The move to the West Coast and Auto Club Speedway should bring an end to the discussion of the Daytona 500 and its related controversies. The weather that brought a premature end to the 500 is a distant memory. The punt that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. gave to Brian Vickers is still at the forefront of everyone's mind.
Listening to the SPEED broadcasters - Steve Byrnes, Hermie Sadler, and Jeff Hammond - continue to discuss the 500's most controversial moment during practice coverage from Fontana brings to the forefront one of the biggest issues many fans have with the Fox broadcast team.
Sadler, a former driver himself, said early in the coverage of Nationwide Series practice "if you think I am going to say anything negative about Dale Earnhardt, Jr. you guys are crazy."
Isn't the job of the broadcast journalists covering the event to accurately describe the action on the track, and when needed, analyze what happened?
In my book, it is.
That means having to form an opinion based on the pictures. The pictures from Daytona show Earnhardt yanking the wheel to the right, nudging Vickers in the left rear and starting a multi-car crash. Was there intent in the move? Was Earnhardt taking out his frustrations from two unforced errors on pit road? Was he repaying the favor from the last lap at Talladega in October 2006? It's impossible to know whether or not there was any intent there or what Earnhardt's level of frustration is. But it is plainly obvious to anyone, Jr. fan or not, to see the No. 88 car turned right up the track and into the No. 83 car.
If the broadcasters want to continue to talk about it, that's fine. But do your job and analyze what happened. Don't take the easy way out and say "I have no opinion because he's the sport's favorite driver and if I say anything negative the fans will be mad."
If the pictures show Earnhardt, Jr. doing something wrong, the broadcasters have a duty to report it. Good guys and fan favorites make mistakes, and in the eyes of many, Jr. made a mistake last week. To have the broadcast team treat the sport's biggest star with kid gloves just because of his status in the sport does the viewers a huge disservice.