Up front is where focus belongs

Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009

LAS VEGAS – One of the big topics on "The Morning Drive" on Sirius NASCAR Radio this week has been how television coverage of races concentrates too much on selected cars and doesn't "give" enough time to everybody in the field.


Folks, this is not community tee ball where everybody gets to play. This is the big leagues of auto racing. Sprint Cup is the biggest deal there is in American motorsports. It's a meritocracy. Your driver isn't going to be "given" coverage, he has to earn it.

There are two ways to earn coverage. First, pass somebody. Run up front, contend for wins and get them, make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Second, be somebody. Have a story that’s compelling. Move the needle when it comes to the fans. Make people care about you.

Every second during a televised race where they're showing me a battle for 26th what I know they're telling me is that the racing up front is bad. I don't CARE who's running 26th unless it's somebody who for the past 20 weeks has finished 10th or better.

If Matt Kenseth is running last this week at Las Vegas after winning at Daytona and California, that's news. If "Your Name Here" is running 43rd and nobody is surprised by that, he'll get on camera when he's being lapped, and he ought to be glad that's the only time his name might be mentioned.

It's not up to Fox or ESPN or TNT (or, for that matter, the Charlotte Observer) to help somebody get and/or keep a sponsor. Heck, if you ask me television goes too far overboard as it is to try to "showcase" sponsorship. Of course, they get a check for just about everything they do in that regard. If a reader found out I was taking $200 a week to make sure I mention a certain sponsor then that reader would go crazy - and he'd be right to.

Besides, I think the whole premise of this argument is flawed. Television did a great job covering the AJ Allmendinger, Jeremy Mayfield and Scott Riggs stories at Daytona. Fox tries hard to keep up with what Larry McReynolds calls "comers and goers" during a race. No, a guy running 19th doesn't get as much air time as the leader or a former champion, but he shouldn't, either.