Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle: Taking Your position for Granted

After the race at Talladega, Tony Stewart’s soliloquy was a oration for the ages. To the uneducated, it might have sounded as though Stewart was legitimately saddened by the fact that more cars weren’t torn up during the event.

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The point of the discourse may have been a shot at the media for their continuing focus on the lack of wrecks over the past few races, or it potentially could have been aimed at the fans who seem to want more wrecks, at least at Bristol Motor Speedway.

He may have even been taking a shot at NASCAR and how the new rule package made it extremely difficult to race with cars overheating even in the middle of the pack. Some in attendance were amused, others were puzzled, but surely it made everyone sit up and listen, right? Well, not so fast.

Whatever the case may be, the members of the media owe it to the fans and drivers to pay attention during interactions with the participants in the races so that everyone who digests their output is treated to the facts. It’s troubling to think that sometimes, these experts in the sport they cover might not really be listening to what’s being said.

Being a member of the media is a job, a career, a calling, a vocation or some combination of all of those things. And while it might sound self-serving or egotistical, it is also an important role. The media has a duty to be factually accurate, attentive to detail and to perform due diligence whenever pursuing a story.

That applies to any interactions with the drivers during race weekends, PR events or personal interviews. Just like the drivers need to always focus on the task at hand, the people who write about them and broadcast about them need to make sure they don’t just mail in their efforts.

On Fast Talk with Doug Rice and Kyle Petty Monday evening, Jeff Gluck from SB Nation made the comment that, for the reporters who asked questions near the end of the Stewart rant, they may have just not been paying attention. He stated that there are times, when you are at the track every week, that you have your own agenda.

You attend driver availabilities, stick your recorder into a driver’s face, wait for your turn, ask your question and then listen to the responses later. While it probably happens that way for some writers, it shouldn’t. We owe it to the fans and the drivers to give our undivided attention during the times we interact with people providing us information.

One of the complaints that we hear from time to time doing this job is that the drivers have no emotion. They show up for their assigned media availability and spit out canned answers with no thought or feeling behind them. If an established member of the media is going to admit, on a nationally broadcast radio show, that writers don’t always pay attention during the times when drivers are speaking, then who can blame the drivers?

The media plays a very important role in the world of NASCAR. The views that fans have of the drivers are most often shaped based on the words that the print and electronic media share with them about their heroes or the villains of the sport. The least the members of the media can do is have the decency to give their attention to the drivers, crew chiefs, owners, celebrities and fans that they speak to during a race weekend.

There are millions of NASCAR fans in the world and there are thousands of journalists who would love to bring the story to those fans on a weekly basis. The pool of outlets that bring those written visions to the fans is getting smaller and smaller, and the number of people supplying the narratives to the outlets is shrinking at an even more rapid pace.

If the people who are charged with bringing the stories to the masses cannot do their job at an acceptable level, maybe they should step aside and let another group take a shot.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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