The Yellow Stripe · Danny Peters · Tuesday June 30, 2009
Part of the beauty of the sheer volume of online information available to NASCAR aficionados these days is that you can cherry pick your favorites. If one particular writer annoys you, then you just ignore that particular scribe or site. But part of the fun of the wide variety of columns and links, each and every day, is that you can very quickly get a long list of must read columns that inform you on the latest and greatest in the NASCAR world. And that, dear readers, is the spirit in which this column is written. When I first mentioned the topic to our Managing Editor, he was plenty skeptical – and not without good reason. Why, to be fair, did I want to willingly direct traffic away from Frontstretch? But the bottom line is we’re not the only site with great writing — and there are several other members of the media who should both be read and acknowledged for their hard work they put out each and every week.
So, without any further ado, here are ten of the best NASCAR writers you’re not reading on Frontstretch…
Switched to Fridays this year, ESPN.com senior writer Marty Smith’s Door-to-Door column is an extended readers mailbag with plenty of thoughts and insights from the man with the Faux-Hawk, not to mention some country music recommendations. Smith’s take on NASCAR is an interesting one. In a sense, he’s the ultimate insider, but at the same time you get the feeling he’s still one of the guys who is able to distinguish between the story and the sensationalism. Here’s a tremendous piece on Darlington for an example on how he’s able to bridge that gap. You also get the impression that Smith could run a lot more controversial stories than he does, but there’s no point in blowing all your good leads for the sake of a few cheap hits. Always thought-provoking and topical, Door-to-Door is in my top three “don’t miss” columns of the week. If you’re reading this, Marty (which somehow I doubt you are), I hope this qualifies me for a mention in the “Six!”
A brilliant Web site, The Daly Planet is updated meticulously by the site’s only writer (and resident TV critic), John Daly. The content is essentially a series of reviews of all major NASCAR programming — from RaceDay broadcasts by the major networks to obscure SPEED TV shows — with other bits and pieces mixed in.
It’s a lot of work for one man — so much so that at the start of the season, Daly even went as far as posting that he was shutting up shop. However, a deluge of reader email persuaded him back to his keyboard; and quite frankly, I’m delighted that’s the case. If you’re not reading this site on a Daly (sic) basis, well, you should be.
I love the content, from the stream-of-conscience video clips to the posted pieces from the veteran NASCAR journalist. I will say this, though; the site is annoying to navigate and reminds me of something from the web circa the Millennium. Design quirks aside, the writing is hard hitting. Here’s a great column on the state of the sport, by way of an example from earlier this month. You may not agree with Mulhern’s constant stands – and frequently you won’t – but his pieces are never boring and certainly never vanilla.
Former driver Ricky Craven pens two columns a week for Yahoo; one a race recap and the other a commentary piece. The race report is my favorite column of the week. Craven brings a fascinating perspective to the sport, and I can safely say I’ve learned plenty about NASCAR from his columns. One such example is his take, in April, on the COT. Almost universally bashed by others, Craven’s perceptive take on the winged beast is just the sort of insightful analysis I’m talking about. Here’s another on running a lap at Bristol, a piece in which you remember this man used to be one of the biggest young talents in the sport before his career was cut short by a series of head injuries.
Now, he’s moved on to become one of the sport’s best journalists. In a morass of daily columns on the same topic, you can almost guarantee Craven will come up with something that either gets you thinking or forces you to reevaluate your opinion on a particular issue. He’s pretty good on ESPN’s NASCAR Now, too.
When I first started work in NASCAR, the official Web site was my initial major source of information and I leaned on the “corporate” line very heavily to get myself up to speed (sorry, that was poor I know). I can’t remember exactly when, but I quickly found myself reading everything Duane Cross posted. His pseudo race recap “Cross Words” has mutated some this season, becoming what seems to be a far more stat-driven column, but it’s always required reading. In general, despite the negative words I’ve read elsewhere, I mostly enjoy the NASCAR.com articles. As for Mr. Cross, here’s a great piece on the aftermath of the Carl Edwards catchfence incident at Talladega that shows his range as a columnist.
A writer for the Associated Press, Jenna Fryer has 25 years of experience reporting on NASCAR. Whether it’s breaking news, feature, or commentary pieces, you can be sure you’ll get a straight up take from someone not afraid to pull out punches when necessary. In fact our own site editor, Tom Bowles, recommended her columns as someone to read following the tragic demise of David Poole (more on him later). Her piece on Junior and the need for patience is one such example of the perceptive sort of commentary I’m talking about.
Jerry is a veteran NASCAR journalist who was let go by Yahoo! at the end of last season in what can only have been a cost-cutting measure. He’s since back in gainful employment, but a byproduct of his temporary lack of work was starting a Web site. It’s not an every day kinda site, but what he posts when getting around to it is usually fascinating. His trademark “mailbag” column is another must read, but he’s been a little slow updating this one recently due to all his other writing commitments that include Auto Racing Daily. Speaking of that site, check out this piece following the King of Pop’s death last week as an example of the quality of Jerry’s writing. I personally don’t miss a word of what he writes on our great sport.
Keep up the good work, Jerry.
Another old school NASCAR journalist, Dutton has covered NASCAR full-time at the Gaston Gazette since 1993. Always opinionated, always interesting, Dutton rarely (if ever) writes a dull column. A winner of the NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) Writer of the Year, Dutton also dabbles in music (which you can hear on montedutton.com). Even our own Matt McLaughlin referenced him in a recent article as one of those writers who you want to see what he wrote in terms of a race recap.
You get the feeling that back in the day, Ed Hinton reported for local newspapers on the exploits of the bootleggers — such is his longevity in the business. OK, I’m being a little facetious there, but almost anything Hinton pens is worth reading, whether you agree with it or not. A great example was his piece on the Reutimanns and their racing heritage. As with many of the other writers I’ve listed above, the irascible Hinton always, always has a point of view. In fact, I think he’s probably one of those guys who sleep talks NASCAR facts…(not that I have any evidence, just saying…)
When I first came up with the idea for this column, David Poole was the first name on my preliminary list. Since then, as most of you are more than well aware, David died suddenly in May, and his untimely passing has left a hole in the NASCAR writing universe. As Dale Earnhardt, Jr. pointed out: “David Poole was as much a fixture in this sport as the actual cars themselves… he was a one-of-a-kind individual and an extremely talented writer.” High praise, indeed, from the sport’s Most Popular Driver.
So, that’s my list. No doubt some of you are shocked I’ve left out your favorite scribe; if that’s the case or if I’m so off-base with some of my selections above, then let me know below.
One final comment: As a die-hard fan of the beautiful game (“soccer” to use the American vernacular), I can’t help but comment on the U.S. National Team’s showing in the recent Confederations Cup. To beat the No. 1 team in the world (Spain) is mighty impressive, and although they ultimately fell short in the final to the Brazilians by the odd goal in five, it’s great to see football (of the non-NFL variety) on the front page of the New York Times.
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