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Morning Memo: Your Thoughts On Cooling Down?

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 2 2009
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is greeted by the media at Michigan International Speedway. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is greeted by the media at Michigan International Speedway. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Let’s just see what’s in the Wednesday Morning Memo today:

* I’ve always been torn by the media interview procedure in racing.

As a journalist, I like the fact that you are allowed to walk up to a driver who has just climbed out of his car after a wreck or after a race and start firing questions at him. That can produce wonderful responses and improve the story telling.

As a person who watches a lot of races on television, I’m creeped out by that. It is kind of like electronic voyeurism.

Take Saturday, for example, in the moments after the Nationwide Series race in Montreal.

Marcos Ambrose drove a peach of a race on the tough Villeneuve road course. On the final turn of the final lap, he made his one and only mistake of the day. Carl Edwards snuck past and Ambrose finished second in a race he had dominated.

Ambrose, one of the nicest guys in the sport, gets out of his car, takes off his helmet, rubs his eyes and … look who’s here and with a microphone, yet!

Did we really need somebody to ask him that question which unprepared reporters always ask: What are your thoughts?

Do those interviews provided honest answers to essential questions or just emotion-fueled blurts of gasious venting?

Does cooling down before answering give more insightful answers or does it just give the the interviewee more time to come up with the politically correct answer?

Should NASCAR do what every other major sport does and put some space between the media and the athletes immediately after races or race incidents, or are drivers fair game at all times?

Just asking.

Really, I’m asking. It’s the question of the week. Yes or no on not having a cooling down period for drivers before they are interview?

Memo to self: Make sure ESPN is not around the next time I forget to open the garage door before backing out.

* Anybody else out there notice a change in David Stremme’s driving style the more the rumors began to fly about him being stuff-canned by Penske Racing? A change to a more, well, a more desperate style?

More spins, more wrecks, more DNFs?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it just seemed that the thinner the ice got under Stremme, the more bad things started happening around him and to him. And yes, caused by him.

The more talk about him losing his dream job, the more moments he had on the track.

Go figure.

Actually, no need to, I don’t think. No need to consult an actuary. It’s a mystery that the poor guy had been able to finish any races that past couple months.

Fortunately/unfortunately it’s all over now as on Wednesday, Penske announced that Stremme would be replaced in the No. 12 car next year by Brad Keselowski.

Stremme is one of the good guys in the garages. Soft-spoken but well-spoken, always available, always accommodating.

My mother would have met him and said, “My, what a nice young man.” (Meaning, why the hell can’t you be more like that.)

He’s not without driving talent, either. He had never won in Cup, Nationwide or Camping World when hired by Penske, but then again, he was seldom put in the type of equipment which would carry him all the way to Victory Lane.

And he wasn’t a huge crasher.

In 2006, his first full year in Cup, he finished all but four of 34 races and had 11 lead-lap finishes. In 2007, he was running at the end of 29 of the 36 races and was on the lead lap 18 times.

This year, Stremme has dipped. Lead-lap finishes have become fewer and incident-free finishes even fewer still. The rumors, they grew at a corresponding pace.

What’s all that mean? What’s it say about Stremme?

It says the pressure to keep and hold a job in Sprint Cup has not plateaued as has the economic condition of the sport. It says that Stremme has clawed and spit in an effort keep his job and that during the process he may have clawed to hard and spit too far.

Memo to self: Send a good luck card to Keselowski this week.

* RacinToday.com senior writer John Sturbin and Mark Armijo, a senior correspondent for RacinToday.com, will be discussing the sport on today’s edition of “The Sports Reporters”, hosted by Michael Knight.

Rookie Sprint Cup driver Joey Logano will be the Newsmaker of the Week on radio show, which begins at 7 p.m. EDT, www.PowerUpChannel.com.

Plus, Mike Dunn, a 22-time NHRA national event winner and current ESPN2 drag racing analyst, will be on. Dunn will preview the series’ most important race, the Labor Day weekend U.S. Nationals. He won that race in 1986 in Funny Car.

* Word that IndyCar race-team officials have asked that the starting time of the Indianapolis 500 be moved back to where it was for so many years, 11 a.m., is cause for excitement and for concern.

It’s exciting in that starting the race earlier would be a nice nod to tradition at the most traditional of all races, and it would also help teams and drivers who would like to do the double by racing at Indy and in Charlotte on the same day.

Causing concern is that the move may be signally that race-team officials are seeing the absence of a strong central figure in the Indy Racing League right now as an opportunity to “democratize” the series.

As the open-wheel world found out when CART ran the show, democracy does not work when it comes to running a racing series.

NASCAR prospered while CART sank because Bill France Sr., and then Bill France Jr., ran the series like dictators.

Memo to self: Explain the benefits of a single, strong yet benevolent single voice in running a small organization to my very understanding wife.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 2 2009
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Barbara says:

    I truly don’t understand why the media insists on sticking a
    microphone into the face of someone who just experienced such
    utter heartbreak as Marcos Ambrose did at Montreal and make such stupid comments. “Tell us how you feel?” “What happened out there?”
    “Take us through that pass”. And why does NASCAR allow it. You don’t see reporters running up to Tiger after he hits one into a sand trap. No one is in the dugout to interview Sabbathia after
    he gives up a grand slam. And I’ve never seen a sideline reporter
    get in Big Ben’s face after he throws an interception. So why cann’t NASCAR drivers have some space?

  • Stephen says:

    The actual question to Ambrose wasn’t a question at all, it was one of those annoying “commands” some reporters give their subjects:

    “Take us through that last lap-pass by Carl Edwards.”

    Other “commands” include “Tell us what you were thinking during that crash.” or “Give us a sense of your outrage right now.”

    “Commands” are rude, inconsiderate and presumptious and should be avoided by any reporter in any situation, particularly like the one described above.