Friday, February 15, 2008

Observations from the bunker – a/k/a the Daytona International Speedway’s Infield Media Center.

Daytona Beach, FL

It’s ironic to travel 1,000 miles to cover NASCAR’s biggest event sitting in a room, without windows, and almost 200 of my closest friends. Even if you’ve been covering the event for 30 years the amount of activity is bewildering. It’s like being in Las Vegas without the one-arm bandits, bells ringing and free booze.

There are banks of televisions blaring with the racing cable channels coverage of the final days of practice. They are our only link to the outside world although the garage area is only steps away. If you a solo reporter there is constant anxiety about leaving one’s seat to go to the garage in case of missing an interview in the deadline room or nearby theater.

One of the fringe benefits is being in contact with a bunch of coughing, sneezing, and wheezing writers suffering from a classic case of the “Daytona Crud” although symptoms vary from person-to-person, and I’ll spare the readers from turgid details, just let’s say some of us have a bad case of the flu. I feel a little bit like the hero in the movie of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, instead of worrying about falling asleep, and being replaced by a pod person, I’m trying to hold my breath to avoid inhaling any nasty germs.

There is an endless supply of Coca-Cola, the new sponsor of the Speedway, so we can load up on caffeine and keep typing. Manufacturers reps are grinding their fingers to the bone transcribing the dozens of interviews. My workspace is piling up with these transcriptions and grid positions. A true case of information overload.

Many public relations reps whisper a little tidbit in your ear, either exchanging the latest “inside gossip” or a pitch to do an interview with their client.

Next door they’ve brought in some of the winner’s of the previous 50 races here, but, in the deadline room, manufacturers were trading comments with us.

The question is, how do you write something interesting without mentioning Dale Earnhardt, Jr.? No, he’s not doing anything wrong, to the contrary, since they unloaded his AMP/Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, he’s become the favorite to win the 50th running of the Great American Race. The problem is that everyone is writing about him, and, against conventional wisdom this writer just wants to write about something different.

Hey, anyone a Fellini fan? His movie, 8 ½, is about a seasoned director who has hit the wall, run out of ideas, that’s what’s going on today in my mind.

As a bonus for getting to the end of today's ramblings here's a link to an hysterical video spoof of wrestling, starring Juan Pablo Montoya.



Anonymous said...

Actually it's real easy to write something that doesn't mention Earnhardt or Hendrick . Both of them go to extremes to make sure they are the center of media attention . But as we all know there are many stories in every race , and writers need to walk right past the pr push for JR and Hendrick . Several drivers and others in racing got married and / or became fathers last year , but were virtually ignored in the stampede to tell us about Gordons situation ad nauseum . Many great stories about very interesting people get left behind by the rush to write about the very same thing that every other reporter and blogger writes about . Can't do very much legitimate or interesting reporting that way .

Racingjourno said...

Couldn't agree with you more about most of your ideas.
That said, when I look at the numbers of people reading a story about HMS, Earnhardt, or Tony Stewart it's hard to ignore the obvious.
My goal here is to find out some unusual things, like Max Papis getting a championship ring, put the reader inside the garage with me, and give my
analysis of the day.
If I provoke response, then I'm doing my job.
When I was writing my SI column I got some angry comments, but when I responded there was a whole new world of respect.
There were even times when I learned something new.
Thanks for your comment and taking the time to write.

Anonymous said...

The Star and National Inquirer provoke responses . But i think we would agree that those two and their like are a far cry from real jounalism. I wonder if people really are reading the stories about HMS , Earnhardt , Gordon . And if they are , for what purpose ? Can't believe some one would write another column about JR , so they click on the story ? Could be . They really don't have a choice as thats all there is . Maybe a column that refused to mention HMS or it's drivers , but instead tried to educate the fans about other teams would become successfull . Dave Blaney has many fans . As do Truex , Schrader , Leffler , Yeley , etc. Try finding any column or blog that mentions them more than once a year . Or for that matter Papis . I don't doubt that a portion of the fans that are leaving NASCAR in droves , are doing so because their favorite driver is ignored . It would certainly be easy enough to find out . Take a pledge to write only about teams that everyone else ignores . Do it for one month and let the readers know that you are doing it , and why . You might be surprised at the reaction .

Anonymous said...

I actually clicked on this link on Jayski to your column because it did NOT have a Jr/Hendrick headline. Any headline with them in it the past few days did not get clicked on by me.

I'm a fan of all of them (Johnson and Gordon more than Jr, though for many it seems to be the other way around) but enough is enough.

I hope you feel better, being in an enclosed space with sick people is not the most fun. I enjoyed the detail of what you all are doing at Daytona.

As for stories, I agree, there are many people to focus on. Maybe do a "who the heck are they"? story about Regan Smith, AJ Allmendinger, David Gilliland, etc. Also agree we don't hear much about middle packers like Blaney and Yeley who look like they may break out this year.

Hearing from some different drivers and different crew chiefs would be great.

Thanks for the link to Montoya. I don't understand what people have against the guy, I think he's more truly stereotypical NASCAR blue collar than most guys in NASCAR actually are.

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