SBD/February 17, 2011/Media

Kornheiser Backtracks On Comments NASCAR Fixed Earnhardt's Pole Win

Kornheiser said Earnhardt winning pole was "good set-up moment" for NASCAR
ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser yesterday “backtracked on his claim that NASCAR was somehow fixing the sport based on Dale Earnhardt Jr. being on the pole for the Daytona 500,” according to Alisha Hord of SPORTING NEWS. Kornheiser, during an interview with Jimmie Johnson on "PTI," said he knows "absolutely nothing about NASCAR" and he is being "crushed" by the media for his statement. That comes after Kornheiser on Tuesday’s episode said that Earnhardt earning the pole "is a ‘good set-up moment,’ and NASCAR is somehow conspiring to get the driver of the No. 88 into Victory Lane.” Kornheiser on Tuesday said, “Someone I talked to who covered auto racing for a lot of years (Liz Clarke of The Washington Post, on Kornheiser's radio program), said she believed there was a 60 percent chance that Junior qualified with a car not quite up to code and people looked the other way.” Clarke also told Kornheiser that “she wasn't the only one who was suspicious.” Clarke: "People who covered racing for a long time, a lot were just laughing when they heard Junior won the pole because of the rich NASCAR tradition of ginning up story lines and outcomes” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 2/17). NASCAR Managing Dir of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston yesterday said of Kornheiser, “I think he quickly realized his limitations when it came to racing." But USA TODAY’s Nate Ryan notes Kornheiser’s comments “caused a stir among ESPN's motor sports staff.” ESPN VP/Motorsports Rich Feinberg said that the network “didn't agree with Kornheiser" (USA TODAY, 2/17). ESPN’s Dale Jarrett said of Kornheiser’s comments, “It pisses me off.” Jarrett: “Did NASCAR plan that? Why hell no. … 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" (THE DAILY).

MR. FIX IT? In Jacksonville, Gene Frenettte wrote it is “believable that a veteran racing media member might think” NASCAR would help Earnhardt be successful. The sport would “obviously rejoice over an Earnhardt victory,” and there would be “no better kick-start for TV ratings and fan reconnection to the sport.” But it is a “far bigger leap to be convinced NASCAR would surreptitiously help Earnhardt Jr. in any way” (JACKSONVILLE.com, 2/16). YAHOO SPORTS’ Jay Hart wrote it is “one thing for fans to espouse those theories, quite another for a journalist to do so on national television -- even in a light-hearted forum like PTI -- with no more proof than he talked to someone who's 60 percent sure” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/16).
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