that is exactly what happened.

The closing segment of this show really pointed out the need for Roberts and the show Producer to agree on a tighter time format and that fact that Roberts needs to "move things along" when Petty begins to expound. Roberts final topic was the NEXTEL Cup race at Talladega.

Both panelists showed why they are in the national spotlight with their knowledge. Fryer predicted Dale Junior having a strong run in his final DEI race with Tony Eury Jr. Petty believed this was Toyota's best chance for a strong performance, and possibly a redemption of a bad season for Michael Waltrip. Fryer suggested The Chase standings would continue to flip and flop like Kansas. Petty closed the show by suggesting that Talladega has seen many first time winners, and this time there might be a first time win for a manufacturer.

As a first attempt at returning this show to a "journalistic forum," SPEED did the right thing by inviting a tough veteran reporter who simply does not take any grief from anyone. Fryer has been on this beat for a long time, and her work speaks volumes for her ability to keep racing in perspective, and yet push the issues that NASCAR is sometimes hesitant to deal with. She would be a perfect guest for the final show in Homestead.

In replacing Michael Waltrip this season, Petty has been on a TV journey of his own that has included his stint as a race analyst on TNT. He is working to re-define his own personality so that it "fits" on the TV screen, and Tradin' Paint is a good place for him to learn. Watching him control his temper and learn "TV patience" with some of the media guests has been fun this season.

Unfortunately, this show really took a step back when they changed from a media guest to a couple of owners right in the heart of the season. Why this was done, SPEED will not say. It really took the wind out of the Tradin' Paint sails that Roberts and Petty had worked so hard to build-up.

With the success of shows like Trackside and RaceDay, there has to be some feeling in the SPEED camp that with only one more guest, Tradin' Paint could easily fill the forty-three minutes of content that make a one hour TV talk show.

With the "media" changing as quickly as the COT rules, perhaps one TV/Radio and one Print/Internet guest along with Petty and Roberts might make a solid hour that SPEED can replay on Monday nights.

It is curious as to why Barney Hall, Dave Moody, Allen Bestwick, Mark Garrow, or even Brad Daugherty have not appeared on this show as the electronic media guest. On the print side, we have not had a David Poole sighting recently, and featured reporters like Marty Smith, Terry Blount, and Angelique Chengelis have never appeared. If there is an ESPN issue, then tell us. If there is not, then invite them on this SPEED show and let it fly.

As The Daly Planet has said many times this year, Tradin' Paint has the potential to be just as big a franchise program for SPEED as RaceDay. Fans are absolutely starved for independent media opinions and debate in a TV setting. Simply by adding a follow-up link on the message boards, the network would finally be able to integrate the two pieces that have never come together for SPEED, their TV network and their Internet site.

After the qualifying fiasco, the DEI/RCR engine issues, and the lack of any racing until the final lap, the next edition of Tradin' Paint is going to be very interesting. Who the network selects to be the media guest could make the difference between inspiring debate or continued media bashing. Petty has made it quite clear that he is capable of both.

UPDATE: SPEED has just informed The Daly Planet that Thomas Pope, the longtime Motor Sports Editor of the Fayettteville Observer, will be the media guest. Pope has covered motorsports since 1978 for the same newspaper. You can read his columns in advance of the show at and there is no sign-up requirement.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by, and leave your comment.

"Inside NEXTEL Cup" Has A Heartbeat After All

The boys were back in town for SPEED as Inside NEXTEL Cup took to the air on Monday night. Host Dave Despain looked across the panel and found his original 2007 line-up of Kenny Schrader, Michael Waltrip, and Greg Biffle.

Last week, after one of the INC panelists finally won a race, he did not appear on the show. Greg Biffle had a family function to attend, and he flew to the west coast. In the same vein, Schrader was involved in a controversial wreck, and was not on the show due to previous obligations. So, this week the panel was back at full strength.

The obvious theme of this show was that all three panelists had raced, and crashed, at Talladega. Both Schrader and Waltrip were victims of tire failure, and Biffle was involved in a crash. Dave Despain was happy to let the guys talk, and this is the magic of this show.

Biffle was clearly going to be in for some good-natured ribbing about his conflicting statements on the final lap at Kansas. Needless to say, this came up very quickly with Waltrip asking "are you still sticking to that story?" Biffle was tongue-tied, but managed to point the finger at NASCAR, who Biffle said inspected the car and found fuel. Waltrip and Schrader were absolutely not buying it.

Once the race highlights began, the panel had a tough time explaining the Talladega happenings because everything was brand new. The first COT event, the first time for drafting in that car, and the first time for creating a new dynamic for staying safe. It seems that a lot of different race philosophies were being used with varied degrees of success. Waltrip's point was that he had to run up front or the fans would think he had another bad car.

Rarely has SPEED ventured out and taken a poke at the ESPN on ABC gang, but in this show the poking was aimed at Rusty Wallace and his brand new "Draft Lock." Completely tongue-in-cheek, Despain said he had not heard that term before. Unfortunately, it appeared that none of the panelists had watched the ABC telecast, and Despain's attempt at humor fell flat.

The DEI/RCR engine woes were up next, but the panel never discussed the issue. Despain alluded to the fact that Rick Hendrick had referenced another RCR multiple engine failure on the Victory Lane show, but the panel never helped viewers to understand what had actually happened. Light oil, bad parts, and high RPM's had all been suggested in the media. Despain needed to pin this down, but he chose to move along to keep things on time.

Ryan Newman running over Dale Earnhardt Junior's jack in the pits as a result of an inattentive crew member got the panel going. After all the tension of the weekend, once again the laughter was loud and the one-liners were flying on the show. Brian Vickers was once again used as a source of humor for his earlier comments on the program.

The panel's review of "the big one" was brief, and that was due in-part to the fact that no one really understood what happened to Bobby Labonte's car to start the wreck. Schrader's tire failure was next, and it was clear that he was upset to drop out of the top thirty-five in points.

Petty's accident triggered a good discussion about safety and the COT. Schrader was up-front about his belief that we had not seen the COT really put to a bad high-speed accident yet. Biffle made the good point that the trunk lid of the COT was actually opened and torn-off by the force of sliding backward.

Michael Waltrip's accident review resulted in a good explanation of the strength of the COT cars, and continued the issue of why so many tires were going flat on a track that is usually cleaned very well after a caution period. No one had an answer, which was one theme of this show about the COT on a superspeedway.

The last lap move of Gordon was celebrated, but the overall boring racing with no passing was avoided like the plague. The review of the final results was interesting, and always yields facts and opinions not heard on other racing TV programs. Its clear that this panel has a lot of information that Despain just does not have the "NASCAR chops" to bring out.

The embarrassing qualifying session at Talladega was disputed by Waltrip. He stuck by his contention that he had "changed nothing" on his car. The panel was split about the qualifying vs. race trim issue, and the impound procedure. Waltrip did back-up his statement by spending a lot of time at the front of the pack, further adding to the new COT legacy.

Finally, Greg Biffle had been trying to keep something under-the-radar, but Despain and Schrader would not allow it. Pushed as to why he would be absent from the show next week, Biffle shyly admitted that he would be getting married. Asked Schrader "were you not going to bring it up?"

Longtime fans of the show were all too happy to watch the final segment collapse into chaos as it so often had before. Schrader was harassing Biffle, Mikey was trying for sponsor plugs, and Despain was trying to wrap things up. Now, this was a lot more like the INC we know and love. Maybe this series has a heartbeat for a 2008 season after all.

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