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Minter: Not All Changes Are On The Track

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 13 2010
The media corps has a different look at Daytona this year in the wake of the chaos in the newspaper business. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

In the wake of the chaos which is gripping the newspaper business, the media corps has a different look at Daytona this year. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Daytona Beach, Fla. – On a rainy Friday at Daytona International Speedway, where the only laps turned on the track were by the jet-drying trucks and other assorted safety vehicles, I began to wonder what memories I would carry home from Speedweeks 2010.

Of course there will be high drama on the track. Someone will hoist a Harley J. Earl Trophy on Sunday afternoon. Others will triumph on the track and in the pits as well.

But there will be other heroes too, many of them unsung ones.

As I looked around the press room, I realized that for me, a lot of those unsung heroes are fellow journalists.

There’s Mike Mulhern, long-time racing writer for the Winston Salem Journal, who like a lot of the rest of us is trying to restart his racing career after his newspaper job was whacked in the cost cutting that has permeated the industry.

Mulhern, who over the years has been one of NASCAR’s toughest critics but also one of the hardest-working members of its press corps, now is having to work even harder. In addition to reporting and writing his stories, he now has to try to generate the revenue needed to keep his fledgling website afloat. And, like many others, he’s dipping into hard-earned savings in an effort to continue pursuing his life-long passion.

There’s Ben White, the respected book author and magazine editor who was among the many let go when NASCAR Scene, the unofficial paper of record in the garages of NASCAR, suddenly ceased publication last month.

White, even with his years of experience and his reputation for accuracy and honesty, is at Daytona at his own expense for all practical purposes, looking for work while filing quality stories for a small North Carolina paper.

My RacinToday colleagues have shined during Speedweeks. Boss man Jim Pedley, doing some old-fashioned working of the phones from the home base in Kansas City, pulled all of our pants down by breaking one of the bigger stories of the week.

And Mike Harris, the recently retired Associated Press motorsports writer who could easily be resting on his career laurels, instead has been out pounding the asphalt in search of the latest news. If you see shots of the throng seeking comment from Danica Patrick in the Nationwide Series garage after practice, Harris will be among them.

Buddy Shacklette of the Daytona Beach News-Journal wrote a nice story about Bobby Hutchens, the competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing who lost his wife Sharon to cancer and is now raising their sons alone. And Mark DeCotis of Florida Today regularly cranks out interesting and accurate copy for the home folks.

There also are lots of new faces in the press room, writing for websites and outlets that are struggling to gain a toe hold in the new and changing racing media world. They’re much like the underdog teams that come to Daytona trying to race their way into the Great American Race in that the odds are against them, but it’s important to the sport for at least a few to succeed.

Although some out there might agree with Tony Stewart and others in his peer group, who seem to have little use for the print media corps, saying as Stewart often does that the print media types ask dumb questions and complain and show up mainly to eat the free food provided to the press, they’re just flat wrong.

Even though it has great presence on TV, NASCAR needs a strong press corps. It can’t thrive if those with knowledge and experience are shoved aside and their places taken by amateurs and wannabes.

A strong NASCAR media corps is vital to the future of the sport, if for no other reason than the fact that the main things separating NASCAR and other forms of motorsports entertainment like Monster Trucks and Motorcross racing is that reputable media members show up and write about NASCAR every week, even if there never will be a trophy or a big paycheck waiting for them at the end of the day.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 13 2010
3 Comments

3 Comments »

  • Thunder says:

    Nice piece. Lots of little guys out there trying to hang in there.

  • Robbie S. says:

    Great article as always Rick. I too feel the press corps coverage of Nascar is important. It seems to me that the TV coverage for the most part is good, but it just does not seem that it gives “the boots on the ground” “in the foxhole with troops” color & content. Thanks for the good work. Best Regards.
    Robbie in Red Oak

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