Grading NASCAR's reporters, websites and radio programs
Marty Smith, of ESPN, interviews Juan Pablo Montoya. (ASP, Inc.)
Today marks the second part of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council’s annual NASCAR media survey. Previously, Fan Council members rated NASCAR networks, shows and broadcasters. Today, Fan Council members rate reporters (print/internet), websites, radio shows and radio personalities.
Here is what the Fan Council had to say about those groups.
Rate these print/internet reporters with 10 being the highest score and 1 the lowest. (Last year’s score in parenthesis). NOTE: My name was among those on the list to be rated by Fan Council members. Although Fan Council members were told their vote would remain anonymous, let’s just say that the home-field advantage of hosting the Fan Council helped me tremendously. I’ve taken myself out of the rankings because it was an unfair advantage.
9.07 — Marty Smith, ESPN.com (8.68 last year) 8.77 — Nate Ryan, USA Today (8.37) 8.75 — Bob Pockrass, Sporting News (8.66) 8.70 — Ryan McGee, ESPN The Magazine/ESPN.com (8.00) 8.23 — Jeff Gluck, SB Nation (7.81) 8.15 — Tom Jensen, Speed.com (7.49) 8.13 — Lee Spencer, FoxSports.com (7.48) 7.88 — Jenna Fryer, Associated Press (7.61) 7.85 — David Newton, ESPN.com (7.51) 7.78 — Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service (7.01)
Others: Monte Dutton (Gaston Gazette), Joe Menzer (NASCAR.com), Ed Hinton, (ESPN.com), David Caraviello (NASCAR.com), Terry Blount (ESPN.com), Mike Hembree (Speed.com), Steve Waid (Motorsports Unplugged), Mike Mulhern (MikeMulhern.net), Jay Busbee (Yahoo.com), Tom Bowles (Frontstretch.com), Matt McLaughlin (Frontstretch.com), Lars Anderson (Sports Illustrated), Mark Aumann (NASCAR.com), Bruce Martin (SI.com), Jim Utter (Charlotte Observer), Don Coble (Morris News Service).
What Fan Council members said:
• No one beats Marty Smith. I look forward to his articles, no matter the subject.
• My only problems are that Jeff Gluck sometimes is a bit too informal with his posts (ex: the piece on Mark Martin using his hacker's name on his car) and Jim Utter sometimes comes off so hostile on Twitter that I avoid reading his columns if I can find the same material written elsewhere. Jenna Fryer is probably my favorite, as her stories are always so thorough and informative.
• Bob Pockrass always knows the facts before anyone else and they are accurate. Dustin Long and Jeff Gluck seem to always get good driver interviews.
• In my opinion, the guys writing for NASCAR.com are not impartial. I have stopped reading most of the articles there for that reason. I have the same opinion of some of the writers for ESPN. I prefer the "independents" such as those who write for the Frontstretch. I've always liked Lee Spencer's articles, too.
• Dustin, I'm going to be honest. I gave you a low grade because of the US Army issue. I feel like you crossed the line between journalist and advocate during the time when that US Representative was attacking sponsorship.
• Jim Utter, while a talented writer, is rude to fans on Twitter ESPECIALLY if they respectfully question his opinion on something.
• My favorites by far are Lee Spencer and Marty Smith. They have the confidence of many drivers and owners alike and always call a fair and balanced story. I believe Dustin Long is underrated as a journalist but always takes an approach that is authentic and individual. I enjoy Bob Pockrass's stories and I support his approach. He is ALWAYS working ... the busiest guy in NASCAR, And Nate Ryan seems very honest and thorough with his reporting.
• Ed Hinton is a very talented writer but is so negative and self-centered that the pieces he writes are slanted in that direction. Tom Bowles has the same quality of being self-centered, and his stories are reflecting that.
• I've been reading Monte Dutton and Mike Mulhern seemingly forever. However, Monte's main interest seems to have gone to music, which I enjoy, but would like more of his NASCAR coverage. I also like Matt McLaughlin's approach to coverage commentary from his Southeastern Pennsylvania biker perspective.
• Too many NASCAR writers do not see the whole picture and follow the crowd. I greatly respect those who take the extra steps to view an entire situation, do extra research and look at an entire driver's history and facets before expressing an opinion. Too many just get on the bandwagon or flavor of the day.
• I rated some lower due to lack of professionalism in dealing with their peers. I had to remove several journalists from my Twitter feed because they simply acted like children to each other. That is embarrassing for the sport.
