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France wants TV's criticism throttled back

- The Roanoke Times, Va.
Monday, Nov. 09, 2009

NASCAR chairman Brian France says he wants TV broadcasters that work NASCAR events to call the sport like those in other sports do and limit their areas of criticism.

France made the comments in an exclusive interview with The Roanoke Times before Sunday's race at Texas Motor Speedway.

The sport has been battered by critical comments from TV broadcasters the past two weeks, starting with a roundtable discussion in The Roanoke Times with Larry McReynolds, Jimmy Spencer and Kyle Petty. NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston posted a blog entry questioning some of their comments.

Last week, Poston wrote a blog entry criticizing comments made by ABC's broadcasters about the racing at Talladega.

Sunday, France spoke publicly for the first time on the issue.

''Clearly, this is a sport that has a lot of opinions," France said. "Most other sports channel their thoughts and criticisms differently. That is an unusual thing that we have, to have people within the sport openly just criticizing 1/8NASCAR3/8 as we go along, but maybe that's something very unique in NASCAR that no other sport has to sort out. We'll sort it out."

France noted that he is not against all forms of criticism.

''We welcome criticism on calls that are made, strategy, policy; that goes with the territory," he said. "What we'll ask the commentators to do, they're professionals, and to look at how other professional commentators call other sports. They work with professional networks. They are professionals in their own right. At some point they have to be professionals and that will be that."

France said he did not contact any officials from ABC or ESPN about last weekend's Talladega broadcast. He also noted he did not see the entire race.

France also spoke about other subjects. He defended the level of competition in the sport.

''I think we're getting better and I think it's very good," he said. "I think we've had some great races at like Loudon and even Dover, places that are not known as having our most exciting races, but they were.

''I think if you look at it on balance, we're very pleased with the competitive level of things. It's easy to get off track when you look at how good Jimmie Johnson has been, how dominant he's been and sort of forget that there's been lots of hard-fought passing and racing that has gone on, but there has. We're quite pleased with it ... finishing up in 2009."

France also discussed the Chase, which is in its sixth season. The Chase has not provided the drama as the first year in 2004 when Kurt Busch beat Johnson by eight points and Jeff Gordon by 16 points.

''No question that we would prefer to have it come down like it did the first year where more than one driver and certainly three or four would really have a shot going down the stretch," France said. "Jimmie Johnson, we could not have forecasted or predicted how dominant he would be.

''He is just incredibly dominant and so you can't change a format because somebody has just been so dominant. You'll go up against your own creditability when you start doing that. So you have to be, I think, measured in how you respond to wanting to get it like everybody else does. But you know, the Super Bowl doesn't always get the two best teams. It doesn't always get the last-minute finish of who is going to win.

''That's just the nature of ebb and flow of a national sport. We'll look at that with those kinds of things to think about as we get down the road."

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.