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By Andrea Beaver

et me ask you all a question. If you were unhappy with your job what would you do? We've all been there at least once in our lives. The last time I was unhappy in a job I started looking for a new one, interviewed and ultimately found something new that made me happier. It happens every day all over the world. So what's the big deal about Dale Earnhardt Jr. finding a new team to race for in 2008? All kinds of people kept saying that he didn't have the "tools" to win a championship. Even Dale Jr. said he didn't have the equipment to win races and championships. So what did he do?


Photo by Warren Wimmer.

He went looking for a new team to race for, interviewed and found a new place to race where he felt he would not only have the tools to win races and championships but where he would be happy. So why are so many people so divided about Dale Jr. doing something that millions of us do every couple of years on an average? There are the obvious reaPhoto by Warren Wimmer. sons. He's the four-time most popular driver in NASCAR. Let's face it; some hard core die He is driving (at least until the end of the '07 season) for the team his hard fans feel it's a betrayal for Jr. father founded and that ultimately to leave his father's team. If your name is on it you should race for bares his name as well. the team for your entire life. It's sacrilege to race for any other team. And to go to the "enemy" and race for Hendrick Motorsports is beyond comprehension. Change. There are many of us who hate to make or see change. All is right with the world for many with Dale Jr. in the Number 8 DEI red Budweiser car. Anything else is just not acceptable. But let me ask you a question. Would you stay at a job where you

saw no chance for advancement or success? I know some people are happy where they are. But many of us would go on to find something that at very least would make us happy. That is exactly what Dale Earnhardt Jr. has done. Junior didn't feel like he had the equipment or opportunity to win more races and that elusive first championship at DEI. He wasn't completely happy. So he talked to teams, essentially interviewed, and found a new team to race for in 2008. A team that he apparently felt that he could not only win races with but championships with. A job that would make him happy. How could anyone deny anyone, even Dale Earnhardt Jr., the chance to be happy with his job? -CSR



Warren Wimmer

Warren Wimmer


PUBLISHED BY: Chicago Sports Review


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Warren Wimmer

CONTRIBUTORS Glenn Anderson | writer Andrea Beavers | writer Dustin Beutin | writer Phil Meyers | writer

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July 16, 2007

THE EVOLVING WORLD OF NASCAR ateline—the NBC news magazine that gives us bland stories and a reason for Stone Philips to exist—decided it might be interesting to go “news gathering” at a NASCAR event. The idea was this: Send a bunch of guys wearing turbans to the event, follow them with hidden cameras, and see if they take any abuse. Unfortunately for them, internal emails leaked, and the plot was quickly exposed. NASCAR was furious. It was innocuous enough NBC thought. They were wrong. To NASCAR, and many others, it reeked of “news framing.” In essence, NBC was taking advantage of the fact that NASCAR is widely associated with a more redblooded, patriotic audience, and looking to start a fight just so they could catch it on camera. “This is outrageous for a news organization with the reputation of NBC to stoop to the level of attempting to create news instead of reporting it. Any legitimate journalist should be ashamed,” said NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston. NBC, already in bed with the popular sport on the broadcast rights side—though with an expiring contract pending—quickly went into damage control. They stated that sending the Muslimlooking men to a race in Martinsville, Virginia was just one of many places where they’d be staging the event. And that was it. What happened? Nothing. Nothing at all. Some fans even reported afterward that they’d seen Muslim people walking around the event, apparently doing absolutely nothing. Nobody really cared. So much for the story. A month later, when CSR spoke to Poston before the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, his feelings on the whole affair were somewhat dismissive. “It seemed to die as quickly as it arose,” he said. “They distanced themselves from it, and we didn’t really try to press the issue.” Why didn’t they? Poston stated that in some ways, if NASCAR went on the offensive about it, they would really just be seen as defensive. In essence, they knew that if they fought too vehe-


July 16, 2007

Photo by Warren Wimmer.

mently that they didn’t want to be seen one way, people would suspect that the stereotypes were there for a reason. Act too defensive, then you clearly have something to hide. “There really wasn’t much we could do,” said Poston. Poston even said he didn’t care if NBC ran the footage that showed fans doing nothing at all. “I don’t know how that could help us,” said Poston. Of all sports, NASCAR has perhaps some of the most difficult entry requirements. To make it, it takes either the pure look of a prodigy to be called upon to race on the NEXTEL Cup Circuit, or hard

work on lower circuits, and then the belief of an owner willing to invest millions of dollars, and sponsors willing to invest millions of dollars to that owner. It’s a select group, and there are hundreds of exceptional drivers who will never get a chance to join it. Every driver on the circuit knows plenty of other drivers who have the ability to drive with the best, but not the opportunity. It’s practically a talent lottery, where the best of the best are still guaranteed nothing, and the pressure upon arriving is constant. Then there’s the image.