• Mike Hembree, Ed Hinton and Tom Jensen write clear, concise and tight stories that make you want to read more. All true pros. Jeff Gluck, Jenna Bob Pockrass and Monte Dutton have too many biases and are trying to stir some controversy up that is not there.
Rate these NASCAR-themed websites with 10 being the highest score possible and 1 the lowest. (Last year’s score in parenthesis.)
What Fan Council members said:
• Jayski is at the top of my list. NASCAR.com is at the bottom. You would think the series website would be better organized and have the news on the main page. Not the easiest to navigate either. I go to SBnation.com and ESPN.com the most to find out what is going on in the sport.
• I wish NASCAR Insiders would start posting more often or give it up and tell us who they were … not sure what’s going on there. I have found that I use links off Twitter more than going directly to the website. Only exceptions are NASCAR.com and Jayski, and that's because I do it at work and can't look at Twitter there.
• ESPN.com, FOXSports.com, Jayski.com and Speed.com are BY FAR the best. They cover all sorts of information and it is easy to find. Ironically, I find NASCAR.com far inferior. The Daly Planet had potential, but now it has basically turned into a website for people to complain endlessly about EVERY LITTLE THING.
• SPEED is the NASCAR network, so they have an inside perspective of the sport. With Tom Jensen and Mike Hembree as a 1-2 combo, they make a formidable duo. ESPN has a solid group of writers and so does Yahoo. SI has Dustin Long, which helps them because the other writers are not as good or are better with other series. I subscribe to Frontstretch.com and they have a pretty solid group of writers. Most are really good. The Daly Planet is somewhere to go when you need to understand the inner workings of TV presenting races, making it a valuable resource.
• NASCAR.com isn't as up-to-date as speedtv.com so speedtv.com has become my primary source for NASCAR-related news.
• I don't know what it means for the proprietors of these websites (especially ones not as big as ESPN.com), but with the emergence of Twitter as THE go-to for immediate NASCAR news, I really spend very little time going to actual NASCAR news websites. However, I will call out SBNation.com as a standout ... Jeff Gluck is always putting out lots of content and his approach and tone are very enjoyable.
• I have a love/hate relationship with SBNation.com. Sometimes the site absolutely can knock it out of the park on their articles and posts. There are times, however, where it gets very “tabloid-y.”
• The Daly Planet used to be good, now his agenda has taken over and it’s not worth reading. Half of his "columns" don’t even have anything to do with NASCAR TV. It’s all about Twitter and Danica. He also has no tolerance for other people's opinions. He claims to be a TV insider, yet never actually breaks any news. I don't think he is a race fan because he never goes to the track. Just sits in his bunker in South Florida and writes blog posts about Danica and Twitter. He had something really good and ruined it.
• To pick out just one — thank goodness for The Daly Planet! I might have given up on watching NASCAR if I did not have that blog where I can commiserate with others as to how generally awful most NASCAR programming is these days.
• I am sure I've read articles from most of these entities, but don't remember some of them. The “7” for AthlonSports.com is because I simply don't like the advertising on the page. Not all sports fans are 14-year olds looking for pictures of half-naked young ladies.
Rate these national radio programs with 10 being the highest score possible and 1 the lowest. (Last year’s score in parenthesis).
8.55 — Sirius Speedway, SiriusXM (7.78) 8.53 — The Morning Drive, SiriusXM (7.36) 8.17 — Late Shift, SiriusXM (6.87) 7.97 — Dialed In, SiriusXM (6.76) 7.96 — NASCAR Live, MRN (7.39) 7.95 — The Frontstretch, SiriusXM (6.93) 7.87 — Press Pass, SiriusXM (6.86) 7.81 — Fast Talk, PRN (6.83) 7.76 — The Pit Reporters, PRN (6.74) 7.71 — NASCAR Performance Live, MRN (6.94) Others:The Backstretch (SiriusXM), Tradin’ Paint (SiriusXM), Speed Sport on FOX, SpeedFreaks, Manifold Destiny (SiriusXM)
What Fan Council members said:
• I'm on the West coast so I rarely get to listen to The Morning Drive but enjoy it when I do. The biggest problem with Tradin’ Paint is the revolving door of hosts. The show doesn't have an identity. I enjoy Sirius Speedway because Dave and Angie are very knowledgeable and I like the breadth of the regular guests. The Speedway Legend Series is awesome. I don't care for Mojo so I don't care for Manifold Destiny. I used to like Dialed In much better when it was earlier, and I still enjoy it when she is at the track and can get guests, but when it’s a lot of callers, she doesn't do as good of a job as other hosts.
