I watched in disbelief at the post-race press conference from Sonoma on Sunday afternoon with race winner Carl Edwards, team owner Jack Roush and crew chief Jimmy Fennig. It was a wonderful triumph for Edwards, who already had a win (Bristol) this season. With this second win, it assures him a place in the Chase.
However, I was amazed at how soft the media inquiries were.
The presser was nothing more than a theatrical exercise in lameness. There were lame questions, about momentum, of all things:
“Coming off a race where as an organization a place that you guys have typically run very well and did not at Michigan, and then coming to a place where you have not as an organization won many races and ending up in victory lane today, I know the two tracks are not similar at all, but is it somewhat of a good momentum boost or a confidence booster?”
followed by equally lame answers (this from Carl Edwards):
“Well, these two guys sitting next to me, they give everything they’ve got all the time, and even though we’re not obviously running as well as we want at the bigger tracks, like Jack said, we prepared for this race the very best we could, and we’ll prepare for Kentucky the best we can. We’ve got to go out and take advantage of the places where we run well, and this year it’s been the short tracks, and the road course looks like we’ve got that program going pretty well.”
What were we supposed to learn from having this softball thrown at Edwards other than an equally soft swing-and-a-miss answer?
This is a team and an organization in turmoil. Its driver is planning to leave the organization at the end of the season. Why didn’t anyone ask both Carl and Jack, who were conveniently together, “Why are we hearing that you’re leaving the organization, Carl?” and to Jack “What have you done to prevent this?”
There were several questions to crew chief Fennig about race strategy, but none regarding what he feels the Roush Fenway Racing cars have been missing this season, because it can’t be Edwards’ fault that the team and the organization are not firing on all cylinders.
Believe me, if someone had asked Roush a question about his team’s performance this season and what needs to be done about it, they would have gotten a real live answer from a man who knows when to tell the truth and where to tell it. But, no one bothered to ask the man.
Roush made a farcical reference to the win being “good karma” but we’re left to wonder if it was Roush’s, Edwards’ or Fennig’s good karma that got them sitting there in front of the media. Karma had nothing to do with it. It was sheer talent behind the wheel, from a driver whose career is filled with also-rans and shoulda, woulda, coulda moments that didn’t need to happen.
Post-race press conferences are rare moments when a good media person understands that they have at their disposal an athlete and his support staff in a rare moment when their emotions are driving much of what they say. It is an ideal time to discuss those things that fans really want and more importantly, need, to know about the sport.
Why should we care that rumors persist that Edwards is leaving his team at the end of the season, unless someone is willing to ask the tough questions and press Edwards for an answer? And is Edwards’ leaving (or supposed leaving) indicative of his lack of faith in RFR’s ability to give him race cars and support that will complement his massive talent in the same way it works at other racing organizations?
Why were there no questions to Roush about this?
Is this post-race press conference indicative of what NASCAR has become – an orchestrated performance for the media and race fans? With the introduction a few years ago of the Integrated Marketing and Communications crowd, a group dedicated to making sure the message coming from all sections of NASCAR is positive, politically correct and adheres to the organization’s marketing strategy, we’ve ended up with a sport that has lost much of its appeal to a broad section Americans. There are no ugly moments to capture the public’s attention – the ugly moments that come when the truth creeps through all the BS that’s being pushed out as news about NASCAR.
Isn’t it time fans start hearing the truth? NASCAR has been homogenized and pasteurized to the point where it is no longer interesting, except for the racing. NASCAR can’t survive on those three plus hours of entertainment every weekend. Most fans don’t understand the intricacies and well thought out strategies that take place during those three plus hours anyway. If they did, they might have a far deeper respect for those who do all the hard work behind the scenes at the race shop. But instead, what we get is news that Danica Patrick and her boyfriend have gotten a new puppy.
NASCAR has to show more of what makes the sport appealing to an increasingly jaded and hard to impress American sports fan. It is an incredibly appealing sport for those who experience it in person for the first time. In order to maintain their interest, it means that the media must ask those tough questions more often and those being asked those questions need to be able to answer them without fear of retribution. Isn’t it remarkable how quiet Brad Keselowski has become? And even Jimmie Johnson, whose every word would be listened to by everyone, isn’t heard from as often as most fans would like.
Has it come down to Kyle Petty being the only voice that fans recognize as a no bullshit zone?
Despite the claims of 40 million or more fans and its undeniable cable television ratings, NASCAR has allowed itself to become a niche sport. That is how it is viewed by sports editors across the country and as a result, that is how it is covered.
Tough questions and equally tough answers are what define the coverage of stick and ball sports. NASCAR’s fans need and deserve to be treated to more of the truth and less of the bullshit they’re being handed these days.
Thanks for stopping by.