Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What was the biggest story of the Samsung 500 weekend: Jeff Gordon’s victory or the radio communications issue?

As I sit here writing this article and watching the SPEED replay of the Samsung 500, I began to think about a question, was Jeff Gordon’s victory in last Sunday’s Samsung 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup series race at Texas Motor Speedway the biggest story of the weekend?

Recently I asked a NASCAR fan that very question and I added if the answer wasn’t Jeff Gordon, where did Jeff Gordon’s victory rank among the list? His response sort of stunted me for a moment, he said the biggest story of the Texas race wasn’t that Jeff Gordon broke his winless streak and won at Texas, but was Jimmie Johnson and how even though he started 9th, he ended up fighting his way from the back to the front and finishing a close second. The Jeff Gordon victory didn’t rank very high in his eyes, there were much bigger stories then Gordon’s first Texas victory and him snapping his 47-race winless streak.

You know, I understand where he is coming from with that statement, I mean unless you are a Gordon fan, that victory might not meant much to the average NASCAR fan and that there were bigger stories throughout the race. Think about it, what did Gordon do exactly? Jeff Gordon started on the front row, dominated, leading the most laps, and stayed up front most of day and at the end, bet his teammate and won the race. So besides Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, who or what was the biggest stories? Of course we could talk about David Reutimann, “The Franchise” not only finishing in the 11th, spot, but is 11th in Cup Points.

However the biggest story that at least came to a head at Texas was, should NASCAR keep the radio communications public for media, fans and everyone else who wants to listen public or at the request of Kurt Busch made private?

As a NASCAR fan who goes to the race track every year, watches the NASCAR practice, qualifying and races both at the track and on television, I love to listen to the radio communications between the drivers, crews, crew chiefs, spotters and whoever else has access.

When I go to the race track, I bring a scanner and headset with me to listen during practice, qualifying and the race itself. The radio communications are amazing, it keeps me informed at the track, from what is going on, where my favorite driver is and how they are doing to something as simple as what the cautions flags is for and how many laps to go. In one race, I heard the race was going to be shortened due to another race on being broadcasted on television coming up next (time shortened event), I heard that 5-10 minutes before they announced it on the track announcements, good information.

However the good information and interaction does come at a price, it’s raw and unedited, not for children and use at your own risk. I’ve heard Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, do I need to go on, say some colorful language and have heated conversions during track action (ex a race) and I don’t care, it’s part of the race, it happens. Those drivers are strapped into a 3400 pound stockcar for 3-4 hours, temp may reach 130 degrees and if it’s not going right, there’s going to be words period, but nobody should be fined or judged by it.

Over the years some of the media and fans have been not only talking about the radio communications that they hear from the drivers to the spotters and the crew chiefs, but some cases writing about it. The media writes and reports on the communications regularly and if that wasn’t enough, the television broadcasts use the radio communications live airing them during the race.

In my opinion, several bloggers said it the best, each scanner sold/rented should come with warning label, use (listen) to the radio communications at your own risk, second that goes for televisions broadcasters like FOX, TNT, ESPN/ABC’s too, it s there responsibly to scan the conversation first, then air it without the colorful language and if they don’t, they should be fined.

Bottom Line, the NASCAR Insider said it the best, “By putting on those headphones, you should automatically be agreeing to a little contract. We will allow you to listen, but you in turn give up any right to judge, punish, or look down on what is said and who says it.” and “If you can’t handle that, then don’t listen.”

That goes for the media too, leave the drivers alone, most NASCAR fans want to hear the radio communications and NASCAR, please leave it public for all to hear and don’t fine the drivers, teams, owners, crew chiefs or spotters.