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NASCAR TV? Give 'em hell, Allen and Steve! ESPN vs SPEED. Go to it, guys.....


Steve Byrnes: Ready to throw some heat? (Photo:Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)


By Mike Mulhern

   So what have we here: a question about TV journalists who cover NASCAR?
   Are they being tough enough?
   What do you think?
   It's not really a new question, of course.
   We were asking that when Fox and sports boss David Hill first arrived on the stock car scene in 2001: would the network's coverage of NASCAR be too much fluff and not enough substance? Would Hill's TV reporters, and the rest of the electronic media guys, be willing to tackle the tough issues?
   And we began asking that question again last year, when ABC-ESPN began showing something of a disdain for NASCAR racing – such as the day last November when that network pulled the plug on the Phoenix race in the closing laps in order to switch to 'America's Funniest Home Videos.'
   NASCAR CEO Brian France muffed the opportunity to make it clear to ABC-ESPN executives that such a move was simply unacceptable, in the closing miles of the NASCAR championship chase.
   Well, that the question of TV journalism is being raised once again, as the 2009 season gets underway here with SpeedWeeks, leading up to the Sprint Cup season opening Daytona 500.


Allen Bestwick: Hardballs or softballs? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

The specific issue under current debate: are TV reporters willing to address the economic problems swamping this sport, or are they simply going to gloss over things?
   Speed's decision two weeks ago to drop Kyle Petty's sometimes raucous and controversial 'Tradin' Paint' from the 2009 NASCAR TV schedule raised the issue again.
   Of course NASCAR executives themselves are in a hard place, figuring out how hard to address the economic issues, which affect their paying customers as well as the teams putting on the show. And NASCAR president Mike Helton is taking the point.
   But will the network shows – like Allen Bestwick's NASCAR Now on ESPN2, and Steve Byrnes' This Week in NASCAR, and Trackside – tackle the tough issues?
   To be fair, covering NASCAR, simply from the technological standpoint, is an immensely expensive operation.
   But the product is the most important thing – the action on the track, and how TV journalists analyze the sport overall. And over these next four weeks, at Daytona, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, both sides will be closely watched.


Maybe one of NASCAR's TV networks needs to sign up feisty TV guy Jim Cramer, to liven things up (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)


There is need for NASCAR

There is need for NASCAR reporters to be tougher than they generally are, but also a need more more realism in how they cover the sport - for instance I've yet to see anyone outside of Mulhern's pieces give serious thought to what dirty air is actually doing in these races; coverage of the aeropush issue still seems to go on the "too much downforce" myth.

Okay, you've got the floor:

Okay, you've got the floor: the car-of-tomorrow apparently hasn't solved the aero-push issue...and we'll probably see that again at both California and Las Vegas (unless Goodyear relents and brings some good ol' gumballs; now those were the days.....manage your rubber, or hit the wall). So what's your solution? I've got ideas of my own, but what do you say?

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