NASCAR on ESPN analysts Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree, lap-by-lap announcer Marty Reid and ESPN vice president, motorsports, Rich Feinberg participated in a news conference today at Daytona International Speedway. Live coverage of the NASCAR Nationwide Series season-opening race at Daytona airs Saturday, Feb. 19, on ESPN2 beginning at noon ET with NASCAR Countdown.
Some highlight quotes from the news conference: What can be done about the commercial load in ESPN’s NASCAR telecasts? RICH FEINBERG — “The commercial ratio that we use is less than we are contractually allowed. We could actually be putting more commercials in our telecasts. With our agreement with NASCAR, we would be allowed to do so and obviously that would generate us more revenue. We choose not to do that in an effort to show as much green flag racing as we can. We’ve done studies between our commercial volume versus the other media partners of NASCAR and it is very, very similar. We’ve also actually done some internal studies to look at some of those websites that track commercials and have found a lot of inaccuracies in their system. The reality is that it’s a business. With the rights payments that we have to make to have our partnership with NASCAR, and with production costs, marketing and personnel, we’re a business as well, and we need to recoup those expenses and hopefully make ourselves profitable. So it’s a balance. I think there are ways to try and strike a better balance than we have now. Currently we are not allowed to do side-by-side per our rights agreement with NASCAR but I know that in our partnership we have discussions with them about that. The reality is we try to minimize the impact on the presentation of the show as much as possible. We’ve had a lot of success in the placement of our commercials and offering the end of a race without as many commercials as we can possibly do.” Your reaction to the remarks by Tony Kornheiser on Tuesday’s PTI? RICH FEINBERG — “I did not see the show, but it’s been relayed to me what he said. It’s sort of my take on it that that’s a show of opinion, and it’s primarily based on his and Michael’s (Wilbon) opinion, and they are entitled to their opinion. Hopefully they present it with responsibility and in a dignified way, which from my take, it’s an Emmy Award winning show they do for the most part. But they’re entitled to their opinion, you’re entitled to your opinion, I’m entitled to my opinion, and I disagree with what I was told he said. And I can tell you for sure that ESPN doesn’t agree with his opinion yesterday, but that’s the nature of commentary, and not all the time are we going to get a rosy picture when people are offering their opinions.” Dale Jarrett, what does it mean to you when one of your colleagues makes a remark like that? DALE JARRETT — “It wouldn’t matter who said it or what network it might have been on, but it pisses me off that somebody thinks that from being inside, and knowing how hard a lot of years that myself and a lot of others that I worked with and around, worked on our race cars to try and make them the best. All you have to do is look around throughout the history of the sport at crazy things that happened. You get in a wreck with somebody one week, and the next week you qualify side-by-side and you’re in a truck riding around the track together. Did NASCAR plan that? Why hell no. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in a very good race car down here. He’s always run well here given good equipment. He’s my pick to win this race. Was it because it’s the 10th anniversary of his father’s death? Well no, it doesn’t have anything to do with that. It aggravates you that that perception is out there. I can assure everyone that it can’t happen. To set something up, there’s too many people that would have to be involved. You couldn’t keep something like that quiet. It’s unfair to the competitors and to the people who work their tails off to put a quality product out there. We have a very good sport with a lot of integrity out there and to have it questioned is unfortunate.” Andy Petree would you weigh in on that? ANDY PETREE – “We’re hearing opinions of people who really have no idea. This is my 30th Daytona 500 that I’ve come down to. I have spent a career trying to get an advantage under the hood or anywhere I can with that car. And I’ve done it with numerous drivers, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Harry Gant, and I can tell you I’ve never, ever in my life seen anybody get the call to have something done to their car. These guys are too smart in the garage area. You’re working right next to every team in there. If I saw something on somebody else’s car that I thought wasn’t right, I’m going to be the first one to make sure somebody knows about it, and they’re going to do the same thing to me. That’s not possible in this garage area. The integrity of this sport, I can vouch for after 30 years of doing it.” Dale Jarrett on getting back into a race car on Friday to run laps with fellow ESPN analyst Rusty Wallace … DALE JARRETT – “I’ve talked to a lot of the drivers about the pavement and how the racing has changed, obviously watched how that has changed, and when ESPN called Rusty and myself about this opportunity, it was one I certainly jumped at to be able to go out there in more than just a pace car or something like that. To actually get in a race car and go at some good speeds and see just how different this place really is from what Rusty and I raced on. All the years that we were here, it was the same surface and it just kept getting more and more worn. It’ll give us an opportunity to better speak about the changes to the track and what has changed, more than just getting it from our friends in the garage area. Really looking forward to it and we certainly appreciate Daytona and NASCAR giving us this opportunity, and hopefully we’ll be able to convey to the millions who will be watching over the weekend just how much it has changed and how different things are going to be.” Marty Reid on calling the first NASCAR Nationwide Series race on the new Daytona pavement … MARTY REID — “You know there are still some questions. We’re waiting to see what happens, based on what we saw at the Shootout, how much of a change it’s going to affect for the Nationwide cars. I don’t think it’s going to be as drastic, from what everybody’s been telling us, but it’s still going to be fun to see how the new pavement handles and how the drivers adjust, and how much bump drafting we actually see. The cars don’t match up as well in Nationwide, so that’ll be a factor as well, so you won’t be able to run up on somebody and push them as much as we saw in the Shootout.” Andy Petree on how crew chiefs have to deal with rule changes such as those announced following the Bud Shootout … ANDY PETREE – ““You work all winter on the cars and try to get a package that you feel like you‘re gonna be competitive with and be able to win with. When they throw that at you, it’s aggravating for crew chiefs, but they have to react to it. Whoever reacts to it the best, the quickest, those are the guys that are going to have a leg up. So I always looked at it as an opportunity to maybe get a leg up on the competition, and that’s the great thing about this sport, it never stays the same, not even minute to minute, and that’s what’s always kept me interested as long as I’ve been in it.” Visit www.espnmediazone.comfor ESPN’s latest releases, schedules and other news, plus photos, video and audio clips and more. About NASCAR on ESPN: ESPN produces comprehensive, multi-platform coverage featuring telecasts of the final 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup races, including the 10-race “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Additionally, ESPN2 is the television home of the NASCAR Nationwide Series. ESPN’s NASCAR coverage extends to ESPN.com, SportsCenter, ESPN the Magazine, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio and ESPN International, among other ESPN platforms. ESPN aired 262 NASCAR Cup Races over a 20-year period starting in 1981 and returned to NASCAR coverage in 2007. The network’s award-winning, live flag-to-flag coverage on ESPN has been honored with 19 Sports Emmy Awards, as well as many industry honors. It is widely credited for helping to popularize the sport nationwide.