Greg Biffle ranked second overall in points in the Chase for the Cup last year, but was a mere 15th in exposure time on television. Biffle can understand. Born and raised in Vancouver, Washington (“I tell people I’m from Portland so they don’t think I’m from Canada.”) he would know about the West Coast Bias so many people on that side of the country refer to. It means their games are on late, their media isn’t as big, and the powers-that-be controlling national coverage are out East. It’s why you get Red Sox-Yankees seemingly 50 times a year, and why the Seattle Seahawks can make the Page 3

Super Bowl and even serious football fans have only seen them play once or twice. And it goes without saying that when it comes to coverage, the more colorful drivers hog the spotlight, regardless of where they stand in the points race. Said Biffle: “Sometimes you have to be an actor out here, and that’s not really my style.” It’s a sport that caters to the fans, and the drivers know it. So do the sponsors. Page 4

Look at Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 19th on the circuit in 2005 and still dominated in time spent on camera. His Budweiser No. 8, easily the biggest fan favorite, was on television three times more often than Biffle’s No. 16, despite the fact that Biffle won six races, Dale Jr. just one. And with so much money on the line when it comes to getting in front of the camera, some think the disparities aren’t an accident. One public relations director

grumbled that it was a well-worn rumor that Michael Waltrip got “help” from NASCAR or others because of the power of his sponsorship deal. Sure enough, the NAPA Auto Parts sponsored driver spent the fourth most time in front of the cameras in 2005, even as he limped to a lowly 25th place finish. How can that kind of disparity be an accident, the director wondered? Good question. But it’s not unheard of in sports. Not at all. The


Yankees won’t have the most money to spend in 2006 or 2007 because they spent their money wisely in 2005. Due to location, business dealings, and everything else that goes into a leveraged media situation, the team and George Steinbrenner’s dollars will remain at or near the top. Pre-existing operational disparities exist across the sporting world. Still, in NASCAR, where everybody races the same track under the same conditions, the degree to July 16, 2007

which the playing field should be leveled for all participants will always remain a debate. NASCAR’s leadership is a unified one, and has been for years. They are judge, jury and executioner on all decisions as they affect the sport, and thus the clarity of the directions given is rarely under question. It’s “This is how it is,” and teams and drivers learn to live with it as their fortunes continue to grow. Now, the sport is looking to grow in other directions. July 16, 2007

When Juan Montoya took the stage in the press room on an otherwise sleepy Sunday morning at the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, every head in the room turned to see what the commotion was. When team owner Chip Ganassi began explaining that Montoya was in fact leaving Formula 1 to join NASCAR, the race that would be won five hours later by Jeff Gordon became of secondary importance. Essentially, NASCAR had just bagged perhaps one of a handful of

the world’s most recognizable drivers, and one with a significant Latin fan base. Montoya hails from Colombia, lives in Miami, and went as far as saying at the press conference that Formula 1 was boring him. “How hard is it to pass in Formula 1?” he asked. “You touch tires with someone and you’re an animal.” Drawing laughs from the room full of reporters, he also drew raves from his new boss in Ganassi and


NASCAR executives, who’ve been eagerly looking to make a move into the international racing scene, without simply forcing a driver into the role of ambassador. Montoya accomplishes both those objectives, and he even threw a barb at Formula 1. It was a stunningly good day for NASCAR. Montoya was the one to pick up the phone and tell NASCAR he was ready to leave the lucrative world of Formula 1 behind. As Ganassi said it, the deal was done almost instantPage 5

inquiries made the day for the sport. What a strange occurrence. In essence, you have a sport that’s been battered for years for its white-washed, white-male look. The drivers are typically Southern white men, the pit crews look the same, and the team owners are wealthy Southern men who cut their wives in on the deal, and look to pass their teams and fortunes down the line. In essence, the entry requirements for owners and drivers are as tough to penetrate as any place in sports. So the only type of people that can are the ones chosen by the teams to advance from lower series’, or the hypercelebrity types like Montoya and Patrick, already

Photo by Warren Wimmer.

