By admin | January 25, 2013
By Richard Allen
No matter what the “pure journalists” might be telling themselves and whoever else is within earshot, the revelation that NASCAR Rookie of the Year candidates Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse are involved in a relationship is a story. Unless these two aren’t human, there is no way this won’t in some way(positively or negatively) affect their on track performance and decision making throughout the season.
As an example of how personal affairs can have an impact on a driver’s performance, Jeff Gordon’s divorce from his first wife did slow him down in 2002 accoring to Darrell Waltrip.
But the real story here is that this romance(or whatever it is) will command a great deal of attention. And with that being the case, there are other issues that will get pushed to the outer rings of the circus. Topics that reveal both bright positives and dark negatives won’t receive the coverage they should get because of today’s star driven world of sports in particular and society as a whole.
For example, manufacturers, teams and NASCAR have spent a great deal of money, time and resources developing the new Gen-6 race car to replace the much criticized Car of Tomorrow. The belief is that the car’s greater brand identity will help to re-ignite the old passions of brand loyalty that were once such a major part of the sport. Also, the car’s lighter weight and other tweaks will hopefully improve racing in a series that was often considered boring in previous years.
Suddenly, the Gen-6 is being overshadowed by a Generation Y relationship.
Consider too that it was revealedduring the recent Sprint Media Tour that the sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driving for the sport’s most powerful team, Hendrick Motorsports, has multiple races on his 2013 Sprint Cup schedule for which no company has yet agreed to sponsor. Granted, the team does not seem overly concerned and appears more focused on signing a deal that will take them beyond the current season, but the idea of a media giant such as Junior being unsponsored for any race seems almost beyond comprehension.
The search for a sponsor on NASCAR’s most visible ride would normally take on a life of its on at any other time. But now, “Stenica” will divert attention away from that.
Another story, slipped into the news cycle just as the Danica- Stenhouse relationship was reaching a fever pitch on Twitter, is the revelation that two Nationwide Series races(Richmond & Kentucky) will be shifted awayfrom their normal television coverage on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC and onto the much less circulated ESPNews channel.
Has NASCAR really dropped to the point that some races have to be shown on a channel such as ESPNews? “Stenica” probably won’t address that topic in the almost certain to come joint press conferences.
Again, a dating relationship between two NASCAR drivers is a story. However, in both a convenient and inconvenient way for NASCAR, the coverage of that relationship will overshadow other issues, issues that reveal more about the health of the sport.
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