• I love listening to The Morning Drive with Bag Man and Pistol Pete. I know they get the "lunatic fringe" calling in and it's tough to put up with some crazy opinions from time to time, but they do a fantastic job with it.
• If Tradin’ Paint didn't push politics so often, I would rate it higher. I love love love Claire B. Lange and the way she interacts with NASCAR personalities and with fans. She obviously loves her job and loves her fans.
• I download the Fast Talk podcast weekly. We all miss BP!
• Still can’t beat PRN and Fast Talk. Doug Rice is just fun to listen too. I don't much care for The Frontstretch. Pat Patterson doesn't get the job done too well.
• The Morning Drive is solid with Bagley and Pistone, while Tradin’ Paint has its moments. Moody and Skinner make a good combo for Speedway, while the Late Shift is always good because Buddy Baker is just a great wealth of stories and laughs.
• Dave Moody should be given a medal for his work. Some of the people that call into that show are amazing and not in a good way...
Rate these national radio hosts and co-hosts with 10 being the highest score possible and 1 the lowest. (Last year’s score in parenthesis).
8.79 — Eli Gold, NASCAR Live, MRN (7.87) 8.75 — Dave Moody, Sirius Speedway, SiriusXM (7.70) 8.51 — Mike Bagley, The Morning Drive, SiriusXM (7.23) 8.47 — Doug Rice, Fast Talk, PRN (7.13) 8.47 — Steve Post, NASCAR Performance Live, MRN (7.20) 8.36 — Pete Pistone, The Morning Drive, SiriusXM (7.08) 8.23 — Buddy Baker, Late Shift, SiriusXM (7.57) 8.18 — Pat Patterson, The Frontstretch, SiriusXM (6.89) 8.06 — Angie Skinner, Sirius Speedway, SiriusXM (7.26) 8.06 — Jim Noble, Late Shift, SiriusXM (6.83) Others: Brett McMillan (The Pit Reporters, PRN), Claire B. Lang (Dialed In, SiriusXM), Crash Gladys (SpeedFreaks), Kenny Sargent (SpeedFreaks), Chocolate Myers (Tradin’ Paint, SiriusXM), Rob D’Amico (Speed Sport on Fox), Rick Benjamin, (Tradin’ Paint, SiriusXM), Mojo Nixon (Manifold Destiny, SiriusXM)
What Fan Council members said:
• Eli Gold, Claire B. Lange, Dave Moody, Jim Noble and Doug Rice are the absolute best of the best. Anytime I can listen to them I try to. They have so much passion for the sport and never take a break for anything. Angie Skinner is a little too vulgar, but she definitely makes it interesting.
• I don’t listen to a lot of radio, but Dave Moody, Jim Noble and Crash Gladys are really good.
• Always listen to Pete Pistone and Mike Bagley. They are great!
• I like most of the SiriusXM Radio hosts. Claire B. Lang is a unique person that I just don't enjoy listening to on the channel. She rambles on a lot. She could really use a co-host to try and tame her down a bit.
• I enjoy most of these announcers. Angie Skinner has brought some valuable knowledge to Sirius Speedway. Besides having access to “The Gunslinger,” she has also brought some of the behind the scenes "sponsorship chase" information that is fascinating. Rick Benjamin is my least favorite announcer. The moment you disagree or say something controversial, he cuts off the conversation, says you are wrong and hangs up. Tradin' Paint is the one show I will not worry about missing if I know he is on that day.
• TMD and Speedway folks are THE BEST at putting on an entertaining show even when the callers continue to beat topics into the ground sometimes for days!! Buddy Baker is great on any show but needs to be paired up with a better host! He would be excellent with Pat Patterson!!
• I very much enjoy the Sirius NASCAR programs and their hosts. Individually, I think Dave Moody is the best at his job. He calls an ace an ace, and he doesn't take the NASCAR line. I really enjoy Chocolate and Buddy because of their extensive background with racing and providing the history of what they experienced. I've always enjoyed Steve Post's approach in covering NASCAR and am very sorry that he was removed from Tradin' Paint, as Steve and Chocolate made a great team. I enjoy Angie very much so this show is complete. Jim Noble is too cautious in his approach. Eli Gold's show is always a class act. I absolutely can't stand Mojo and Claire B. He does nothing but stir the pot and is crappy about the way he refers to drivers or even callers.
• I love listening to Buddy Baker tell old stories and Claire B Lang has to be the hardest working person in radio. She's a real go-getter!
The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at email@example.com.
Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.