Every driver on the circuit knows plenty of other drivers who have the ability to drive with the best, but not the opportunity.

wealthy and successful in other forms of racing. NASCAR, they are admitting, is the place to be right now. They have penetrated the entrance requirements the old fashioned way through perceived indispensability - and the sport is ready for them. In one week, a sport decried as bordering on racist grabs a Latin driver of immense talent, and the most famous female race car driver to ever live ponders a move. The sport had sold itself. Dateline be damned. What NASCAR has done is diversified itself simply by being the best. They acknowledge that talent can come from any arena, not just the Southern white male. Yet they weren’t going to forfeit their product just for the sake of diversity. Diversity is just the natural offshoot of having open doors, it’s not the off-shoot of pushing minorities or women through those doors just to fit appearances. Even as it evolves, the sport should continue to succeed with the model it has in place. After all, it wasn’t NASCAR who called Montoya and Patrick. It was the other way around. -CSR

Photo by Warren Wimmer.

Lovie Smith head coach of the Chicago Bears is introduced at Joliet Motor Speedway and the Grand Marshall for the event. Photo by Warren Wimmer.

ly. In essence, it was “How much do you need to be paid? Okay, we’ll do it.” Ganassi and the sport of NASCAR literally could not have asked for more. Well, until the next day, when the reports that Danica Patrick—she of the massive celebrity, solid enough talent, and zero wins in open-wheel racing—was flirting with the idea of picking up a NASCAR ride. For her, it comes down to finances, and her father and manager wasn’t shy about saying so. He told the Tribune two days before the Chicago race that he wanted his daughter racing NASCAR, and she admitted a few days later that the Page 6

money issue was a big one, even if the 38-week schedule looked harrowing. Even other drivers, like veteran Mark Martin, were thrilled at the idea. Patrick would bring even further popularity to a sport, and there’d be more money for all was the general consensus. If she had none of Tiger’s level of talent in golf, at least the cameras would follow her the way they wagged with Tiger’s tail. And in a sport where exposure and sponsorship rule the day, Patrick’s CHICAGO SPORTS REVIEW -

July 16, 2007

“Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it, and you’ll start believing in it.” JESSE OWENS (1913-1980) Olympic track and field athlete

SPORTS LINKS Local -Sun-Times -Tribune -Southtown -Daily Herald -NW Herald -Naperville Sun

Bears -Team Site -Trib Bears Page -ST Bears Page Bears Page

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”



“The difference between good and great is a little extra effort.” CLARENCE LESTER "BIGGIE" MUNN (1908–1975) Michigan State University coach (1947-1953)

“Enthusiasm creates momentum.” KNUTE ROCKNE (1888-1930) Notre Dame head coach (1918-1930)

“Champions aren't made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision.” MUHAMMAD ALI

“When I step onto the court, I don't have to think about anything. If I have a problem off the court, I find that after I play, my mind is clearer and I can come up with a better solution. It's like therapy. It relaxes me and allows me to solve problems.” MICHAEL JORDAN

“My thoughts before a big race are usually pretty simple. I tell myself: Get out of the blocks, run your race, stay relaxed. If you run your race, you'll win... channel your energy. Focus.” CARL LEWIS

“Champions keep playing until they get it right.” BILLIE JEAN KING

July 16, 2007

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Colleges -Northwestern -Fighting Illini -DePaul -UIC Flames -Loyola -Chicago State

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Blackhawks -Team Site -ST Hawks Page -Trib Hawks Page

Radio/Podcasts ESPN 1000 The Morning Break 670theScore 360thePitch My Sports Radio Chi. Sportscast Network

Off the Path -SSNN -Deadspin -FreeDarko -AOLFanHouse -SportsG'nSouth -KSK -True Hoop -BBC Sport -Yanks Abroad -FB Outsiders -Dan Shanoff -Sportspages -Hardball Times -Onion Sports -The Dugout -Sports Haiku -Fantasy Advice -With Leather -BlogMaverick -InsideHoops -Puppy Curling!! -Sports Pickle -Bad Jocks -Baseball Musings -TheBrushback -Write your own sportsguy column -Beachwood Reporter - I Want To Be A Sports Agent


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Chicago Sports Review  

July 18th 2007

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